Elizabeth CORNEBY "Walker - Family Memories
From England to Athens in the 1830s
In December 2006 I sent you my gggrandmother's (Anne West Page) diary for posting to your website. I am now attaching a family history/memoir written in 1910 by the daughter of Anne West's sister. Elizabeth Corneby came by boat in the same year as Anne and Thomas Page, at the age of seven. Her memoir is very interesting, as it includes an account of the sea voyage, as well as her childhood in Athens Township. I think you'll enjoy reading it, and hope you can post it to the website for others to enjoy.
Christine Page Barnes
My grandfather, Gresham Corneby, was born in Bungay, Suffolk County, England, in 1764. He had but one brother who with an uncle was lost at sea. In 1795 he was married to Miss Mary Dutten of the same place. They had eight children, three boys and five girls: Amos Gresham, Wales, William, Mrs. Day, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Delf, Mrs. West, and Mrs. Button.
Gresham Corneby was a farmer by occupation living in the same town and on the same farm all his life. At the time of his death in 1842 he left eleven thousand dollars to be equally divided among his children, all of whom were living, except William who left no children.
Grandfather and Grandmother Corneby were laid side by side in the Bungay Cemetery near their home in Suffolk County, England.
I think in many respects my Grandfather Corneby and Grandfather West were much alike. They both conformed to all the requirements of the Church of England. Yet both families were Baptist in their belief and remained so all their lives. None of my Grandfather Corneby’s family excepting my father and his sister, Mrs. West, left their native land. But all had their homes near where they were born, and all were buried in Suffolk County, England. Before we left for America, father went with my brother Alfred and myself to bid them all good by. I shall never forget it, we never saw them again, but I often think of them.
I have a very large Concordance of the Bible, a gift from my Grandfather
Corneby to my father; I open it and see written in father’s handwriting:
“AMOS GRESHAM CORNEBY”
I look at it and think how nice it is written, and how well it looks, although eighty years have come and gone since then.
The Concordance was printed in London, England in 1650 so it is two hundred and sixty years old and yet there is not a leaf gone. It is the most complete Concordance I ever saw.
My mother’s father, Christopher West, was born in Felthorpe, Norfolk County, England, in 1765. In 1797, he married Miss Elizabeth Springal. Seven children were born to them: George, Anne, afterwards Mrs. Thomas Page, Elizabeth, afterwards Mrs. Amos Corneby, Jane Christopher, Martha and Marian.
Grandfather West was the owner of two flour mills, which brought him a large income. Grandfather and Grandmother were both devoted to their family. Educating them in French and Latin, as well as in English, and bringing them up in culture and refinement.
They remained in Felthorpe all their lives. Grandfather’s death occurring in 1847, Grandmother’s in 1852. Both were laid at rest in the Felthorpe Cemetery, near their home.
Mrs. Elizabeth West Corneby died at the home of her parents June 12, 1831 in the 29th year of her age. She was the wife of Amos Gresham Corneby, and daughter of Christopher and Elizabeth West, all of Felthorpe, Norfolk, England. Besides her husband, she left five small children. She laid to rest in Felthorpe Cemetery, near their home.
Dear Mother, You were planning for an earthly home in a distant land,
but God took you to your heavenly home, a Mansion in the skies. His
ways are not our ways, he doeth all things well.
In 1823 my father, Amos Gresham, married Elizabeth, the second daughter of Christopher and Elizabeth West. Father at the time of his marriage was the manager of a large farm, near Felthorpe and after their marriage, he took his bride to his home there, where all of their children were born. They were Elizabeth, Mary, Amelia, Alfred West, Jane, and Emma Martha. On this farm was a large brick house with extensive grounds.
Besides marl pits which required a great many laborers, it was a desirable home. But father believed in freedom, he was a man of liberal ideas, and believed that all men were born equal and had equal rights, especially in religious and political affairs. About this time, he conceived a strong desire to visit America. Mother was likewise very much in favor of this plan, and was even more anxious than father to go to this country that they had heard so much about.
However, for fear they would not like the country, they decided that father should go first, and if he liked it prepare a home for them, and then return for his family. In accordance with this plan, he sailed from England in October 1830. After a pleasant voyage of six weeks, he reached New York, and from there journeyed through Maryland and Virginia to Washington. While in Washington, he heard Henry Clay and other noted speakers, and was very much impressed with their political views. I think it decided his future course in regard to politics. He always voted the Whig Ticker as long as that party remained, then the Republican as long as he lived. He was not satisfied with the country there and at last came back through Pennsylvania as far as Towanda, the County Seat of Bradford County. It was the last of November, and winter had set in, when he heard of a Mr. Overton, an Englishman, who lived half way between Towanda and Athens Township. He at once visited him. Mr. Overton was delighted to see him, and a friendship grew up between the two men, that lasted al their lives. As Mr. Overton kept a hotel, father spend the winter with him, and in the spring accompanied his host to Athens where Mr. Overton had some farms to sell. Father was especially pleased with one situated about two miles above the Narrows and finally bought it. Thus he became the owner of one of the best farms along the banks of the Historic Susquehanna River. This was to be his home the remainder of his life, and that of his children to whom the beautiful scenery and unsurpassed surroundings are still dear to their memories. Later in the spring, as soon as his business could be arranged, father returned to England.
He reached Liverpool in June, where he found a letter awaiting him. But what sad news it contained, for in it he learned of the death of his beloved wife, who had by this time, been buried a week. Broken-hearted and nearly crushed by this great affliction, he returned to his home and children. However, he was a firm believer that all things work together for good, according to the will of God, so he began preparing for his return journey to his adopted country.
Before her death, my mother had arranged that her sister Martha should accompany them to America, and then return to England if she did not like to remain. After her sister’s death, Aunt Martha West decided it was her duty to go and care for her sister’s motherless children. There were friends of hers going over on the same ship, so she felt more willing to go.
They were the Reverend and Mrs. Pichard and four children, who occupied the same cabin apartments with the Corneby family. Rev. Mr. Pichard afterwards became the pastor of a church in New York City. What would we have done without Aunt Martha West? For the oldest child, myself, was only seven years old, and the youngest two years old. Little baby Emma Martha, only two months old, was left with Grandfather and Grandmother West.
The 12th of August 1831 we sailed from Liverpool on the ship “Dido”, bound for Philadelphia. In charge of Captain Barker, a very friendly and kind man who took a great liking to father, and before they parted, he gave father a compass and a large and expensive telescope in token of his friendship. For two weeks all went well, then a strong west wind set in, and we were driven back nearly to our starting place. After this we had more favorable weather.
Yet after eight weeks on the ocean, we were hundreds of miles from land and almost out of provisions as we only had a supply for eight weeks. All knew what this meant to them, wearisome days, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst and death if not relieved in some way. But he whose mercies are over all in his mysterious way provided for our needs and all on the vessel were deeply impressed with this special display of his divine favor and that he who rules over all things had not forsaken us. Among the cargo, Captain Barker had a large quantity of potatoes consigned to some person in Philadelphia. These he dealt out to the passengers and for the next three weeks all fared alike for there was little to eat but potatoes with salt served in all ways that could be thought of.
There was a very aristocratic couple on board who were in the habit of ordering meals. It amused the other passengers very much to hear Mr. Brown, the husband, say at every meal, “Mrs. Brown would prefer a potato fixed so and so.” There were eight children on board, none over seven years of age. These were cared for by saving some sea biscuit for them. These were so hard they could bite but little, yet they helped to satisfy their hunger. Every piece they threw down, was taken care of until was wanted again.
Many on the vessel became despondent for none knew when this would all end. Terrible winds, thunder, lightning, rain and hail continually.
Captain Barker said he sailed on the Atlantic Ocean for many years but never had such a long and terrible voyage. He was kind to all but the sailors were worn out with pulling and hauling sails and ropes night and day and not enough to eat and not anything fit to drink. All were comforted with the thought that we were nearing land. Finally Cape May was sighted, then a boat was sent for supplies. Father was one that went ashore. After landing at Cape May, they found most of the provisions they could get would be from private families, but the people were very kind, they killed chickens and let them have bread, cakes and other bake stuff, that they had prepared for their own use, and did all they could to relieve their wants.
In the midst of all this, father did not forget the sailors. They had been without tobacco over four weeks and had used tar ropes in its place. He secured as much tobacco as possible for them and when they returned to the vessel, the men were in their cabin, so he threw the tobacco down to them. He said afterwards he never saw men more pleased than they were. And in appreciation of his remembrance of them they gave him a beautiful smoking pipe which he always kept.
We now had enough supplies to last until we reached our destination. But before this quite a number of the passengers were sick from long fasting and improper food.
We finally arrived at Philadelphia October 28th. It was eleven weeks or seventy-seven days since we left Liverpool, being driven backwards and forward by strong winds and waves. We stayed in Philadelphia long enough to recover from the effects of our voyage, and in the meantime, father purchased an emigrant wagon, and three horses, which then afforded the only means of travel. After putting in our luggage and fixing the seats as comfortable as possible, we started on our long journey of over two hundred miles to Athens, Pennsylvania. After crossing the Allegheny Mountains, we encountered rain and snow storms. It was then in November, but we finally accomplished the journey without accident, but all were so tired and glad to arrive at Mr. Overton’s who had been expecting us for some time. The next day after our arrival there, my brother Alfred came down with the measles, and then one by one we all had them, so that it was two weeks or more before we reached our home. It was the first of December when we finally ended our journey. We had asked father what kind of a house we were going to live in, but he would tell us we would see when we got there. But imagine our surprise to see a log house, after living in a two story brick house all our early life. However, we soon forgot that when we saw the good fire in the large fireplace, which a man and his wife engaged by father had prepared for us. Everything looked cheerful and we soon made ourselves at home. There was a movable cupboard in the house, the top was used for dishes and the lower part used for food. Now it was empty so we thought it a good place to put our wraps, so we folded them up and laid them there.
The house was good sized one for a log house, it had a door in front, and one that led into the leanto, that was used in the summer as a kitchen, and in the winter as a woodshed. There were three windows in the house, two in the living room and one upstairs. The furniture was much like our neighbors a table and a number of chairs, that were bottomed with strip of bark from elm trees. They were comfortable to sit in. The bedsteads were clumsy affairs, the sides, head and foot, were laced with cord to hold the straw ticks up, but with the feather bed, of which we had plenty, were very comfortable to sleep on. In those days there were no stoves so that the cooking had to be done over the fireplace which was a very large one in our house. There was a pair of andirons to lay the wood upon. Here the fire was kept winter and summer, at least enough to start it again when wanted, for matches were then unknown. There was a crane fixed on one side of the fireplace to hang the kettles on. This could be moved out and in as needed. We had a tin oven to set before the fire in which we baked our bread, cakes and pies very nicely. Besides there was an iron kettle made so that coals could be put both on the cover and under the bottom. A great many people regarded the bread baked in this was much superior to any other. Back of the house was a large brick oven which was used in the summer.
The farm that father had bought was in the center of what was then called Athens Township. I will describe it as I remember it then. On the south were what was called Ulster Narrows, on the North was another Narrows and at this point, the Chemung River was connected by a bridge to the then small village of Tioga Point, afterwards called Athens. The whole valley, about four miles long, was divided in about twenty farms. On the east of this valley flowed the two rivers, Chemung and Susquehanna. About two miles below Tioga Point they meet, the Chemung uniting with the Susquehanna, and they were rightly called “Beautiful Rivers”. The low lands are called Queen Esther’s Flats, so named for Esther, the Indian Queen, that ruled some of the tribes of Indians called the Six Nations. These tribes came from the Great Lakes in New York State, to the mouth of the Susquehanna River and these flats were some of their best camping grounds. On father’s flats is a never failing spring of water which was always called Queen Esther’s spring and for quality it is unsurpassed. This seemed to be a favorite spot for them to rest although over thirty years had now gone by since they had inhabited this valley. Many reminders of them were found. My father when excavating for a cellar found skeletons which were, without doubt, Indians. From the rivers the land slopes gently back, making it a lovely valley. The extensive forests that surrounded the valley at this time afforded good hunting grounds. There were large flocks of pheasant and quail.
A good many deer, and other small animals, such as fox, rabbits and so forth. As late as 1834 the wolves killed seven sheep at one time out of father’s flock of eighteen. The swamps were full of rattlesnakes and large black snakes. The rivers abounded with shad, bass and other fish. Through the valley were a great many apple trees, but the fruit was generally poor. There were plenty of wild fruit such as plums, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, cranberries, and wild grapes which were all nice preserved. There was no canning then. Butternuts, walnuts and hazelnuts were in abundance.
The houses at this time were mostly built of logs, or small framed ones a story and a half high. But these had large windows and perhaps a bedroom and pantry, as timber was plenty and some of the inhabitants had erected saw mills, there were soon replaced with better.
The valley was divided in two school districts. The school houses were both built of logs with fireplaces. Father’s farm was in about the center of the valley and it belonged to the North District, but with the deep snows and but little travel, this made a long walk for the small children, so there was a private school kept several years in a small building on Mr. Page, my uncle’s farm.
The nearest church was at Tioga Point. After the new school houses were built, we had preaching about once a month, Methodist generally in the lower one and Baptist in the upper one.
The men, or all that were of suitable age, were obliged to attend Military Training. It made quite a holiday for all that could go, went to see them practice.
In nearly every house they had their spinning wheels, to spin their wool and flax, and some had looms. All made their own soap and all the lights they had to burn at night were made of tallow, run in molds, each family making their own.
In case of business or preaching in the evening, those were carried to the school house in candle sticks or lanterns which were then made of tin with holes in the side for the light of the candle to shine through. If these were blown out by the wind which was often the case, some one had to return to the house to light it again. Sometimes the men would carry with them a piece of steel, a flint and a piece of punk, a dry substance that grew on old wood and a few matches made of splints of wood dipped in hot brimstone. With these they could start a blaze.
In the fall some would have a man come to the house and make shoes for all the family to last through the winter. Others would carry their splints and repair the chairs if needed, or make brooms out of hickory which were very good. There were no stores or post office nearer than Athens. While we were in Philadelphia, father subscribed for the Philadelphia Courier, which was the only newspaper we had for several years. We found the inhabitants of the valley very intelligent and kind neighbors, each owning the farm which they lived on. North of us were Messrs. Loomis, Watkins and Griffin, three brothers of Mr. Greens, Mr. Laine. Three brothers of Mr. Morley, Messrs. Spaulding, Murray and Snell. South of us were the Messrs. Burch, Curry and Huff. Three brothers of Mineers, three brothers of Smiths, Mr. Russell and Mr. Harsh. In the lower part of the valley is a cemetery, where many of the inhabitants are laid to rest. In the north part of the valley, they nearly all have their last resting place in Tioga Point Cemetery.
Most of these early settlers had large families. These in the coming years found homes in all parts of the country – some near the broad Atlantic, others on the Pacific Coast, some in foreign lands and many are gone to their long, last home.
Soon after we were settled, Mr. David Proudfoot and family, wife and one child, friends of father’s, came to live with us. They had expected to sail from England with us but were prevented and so sailed on a vessel bound for New York. There he missed his way and went to Utica where his only son died of fever. After much delay, the reached our home. They stayed about two years with us, or until they made a home for themselves. The daughter grew to womanhood and was much esteemed. She married John Watkins, a son of one of our neighbors. They had four children, one of whom now owns her grandfather’s farm. Mr. Proudfoot was a man of wonderful memory. The Bible for him was almost an open book.
Our Aunt Martha West did not return to England, as she expected, but in the following year was married to father by the Rev. Mr. Weasner, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Athens. At this time Grandfather and Grandmother West had two single daughters at home.
Aunt Jane West, who afterwards married Mr. Thomas Nash, and Aunt Marian West, who married Mr. Allsiberk, all of Norfolk, England, and where they were all buried. But none of their sons or daughters that came to America ever returned to England.
I did not understand fully at this time what all this meant to my grandparents but in after years, I knew that in parting from their children, they passed through the deep waters of affliction.
My father’s farm in this valley contained 130 acres. He bought it of Mr. Redington, who had already built a large gable roofed barn, which was well arranged with its stables, hay mow and grainery, besides an elevator to the third floor. The barn is still there. Besides these, he built several cow stables, pig pens, hen houses, besides a large blacksmith shop, and had dug two wells. They were two loving springs on the farm but not very near the house. Whatever Mr. Redington did was well done.
As my father had the means to do with, he soon supplied himself with all that was necessary for the farm. Namely horses, cows, sheep, pigs, fowls and all sorts of farm utensils, such as wagons, plows, and drags. Father had brought quite a number of small tools with him from England including planes, saws, and augers. And among other things an eight day clock, which is now in the Athens Museum, a reminder of other days, and afterwards sent to England for a grain drill which was the first one ever brought to this country.
In the spring of 1832 Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Page arrived in Athens, from Brinton, Norfolk Co., England. Mrs. Page was our mother’s oldest sister. Mr. Page had bought a large farm joining father’s on the north. This farm still remains in the Page family.
Mrs. Anne West Page was born in Felthorpe, Norfolk, England, in 1800, she died in 1842. She was a person very gifted and highly accomplished. Mr. Page was born in Brinton, Norfolk, England in 1798, he died in 1878, their deaths both occurring at their home in Athens, Bradford Co., Pa. They were laid at rest in the family lot in Tioga Point Cemetery.
Of their children, three are still living, two sons and one daughter.
In the fall of 1832 our mother’s youngest brother, Christopher West, came to our home in Athens. He had stayed in New York for several months after coming from England. He was born in 1807. He was then twenty six years of age. He stayed through the winter with us, teaching one of the schools. The next spring he returned to New York City where he engaged in mercantile business. He married in 1837, they afterwards went to Baltimore where he engaged in the same business with which he was very successful. They lived in Baltimore the remainder of their lives, and both were buried there. Of their five children, only two are living.
In 1834 father built another house on his farm, then we moved in that, the hired help living in the log house, which remained good for a number of years. Then father built another house on the same site.
In our new home we were much more comfortable, many things that had not been unpacked since leaving England, were now put to use --- carpets, dishes, silverware, and many other things. Now we had plenty of room which we much needed.
Before this time father had set out a large orchard, and had built stone fences through his farm on each of the roads, and by his skillful management had brought his farm to a high state of cultivation. In 1840 he planted ten acres with corn, which yielded one hundred bushels to the acre.
In the summer of 1836 Mr. And Mrs. George West and their only child, a son, George Corneby West, came from Felthorpe, Norfolk, England, to our home unexpected, for the letter that should have brought us word, never came. Mr. West was mother'’ oldest brother and Mrs. West was father'’ oldest sister. With such relation, one can imagine how glad we were to see them. They bought a large farm about three miles from us, where they lived the remainder of their lives. Mr. West was born in Felthorpe, Norfolk, England in 1798. He died in 1870. He received a college education and was gifted with a mind capable of many attainments.
Mrs. Abigail Corneby West was born in Bungay, Suffolk Co., England in 1799. She died in 1889. Nearly all of her life she was member of the Baptist Church, which she never failed to attend when possible. She was a very attractive person and much devoted to her family and friends. They were both laid to rest in the family lot in Tioga Point Cemetery.
Mrs. Martha West Corneby died at her home in Athens, Bradford Co., Pa. March 2nd 1839 in the 39th year of her age. She was the fourth daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher West, of Felthorpe, Norfolk, England, and wife of Mr. Amos Gresham Corneby, formerly of the same place.
In her death the hand of affliction was again laid heavily upon all.
Father in the death of a beloved wife and his children in the loss of one
that had been all to them that a mother could be. She left three
children of her own, the youngest Christopher, died when two months old.
This left father with six children to care for, the oldest thirteen years,
the youngest four years. Our father was always kind and indulgent
to his children so he did what he thought best for all. He kept his
family all together until his girls were all married and had homes of their
own, then father again felt the need of some one to care for his home,
as his two sons Alfred and George were still at home with him. In
1850 he married Mrs. Sarah Arnoll, a widow lady. Of this marriage,
there were three children, Amos Gresham, Mary and Clarence Corneby.
She was born in 1811, the eldest daughter of Major Abram Snell whose father
was one of the first white settlers in Athens Valley and her grandfather,
Thomas Snell was one of the first Connecticut settlers. He built
the second house at Tioga Point and her father was the first white child
born in Athens Township where she remained all hers life. She was
laid to rest in the family lot in Tioga Point Cemetery.
Written January 1910 by Mrs. Elizabeth Walker