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Submitted by J. Kelsey Jones
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An Analysis of Caesar Barnes, perhaps Smithfield’s first pioneering black and only black Revolutionary soldier of Bradford County


J. Kelsey Jones 

In the early settlement of Smithfield Township, it was noted by Rev. David Craft in the History of Bradford County, that “about 1798, several men commenced improvements, among whom, the names of Foster, Baldwin, Waterman, Wheeler, and a colored man called Caesar, are recollected.” Often such references to a person of African descent fade into oblivion from that era. They often did not own property and often don’t appear in other records. A few years later in the Congregational Church records of Smithfield can be found “died Cezar Barns 25 June 1803.” Is this Caesar Barnes and the Caesar who arrived in Smithfield a few years earlier the same person? If Caesar arrived in Smithfield about 1798, no person of that name or the name Barnes appears on the 1800 federal census enumeration of Ulster Township, of which Smithfield Township was a part of before its creation. Neither Caeser or the name Barnes appears on the 1802 assessment list of Ulster Township, which also included Smithfield settlers at that time. The Smithfield settlers can be identified on both the 1800 federal census of Ulster and the 1802 assessment list of Ulster. Since neither the name Caesar or Barnes appear in the two aforementioned records, this could imply that Caesar and Caesar Barnes were one and the same. Interestingly, there was a Paine family in the 1800 Ulster census enumerated next to James Satterlee. The Satterlee family are known to have been Smithfield settlers. The 1800 census of Ulster, grouped people by geographic location, so it can be determined who many of the settlers of Smithfield were and it could be assumed that the Paine family were also in that area that became Smithfield. The Paine family head of household was Chauncey and the five persons in the household, including Chauncey, were “other free persons (non-white), except Indians, not taxed.” This would strongly infer that the family was of African descent, further indicating the early arrival of families of African descent in Smithfield. This family may or may not have been related or connected with Caesar. 

Rev. Craft related that “the Pedobaptist Congregational church of East Smithfield was organized in Poultney, Vermont, February 11, 1801, by Rev. Elijah Norton and Rev. Lemuel Haynes, the celebrated colored preacher. The church then consisted of Solomon Morse, Samuel Kellogg, Esq., and Nathan Fellows. They chose Samuel Kellogg their moderator, and were commended to the grace of God. Their articles of faith were penned by Mr. Haynes. “They immediately started for the far west, arriving the same month in what is now East Smithfield.” 

Rev. Lemuel Haynes, a child of an Anglo mother and an African father, was reportedly abandoned as a child and raised in New England as an indentured servant. During his servitude he had time to learn and study. Once he gained his freedom he joined the American cause in the fight for freedom during the American Revolution. He was one of more than 5,000 African soldiers, both free and slave, to participate on the battlefield. When the war was over he returned to studies to learn Latin and Greek, and delved into theology, while teaching, before becoming a minister. He accepted a position with a white congregation in Middle Granville, Connecticut. There he married in 1783 a young white schoolteacher, Elizabeth Babbitt, and eventually had ten children. In 1785, Haynes was officially ordained as a Congregational minister. He was perhaps the first African American ordained in a Protestant Church. His second call, was a mostly white church in Rutland, Vermont, that history indicates had a “few poor Africans.” His call to the pulpit there lasted 30 years. From that congregation sprung the congregation in Smithfield. Haynes developed a wide reputation as a preacher and writer. He published several articles, received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Middlebury College, the first ever bestowed upon an African American.  

            Lemuel Haynes 

Certainly a connection can be established between Rev. Haynes and the beginnings of the Congregational Church in Smithfield. However, was Caesar or the Paine family amongst the congregation in Vermont of Rev. Lemuel Haynes?  

Let us return to the men Foster, Baldwin, Waterman, and Wheeler who are related to have accompanied Caesar to Smithfield about 1798. They do not seem connected to the Congregational Church of Smithfield other than perhaps Baldwin when “Rufus Baldwin was received May 1803 on examination.” Waterman must refer to Stephen Waterman who was born 13 March 1773 in Scituate, Providence County, Rhode Island. Stephen Waterman was enumerated in the 1800 federal census of Ulster Township. He had a wife whose name we know was Phebe. They removed from the area and were enumerated in Angelica, Allegany County, New York in 1810 where Stephen died 29 November 1811. Foster may not have remained as he does not appear in the 1800 federal census or the Congregational Church records of Smithfield. It is unclear who the Wheeler may have been. There was a Peter Wheeler and Walter Wheeler in the 1800 census of Ulster but neither seems to have lived in that portion that became Smithfield. Lastly, there is Baldwin and no Baldwin appears in the 1800 census of Ulster for the Smithfield area and we do not know if this refers to Rufus Baldwin in the Congregational Church records of Smithfield in 1803. Thus, it is very difficult to establish who exactly some of these men were, where they were from or what relationship to Caesar they may have had.  

In the History of Merrimack, New Hampshire is found "Thomas Barnes petitioned the town in 1783 to see if they would pay anything for services done by his negro man as a bounty.” There is no reference to his name in the petition, but it is assumed he may be the Caesar Barnes, who is known to have served in the Revolutionary War from Merrimack. No birth record has been found for a Caesar Barnes and there is no record of him owning property in Merrimack. However, there is a marriage record in New Hampshire for Caesar Barnes and Fanny Livingston on 17 Apr 1798. Fanny was of Washington, New Hampshire.

Was Caesar Barnes who served in the Revolutionary War from New Hampshire, the Caesar who arrived in Smithfield in 1798, and the Caesar Barnes who died in Smithfield in 1803 all the same person? Could Caesar Barnes and Lemuel Haynes have known each other during the American Revolution?   

If Fanny Livingston, wife of Caesar Barnes left New Hampshire and resided in Smithfield, she certainly returned to New Hampshire. A federal pension file provides even further information on this family. In the pension file, Caesar Barnes died 4 July 1804. Interestingly, the month and date are very near the 25th of June date that Caesar Barnes died in Smithfield and differs by one year. Was July 4th his actual date of death or was it chosen because of its significance? Or, perhaps the family was not aware of his actual date of death when possible word reached New Hampshire, if Fanny was not in Smithfield. Furthermore, the pension application was dated 1835, some thirty years after Caesar’s death and the dates could have begun to change if there was no written record. It is further learned from the pension records that Caesar Barnes and Fanny Livingston had two children named John and Permelia. Neither Fanny or John signed their own name, but signed by mark using an “x” which may indicate they could not write and perhaps no written record existed of his death in their possession. Fanny had married secondly Pompey Peters, also of African descent, who had served in the American Revolution. Fanny outlived her second husband and she and children John Barnes and Permelia Barnes were all living in Goffstown, New Hampshire in 1835 when the pension was applied for. At that date, John Barnes indicated that his father “did not draw a pension from the United States previous to his death.” This may or may not have been entirely accurate since –  

“Be it enacted, &c., That the Secretary for the Department of War, be, and he is hereby directed to place on the pension list of the United States, the several persons hereinafter named, who have been returned as pension claimants by the judges of the several districts, pursuant to the act of Congress, passed the twenty-eighth day of February, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, entitled “An act to regulate the claims to invalid pensions,” at the rates and proportions annexed to the names of the said persons respectively, that is to say: Of the district of New Hampshire, Joseph Goodrich, a private, half a pension; Joseph Patterson, a private, half a pension; Caesar Barnes, a private, one-third of a pension.” 

U.S. House of Representatives Private Claims Vol 1 indicates that C’sar Barnes of New Hampshire petitioned for a claim of “arrears of pensions for revolutionary services” on 9 Jan 1798, which passed both the House and Senate, dated 2 Feb 1798. Pennsylvania records indicate that an invalid pension was paid to Caesar Barnes, which began 4 Mar 1800 with the last payment on 4 Mar 1807, due to death. Though records may indicate when a payment began, often the federal government was slow in making payments. Payments often took months and sometimes years to arrive at their intended destination. Often the federal government made payments after a death, not knowing that a death had sometimes occurred. Thus, there is no way of knowing if John Barnes statement was inaccurate or correct. Both John Barnes and Permelia Barnes in March 1835 received Bounty Land Warrant no. 2102 for 100 acres “issued to John Barnes and Pamela Barnes, children and only heirs at law to Caesar Barnes who was a private in the New Hampshire line of the Revolutionary Army.” 

Was this pension application the Caesar of Smithfield? Certainly, the basis for a case could begin to be made that he was. Further research may yet provide the documentation needed to prove if he was perhaps Smithfield’s first pioneering black and only black Revolutionary soldier of Bradford County. And, if that is proven to be the case, perhaps he can be honored with the monument due him for his service and struggles for independence and his important part in American history. 

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On  24 DEC 2018
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice


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