Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Families of the Tri-Counties
Learning More About the People Buried in Fitzsimmons Cemetery
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Chemung County NY
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Many articles have been written about the Fitzsimmons Cemetery, sometimes referred to as the “Old Settlers Cemetery”, “Griswold Cemetery” or “Side of the Road Cemetery”.  It is located at the corner of Maple Avenue and Cedar Street in Southport. But what do we know about the pioneers who are buried there.  The sign says “Contains the remains of many pioneers and members of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign”.  And so it does, indeed.

 Local history books tell us that Southport was settled in 1788 and that Revolutionary veterans John Smith, Captain Jacob Stull, John Fitzsimmons, Solomon Bovier, Lebbeus Hammond, David Griswold, who are buried here, were indeed prominent among the men who first settled Southport.    The stones used are uncut native fieldstones; the inscriptions are crude, yet the stones stand as solid and the inscriptions as bold as though carved yesterday.

 There are a very few counties in this great land of ours that have left such a rich historical heritage than our own beautiful county of Chemung.  What tale of cowboys and Indians can excel in interest and excitement the story of General Sullivan’s battle with the Tories and the Indians, one of the decisive battles of the Revolutionary War in which the power of the great Iroquois Confederacy was crushed.  What odyssey of pioneers is more inspiring than that of the men and women who pushed their way up the Chemung River into a land of tall timber, rich land, beautiful vistas and of swamps and wild animals, sometimes hostile Indians and loneliness?  Yet how much do we of today know of the early days of our town and county?

       A couple of the pioneers were John Fitzsimmons and Elijah Griswold Sr.
John Fitzsimmons was born near Philadelphia, Pa. on March 14, 1771 and died in the Town of Southport on July 4, 1851.  He first came to Southport as a soldier with his brother James in the Sullivan-Clinton campaign in 1779.  After the war, he was so impressed with this valley that he returned to Southport, married Mary Fredericks, who was born December 15, 1762 and died in the Town of Southport on January 6, 1850.   They cleared land in Southport for a farm and built a home for their family.  John and Mary Fitzsimmons had two children; Vincent M. born May 8, 1805 and died February 12, 1889.  Vincent was a farmer with 265 acres of land in the Town of Southport; His twin brother Davis was born May 8, 1805 and died February 21, 1884.  His full name was Neal Davis.  He also was a farmer in the Town of Southport owning 550 acres of land.  He married Sally H. Smith, daughter of Job & Esther Cassady Smith.  Sally was born November 4, 1815 and died November 24, 1883.

 Davis and Sally Fitzsimmons had one son, Andrew who was born August 18, 1834 and died September 25, 1916 in the Town of Southport.  He married Anna McCormick, daughter of David & Susanna McCormick.  Anna was born in 1838 and died in 1902.  In 1891 they resided on his grandfathers farm.  They had two daughters; Hellena and Louisa.  Andrew Fitzsimmons served as Town Supervisor in 1880. Although Andrew and Anna are not buried in the Fitzsimmons Cemetery, but they have been a major descendant and prominent resident of Southport. There are still descendants living on part of the old farm today.

The Griswold’s were descended from the old Connecticut family (sometimes spelled Grissel), which furnished Connecticut with some of its governors and several of its judges. It is recorded that they were generally ready to support the right side of any good cause, and if they found it necessary to strike for righteousness, they always struck hard.  The first of the names to come in the wake of General Sullivan’s army to old Tioga, later Chemung County, was Elijah Griswold, Sr., accompanied by his sons; David, Elijah Jr., Gideon and Elisha.  Elijah Sr. was born May 20, 1719 in Farmington, Connecticut, married Abigail Thomas on April 25, 1754 in Tyringham, Bershire Co., Massachusetts.

 David Griswold was born March 12, 1761 and died March 27, 1847 in Southport.
While residing in Hillsdale, Columbia Co., NY with his parents, he enlisted and served as a private in the New York Military during the Revolutionary War, being only 15 years of age at the time of his first enlistment. After the Revolutionary War he married Sarah Beckwith.  They came to Southport in 1787 and cleared a farm on the river road. After her passing in 1796, he married Jane Durham Stull, daughter of John Durham.  David built a gristmill in 1799, the first in the area.  Water was conveyed from Seeley Creek, nearly a mile away, across to Cold Brook by means of a dam and sluice, the work being done entirely by hand.  David also assisted in building the first schoolhouse in the area in 1800.  The first church was erected in 1819 on land donated by David’s brother Elijah Griswold.

 David and Sarah Griswold had three children; David Jr., born January 1, 1787, Mary born March 22, 1782, and Thomas born February 22, 1790 in Southport.
David and Jane Griswold had four children; Nancy born 1800, John born 1803, Sally born 1806, and Jonas born 1810. Jane died in 1859 and it said that she was the last survivor of the pioneers of this valley.  None now remain to tell us personal incidents of the revolution, and of the times when the redman claimed the soil.  She was the last of the original members of the Presbyterian Church in Southport.  Jane is also buried in Fitzsimmons beside David.

 There are many descendants of the Griswold’s still in our area today.

Reference:  Article from Star Gazette 1948
         Mrs. Mildred Griswold Murphy 1987
         Ashland Historian Sylvia DENTON Smith
       Archives of Southport Historian
                    Virginia WHEELER McElroy

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Bradford County PA
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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 05/20/2005
By Joyce M. Tice
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