Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Royse (Royce) Family of Fredericksburg; Part 2

Frederick Royse's names appears on the War Memorial at Washington County Courthouse in Salem, Indiana

Frederick Royce is my 5xgreat-grandfather.  He was probably born between 1750-1760 in Pennsylvania or Virginia.  He married Sarah Dewitt, and sometime after the Revolutionary War he moved with his young family to Bardstown in Nelson county Kentucky.  My recent blog posting, The Royse (Royce) Family of Fredericksburg; Part 1, details his move from Bardstown, to a salt lick along the Buffalo Trace in Indiana Territory.  From about 1806, this area began to be called Royse’s Lick.  By 1815, Frederick Royse sold his property around the Lick and, at the age of about sixty, he moved a little south and started a new venture – establishing the town of Fredericksburg, Indiana. 

 In 1814 Washington county Indiana was formed from Clark county, and two years later Indiana made the transition from Territory to State.  These changes peaked the enthusiasm of forward-looking men.    In 1815 Frederick Royse and his sons laid out the village of Fredericksburg, just north and across Blue River from the site of present day Fredericksburg, Indiana.  

According to Goodspeed’s 1884, “History of Washington County [Indiana]”, Frederick Royse, by the county surveyor William Lowe, surveyed and platted fifty-nine lots in the month of September 1815.  Goodspeed identifies some of the early town fathers as Theodore Catlin, James McClung, John T Ferguson, Jacob Harris and Dr William A Boyles. 

Frederick Royse and his wife Sarah Dewitt Royse lived out the remaining ten or twelve years of their life on their farm near Fredericksburg.  By the time the 1820 census was taken in Washington county Indiana, most of their ten children were married and raising their own families. Frederick Royse, and his sons John Royse, William Royse, Martin Royse, Gabriel Royse, and daughter Lydia VanLandingham, all appear within two pages of each other on the census.  The youngest son, Benjamin Royse is probably still in the household of his parents.  Four other daughters, Hannah Royse Campbell, Sarah Royse Nugent, Rebecca Royse McFall, and Elizabeth Royse Edmonston all appear in nearby counties.

Frederick Royse died in 1826, and his wife Sarah Dewitt Royse died the following year. It is believed that they were buried, along with other family members, in the now defunct Royse Farm Cemetery.  There is a Historical Marker, dedicated to Frederick Royse and family, at the nearby Horner’s Chapel Cemetery.

Several generations of Royse descendants remained in and near Fredericksburg.  They built mills and bridges, participated in the county militia, served in community offices and local churches.  They saw the town move across the Blue River to higher ground.  The names of Frederick Royse, several of his sons and sons-in-law are remembered by the county.  They appear on the Honor Rolls Memorial at the Washington County Courthouse in Salem, Indiana.  Further information can be found at the Historical Markers Database.

I located this photograph of Beck’s Mill in Washington county Indiana.  It has no direct relationship to our Royse family.  But, the Beck and Royse families had similar stories – immigrating from near Louisville Kentucky to Clark’s Grant in Indiana Territory about the same time, platting nearby communities and competing for county seat status (neither won), developing their farm land and establishing grist mills along the Blue River.   I feel sure the Beck and Royse families were acquainted.  The story of Beck’s Mill, beautifully restored in 2007, makes interesting reading.

For more details on Frederick Royse and his family, visit his page at Family Stories,

Photo: Washington County (Indiana) Honor Roll Memorial, photo by Marilyn S Wolf, 2011.

Moving back in time:  Albert Luther Clarkson 1901 > Samuel Edwin Clarkson 1875 > Elizabeth Jane Robinson 1848 > Sarah Nugent Edmonston 1821 >  Elizabeth Royse 1799 > Frederick Royse abt 1760    
Further Reading:
Frederick Royse, 1750 – 1825: Revolutionary War Militiaman: Chelsea Dinn, 1971. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Royse (Royce) Family of Fredericksburg; Part 1

The French explorers were probably the first Europeans to come into the region that later became Indiana.  At their arrival in the late 1600’s, the area was mostly wilderness, with a sparse population of Indians and a few fur traders.  The French established a Fort at Vincennes about 1732, but it came under British control in 1763.  The British were successful in winning the loyalties of the Indians and traders in the area, but settlement by newcomers remained difficult. 

In 1778, as the American Revolution was raging on the East Coast, George Rogers Clark led a group of mostly Virginia soldiers into the Indiana wilderness area, and in February of 1779 they claimed the British fort at Vincennes.  The region came to America as part of the Northwest Territory in 1787.  Indiana Territory was organized in 1800 and Indiana statehood arrived in 1816. 

As a gift for Clark’s service, and as payment to his soldiers, in 1781 he was awarded 150,000 acres northwest of the Ohio River, in what became Clark county Indiana.  The surveying of Clark’s Grant began in 1783.  It established the town of Clarksville just above the Falls of the Ohio, and set aside over eight thousand acres to George Rogers Clark.  There were several large tracts for officers, and  three hundred soldier’s parcels of 108 acres each.  A few settlers came, but much of the property was sold off by the soldiers, awaiting later settlement. 

Twenty years later, property from Clark’s Grant became the lure to draw our Royse family to the region. From Warder William Stevens’ 1916, Centennial History of Washington County Indiana, we learn, “The old Vincennes and Ohio Falls trail passed through Posey township, and it was along this trail the first white men located within the present borders of the county.“   He goes on to identify the earliest settlers:  Thomas Hopper, Thomas Poison (Poulson), Jesse Spurgeon, Elijah Harriman, John Butler, Benjamin King, and the Catlin family.  He also names, in 1806, Martin Royse and his sons John, William, and Martin.  (Note that the father’s name should read Frederick Royse.)

In several places on the internet, I have come across this statement related to Frederick Royse and the establishment of Fredericksburg, Indiana:

As early as 1802, a man named Frederick Royce lived among the Ox Indians at a place known as the Lick, two miles east of Salem and is probably the first white man to inhabit this county.  He was a hunter-trader and salt manufacturer. 

This simple statement was like fodder for the fire.  I wanted to know more about my 5xgreat-grandfather, Frederick Royse

There were a series of mineral (salt) licks across Southern Indiana, roughly strung along the path between the Falls of the Ohio River, near Louisville Kentucky, and the fort at Vincennes, on the western edge of Indiana.  We do not know what enticed Frederick Royse from his home in Bardstown Kentucky to a rather obscure salt lick in southern Indiana, but the pathway is pretty clear.  Louisville Kentucky, a bustling port town on the Ohio River, rests forty miles north of Bardstown.  The path between Louisville Kentucky and Vincennes Indiana was known by various names, among them Buffalo Trace and Old Vincennes Trace.  It was an ancient and well-worn path, originally formed by migrating Buffalo.  It was the major route for Southern Indiana settlers.  About halfway along the path, and slightly north, is the mineral lick that became known as Royse’s Lick.

A small community grew up around the mineral lick, and we might assume that Frederick Royse played a significant role there, as it bore his name.  The little bit known about the area suggests that during the first decade of the 1800’s the Indians and white men of the area coexisted peacefully.  But, who were these “Ox Indians” that Frederick Royse “lived among”?   A diligent search on the internet turned up no Ox Indians, but again, Stevens’ 1916, Centennial History of Washington County Indiana gave me the clue I needed:

One of the temporary villages was on Royse's Lick near the store kept by Dr. Lamb. Here "Old Ox" a Delaware Chief and his family and immediate followers were established.

A later description gives further details of the community around Royse’s Lick:

The signs of civilized man were more numerous about the “Lick,” two miles east of Salem, than any other point. A man named Royse is known to have lived here among the Ox Indians as early as 1802. He built, or someone did before him, a sort of pen out of poles and covered it with bark, for a place of shelter. The entrance to this “shack” was through a hole made in one side of same by cutting out a pole, through which the occupant had to crawl. It stood among the Indian ‘wakiups’ (wickiups) that were located at the foot of the hill just west of the “Lick.” Royse was a hunter, a trader and in a small way a manufacturer of salt. The “Lick" took its name from this man and the stream that flows nearby was known as Royse’s fork of Blue river.

I was not able to learn anything of the Salt Works at Royse’s Lick, but interesting descriptions of activities at the Scioto Salt Works in Ohio during a corresponding period, give some idea of what might have gone on there.  Researcher Emmett A Conway describes in detail how Indian women first dug into the salt beds, withdrawing and then boiling down the salt.  When the white men arrived they duplicated their practice, but began mining deeper and deeper into the bedrock.  At Big Bone Lick State Park, southwest of Cincinnati Ohio, a sign describing the Salt Furnaces reads:

Old salt furnaces were merely long trenches about four feet deep and lined with stones or clay.  Two rows of kettles, each holding 12 to 15 gallons of brine, were placed on this trench and the water boiled away leaving the salt granules.  The furnaces were fired with wood from the grated front.

Frederick Royse probably lived in the area around Royse’s Lick for about ten years. Some of his older sons spent time there, but it is not clear at what point his wife and younger children came to Indiana Territory.  By 1815, Frederick Royse sold his property around the Lick and, at the age of about sixty, he moved a little south and started a new venture – establishing the town of Fredericksburg, Indiana. 

Upcoming on this Blog -  The Royse (Royce) Family of Fredericksburg; Part 2.

For more details on Frederick Royse and his family, visit his page at Family Stories,

Moving back in time:  Albert Luther Clarkson 1901 > Samuel Edwin Clarkson 1875 > Elizabeth Jane Robinson 1848 > Sarah Nugent Edmonston 1821 >  Elizabeth Royse 1799 > Frederick Royse abt 1760    
Photo: Apache Wickiup; Created by Edward S Curtis, about 1903; Wikipedia Commons.

Further Reading:
Centennial History of Washington County, Indiana:  Its People, Industries and Institutions: with Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families; W W Stevens; McDowell Publications, 1916. (Google eBook)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Introducing the Van Lear Family

Jacob Van Lear, my 6xgreat-grandfather, is the earliest of my Van Lear ancestors that I know about.  I believe that he was born between 1700 – 1710 in America, possibly in New York.  Records suggest that he lived for some years in Lancaster county Pennsylvania, before joining the great migration to Augusta county Virginia in the 1750’s. 

I recently received a comment from fellow blogger Peter Miebies about the likely Dutch origin of my Van Lear surname.  He suggested that earlier spellings may have been Van Leer, or Van Lier.  Peter has an ongoing project at his blog, bringing together researchers with Dutch ancestry.  See his May 2012 blog posting, Dutch Ancestors.

I have not worked on connecting my Van Lear family back over the ocean, but I have located on the internet, the efforts of other researchers.  Consider:

Gerrett Stoffelse (Gerrit Soffelsz Van Laer); baptized 1606, Amsterdam Holland; died 1661; married Baeyke Ardiaens, 1630; their son –

Christoffel Gerritszen VanLaer (Stoffel Gerritsz Van Laer); baptized 1639 Amsterdam Holland; married Catharyntie Jans Boots (Catharyntie Jans), 1660; their son –

Abraham VanLaer (Abraham Stoffelse Van Laer); baptized 1678 New Amsterdam (New York); married Hester David Christians (Hester Christianense Davids), 1697 New Amsterdam (New York); their son –

Jacobus (Jacob) VanLaer; born 1704 New Amsterdam (New York); died 1783 Augusta county Virginia; married Margaret.

There is a wealth of information available on this Van Lear (VanLaer) family.  Unfortunately, interpretations of the Dutch spellings creates challenges in locating the information.  To get started in the New York records, I would suggest putting “Stoffel van Laer” into your favorite search engine.  Also, try some of the spellings given in the account above.  There are several  genealogical databases at World Connect that try to interpret this family.  I found the notes at Barbara Pumyea’s World Connect database helpful. 

Jacob Van Lear’s Will is of record in Augusta county Virginia, probated 18 November 1783.  He mentions his wife Margaret, gives his son Jacob all lands, his son John  f15, his daughter Gartry Robinson 50 shillings, and his daughter Isabel Abney 50 shillings. Executors are Jacob VanLear and John Christian.  Patrick Christian and John Christian are witnesses.  Jacob Van Lear qualifies as executor.   I find the connection to the Christian family intriguing in light of the mention above of Jacob Van Lear’s possible mother, Hester David Christians. 

For more details on Jacob Van Lear, visit his page at Family Stories,

Moving back in time:  Albert Luther Clarkson 1901 > Samuel Edwin Clarkson 1875 > Elizabeth Jane Robinson 1848 > Preston Mcgrady Robinson 1820 > Jane Van Lear 1795 > John Van Lear 1747 > Jacob Van Lear 1710.

Photo:   Fall of New Amsterdam; by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863 – 1930); United States Library of Congress  Prints and Photographs division; Print shows Peter Stuyvesant, in 1664, standing on shore among residents of New Amsterdam who are pleading with him not to open fire on the British who have arrived in warships waiting in the harbor to claim the territory for England.

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