Letter from Rev. William Reddy of Kingston, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to his father-in-law, John Comfort, of Lanesboro, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. At the time of this letter in February 1848, Rev. William Reddy was stationed in Kingston by the Wyoming Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Wyoming Seminary, operated under the auspices of the M.E. Church, was also located in Kingston and it is apparent that William’s sister-in-law, Sarah Ann Comfort, was attending the Seminary where Reuben Nelson served as the principal. Ten years later, Sarah Ann Comfort would marry Jedediah Hotchkiss, the famous cartographer who served on the staff of Confederate Generals Thomas (“Stonewall”) Jackson and Robert E. Lee during the Civil War.
By 1848, when this letter was written, John Comfort (1776-1850) was nearing the end of his long and eventful life in Lanesboro, Pennsylvania.
Editors note: William Reddy and the Reuben Nelson mentioned in this letter, were good friends of my great-great-grandfather, Rev. James Sayre Griffing. They are mentioned as well in several of his letters, which can be found in Private Letters.
Kingston, Feb 22, 1848
I received your letter containing $20.00 in due time, and should have acknowledged the receipt of it sooner but other engagements have prevented. We are now in tolerable health, though last week William was very sick for two or three days. He had a very high fever, great distress in his ear and a very sore throat. We called the doctor. Soon, however, the gathering in his ear broke & discharged copiously, and he was relieved, but he is not well. Mrs. Reddy also was very miserable with sore throat and general debility – is still feeble though doing her work. My own health for the last three weeks has not been as good as usual. Still we have great cause for gratitude.
Mr. Little, the keeper of the boarding house, died a week ago last Saturday. Sister Williamson, one of the boarders, has been very sick. She was formerly Sarah Ann’s room mate. Sarah Ann has attended repose her considerable during her sickness. She is now better and Sarah Ann is well. Some ____ have been converted of late here at Kingston.
I have paid Sarah’s Tuition bill for last term $6.00 and have procured her a neat, but plain pocket Bible with references and bound in morocco with a tract for $1.50. These, with several other spiritual items of expense leaves in my hand of the money forwarded $4.60.
Bro. [Reuben] Nelson [Principal of the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA] proposes to the French class to form a club and take each of them a copy of a French periodical published at Washington and make that their reading, or text book, from which lessons should be given, and upon which they should pass an examination. It will supersede the necessity of procuring a reading text book for two terms and the use of it will make the class familiar with the modern style of French composition, and they will learn to use of the new words introduced into modern French language.
When Sarah Ann proposed it, I doubted whether you would approve such an ____ but on consulting with Bro. [Reuben] Nelson and learning that all the rest of Sarah Ann’s class were going into it and that it was to answer the place of a text book, I consented that she should subscribe for a copy. I hope it may be satisfactory to you. The work of the Lord is prospering on the District though several of the preacher’s health is failing.
We hope to have an interest in your prayers as you all have in ours. Our love to Mother and all the rest of the friends.
Yours affectionately, — William Reddy
P.S. Elizabeth wishes me to say that she has not written yet to [her brother] Isaac and further, that she thinks Isaac would receive your proposition in regard to Maria more cordially were it to come from you directly instead of coming through her. He might think that we wanted to get Maria here for some personal consideration. – W.R.
Biography of William Reddy
Source: First Fifty Years of Cazenovia Seminary, 1825-1875
Rev. William Reddy was born in Cayuga County, New York, in 1813, was converted at Lansingville, New York, in 1831, under the ministrations of Rev. William Cameron, and licensed to exhort in 1833 by Rev. James Kelsey; licensed to preach in 1836 by Rev. Goodwin Stoddard; received as Conference probationer at Cortland, New York, August, 1837, having been employed one year on the Pittston Circuit under Rev. John M. Snyder; ordained deacon by Bishop Hedding in 1839 at Norwich, and elder by Bishop Soule in 1841 at Owego. [Editor’s Note: This is where he first gained the acquaintance of James S. Griffing.]
He has filled during the thirty-seven years of his ministerial work some of the most important stations throughout Central New York and Northern Pennsylvania. He has been presiding elder nineteen years, has been a member of the General Conference five times, and a reserve delegate once. He was one of the Conference committee to establish Wyoming Seminary, procured the first subscription for the same, and was president of its board of trustees four years. He was a trustee of Cazenovia Seminary fifteen years, and president of its board of trustees four years. He was a trustee of Genesee College six years. In 1859 he published a small volume entitled “Inside Views of Methodism; or, a Hand-Book for Inquirers and Beginners.” He has written considerably for the periodical press. In 1876 Union College and Alleghany College conferred upon him the degree of D.D.
Cazenovia Seminary has no truer friend than Dr. Reddy. He has given to it time, wise counsel, money, students, and the influence of his good name. When the trustees were casting about for a person to write the history of the Seminary, by common consent he was selected. This is no place for a biography of Dr. Reddy, but it is felt that some recognition of such a friend to the Seminary should be made in this memorial volume. Dr. J. W. Armstrong writes of him as follows: “Dr. William Reddy is an important part of Methodism in the State of New York, and it is no wonder. His convictions appeared always to be strong and his purpose definite. He is full of courage and zeal. His utterances are always bold, uncompromising, and powerful. His manners are ever straightforward; his actions prompt, energetic, and decisive. He loves work, and is as ready to dig in the trenches as to level a gun, storm a redoubt, or command a garrison. He appears conscious of moral and intellectual strength as well as physical. Above all, he evidently knows in whom he has believed. When he takes the sword of the Spirit he knows that he handles a trusty weapon. He never flourishes it much. He never doubts its ability to bear the heaviest work without blunting its edge or overstraining its temper, and he strikes with such downright heartiness as to send it crashing through the thickest armor of unbelief. He is one of the mighty men of the Church.
William Reddy’s Family:
WILLIAM REDDY was born September 28, 1813 in Ledyard, Cayuga Co, NY, and died after June 05, 1880, probably in NY. He married (1) SARAH C CAHILL July 13, 1840. She was born June 17, 1818 in Jackson, PA. He married (2) ELIZABETH GILDERSLEEVE COMFORT April 19, 1843 in Harmony, PA, daughter of JOHN COMFORT and PHOEBE GILDERSLEEVE. She was born July 24, 1819 in Harmony, PA, and died aft. June 22, 1870.
William Reddy’s father was Timothy Reddy, born 24 November 1776, in Ireland, and died 5 June 1842 in Jerusalem, Yates County, New York. His mother was Isabel Scott, born 2 May 1781 in Tompkins County, New York, and died 11 July 1836. They were married 20 May 1799 in Hopewell, Orange County, New York. Timothy’s father was Adam Reddy.
Children of WILLIAM REDDY and SARAH CAHILL:
- URBANE BURROWS REDDY, b. May 12, 1841, Dimock, Susquehanna Co, PA.
Children of WILLIAM REDDY and ELIZABETH COMFORT:
- SARAH ELIZA REDDY, b. February 03, 1844, Honesdale, Wayne Co, PA; d. February 9, 1844, Honesdale, Wayne Co, PA.
- WILLIAM COMFORT REDDY, b. February 26, 1845, Honesdale, Wayne Co, PA., d. 8 May 1910 at East Orange, New Jersey.
- LAURA JANE REDDY, b. November 10, 1846, Kingston, PA.
- JAMES HAMELINE REDDY, b. December 03, 1848, Kingston, PA.
- NELSON ROUNDS REDDY, b. June 15, 1854, Oxford, NY.
- MARY ELIZABETH REDDY, b. August 30, 1855, Cazenovia, Madison Co, NY; d. January 24, 1900, Jacksonville, Duval Co, FL.
Biography of John Comfort
Source: History of Susquehanna County, pg 95.
John Comfort came [to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania] in 1808, and bought the house and farm of T. Pickring, Jr., and returned to the East. In 1809 he came to settle, only removing after about ten years, half a mile above the present viaduct. He built a sawmill prior to 1812, near the site of the present mill of Charles Lyons; the first one it is averred in the township. He was a justice of the peace for some years, and so honest a man, that one to whom he had given a promissory note returned it to him for safe keeping. His sons were James, Silas, and George. The last named is now a missionary to the Omahas in Montana. Silas was a presiding elder of the Methodist Church in Missouri nearly forty years ago; but was dismissed because he received “nigger testimony.” He died April 5, 1850, in his seventy-fourth year. Adam Swagart, a brother-in-law of John Comfort, came to the settlement two or three years after the latter.
More on John Comfort
Source: Webpage by John G. Boice (email@example.com)
“HISTORY OF THE COMFORT ANCESTORS”
The following is a document I found among my late father’s papers, typeset in two justified columns on an 8 ½” X 11″ quality rag stock. It was dated by him in pencil as having been received and filed on “8/18/62.” I have no indication of the dates on which it was written or printed, nor of how many copies were printed. It is conceivably the only surviving copy of the document, but considering the genealogical work done by some members of the Comfort family in producing that book from which I copied most of the information for The Descendants of Robert Comfort in America, I suspect other copies of this document may still exist, and I apologize for any violation of any existing copyright that may be held by someone else. No copyright notice is printed on my document, and if none can be proven to exist, I (John G. Boice) claim a copyright in the year 2001 but give permission to freely print the document providing that it is printed in it’s entirety without emendation, addition or deletion, and that it include this introduction of mine as well as the final “compliments” of the authoress, Mrs. Florence Comfort Gilbert, and my concluding discussion about the document.
I reproduce the document exactly as I received it, without editing, despite a few typographical errors as well as what appear to me to be minor inconsistencies. I wish readers to see it as it is, without “(sic)” interjected wherever I think the authoress or the printer made an error. As a one-time professional proofreader, this requires immense discipline on my part, I hope you all realize!
But from my other readings on the Comfort family history, I have every reason to accept it as being a substantially accurate and valuable family document. The only major historical problem I perceive is that, as with other genealogists of the Comfort family, Mrs. Gilbert does not acknowledge or realize that there was a Robert Comfort, Senior and a Robert Comfort, Junior. Either they both emigrated from Britain to Newtown (Long Island), New York together or else Robert, Jr. was born within a year or so after arrival. Sometimes Comfort researchers are puzzed by conflicting data in the early 1700’s about “Robert Comfort” because they assume there was only one “Robert Comfort.” I will discuss this and other minor problems afterwards.
HISTORY OF THE COMFORT ANCESTORS
The name Comfort was originally Montfort. At the time the Puritans left the English Church these Puritan Montforts changed their name to Comfort. They are the descendents of the Earl of Montfort, founder of the British Parliament.
There is a tradition that three brothers named Comfort came too New York from England. One settled in New Jersey, one in Old Point Comfort, Virginia, and one, Robert, who is our ancestor married Phoebe Thorn and settled at Fishkill on the Hudson River. Richard Comfort (Robert’s son) of the Amer. Revolution was born Aug. 15, 1745 and died at Southport, Chemung Co., in 1834, was his son. He served in the second Regiment of Dutchess Co. He married Charity Young. Their Children were Edward, Silas, Robert, Elizabeth, Jacob, Sarah, Mary, Hannah, Benjamin, Charity, Mercy, Thomas and John, who was our ancestor.
John Comfort married Phoebe Gildersleeve.
Going back to Silas who wrote “The End of the Argument” a book which is still referred to by clergymen. Sons of Silas were Charles, Merville, and George F. who was professor of Modern Languages in Syracuse University.
Joseph McKune came to Harmony from Orange Co. in 1812. His son Robert married Mary Hillborn (a Quakeress) whose forebears came to Philadelphia with Wm. Penn. John Hillborn and wife came north of Philadelphia on horseback. She with a young baby. They settled at the mouth of the Cascade Creek and lived in a “lean-to” until they could build a cabin. This baby grew up and married Robert McKune and were our ancestors. Their daughter Mary Ann McKune married James Comfort (son of John), and not until as my grandmother told me she had rejected a proposal of marriage from Robert E. Lee, who was then a student at West Point.
Going back to John Comfort, to quote from letters I received from Attorney Randall Comfort of Long Island, a man named Treadwell waited to kill and rob John Comfort, who was returning from Philadelphia with the money he had received from the sale of his raft of logs which he had floated down the river. A man named Harper came along before John Comfort did, and Treadwell killed him thinking it was John Comfort. Treadwell was the first man hung in Susquehanna Co. The rope woven by Mrs. Elizabeth Sands is still preserved.
Another story of John Comfort’s honesty and integrity. In his lumber business he borrowed $1000 and gave his note. The man from whom he borrowed the money, brought the note back to him for safe keeping.
John Comfort was also a Captain in the war of 1812 and a pioneer of Methodism in the territory. John’s son James and Mary Ann McKune had thirteen children. Those whom I can trace were, Flora Phoebe, Helen, Sarah, Elizabeth, Esther, Oliver, Nelson, John and George. Nelson, John and George served in the Civil War, George as a chaplain. An interesting article in the Pottsville Library concerns George. Many years ago Rev. George Comfort rode horse back thru the Schylkill Valley as a Presiding Elder in the Methodist Church. He was called a Circuit Rider. Another item of interest, Flora Comfort’s husband Gilbert McKune was wounded in the Civil war. I remember his telling us, when we were children, of seeing soldiers riding in battle with blood running from their ears caused by the roar of the artillery.
Also another story. James Comfort’s sister married a man named [Jedediah] Hotchkiss. He taught school at Lykens, Pa. near us. Later he went to Virginia to teach. When the war [between the states] started, he joined Robert E. Lee’s staff. His wife (I only remember her as Aunt Hotchkiss) wrote to some of her Northern Relatives to send their sons down to fight against the South. They had room for them 4 x 6. Later after Uncle [Jed] Hotchkiss died she again wrote to her Northern relatives and asked to be forgiven and to come north and visit. Of course she was accepted. I remember her visit.
Wikipedia: Jedediah Hotchkiss was born in Windsor, New York. He graduated from the Windsor Academy and, by the age of 18, he was teaching school himself in Lykens Valley, Pennsylvania. The following year he relocated to the Shenandoah Valley and opened the Mossy Creek Academy in Augusta County. He supplemented his income as a schoolteacher by working as a mining geologist. As he explored the beautiful area around his new home he began his hobby (and minor business) of mapmaking that would dominate the rest of his life. In 1853 he married a woman from Pennsylvania named Sara Ann Comfort and together they had two daughters. In 1855 Hotchkiss and his brother Nelson founded the Loch Willow Academy school for boys in Churchville, Virginia.
I have not been able to find much information about the Lyons family, who always came to our reunions. Only the story of David Lyon who helped throw the “detestible tea” over board into the Boston Harbor at the Boston Tea Party.
Mrs. Florence Comfort Gilbert
Discussion of the document
“History of Comfort Ancestors”
First of all, I would like to thank (I assume postumously) Mrs. Florence Comfort Gilbert for her document, which —together with other efforts by others in the Comfort line— makes family research so much easier and more rewarding for those of us who have survived into the twenty-first century.
The main problem I perceive with this document is the failure to realize that there was both a father and a son named Robert who came over. The senior variously also signed as “Robart” and had apparently sometimes spelt his surname as “Cumfort,” to add to the confusion of us modern birth-certificate, SS-card oriented researchers!
As indicated in The Descendants of Robert Comfort in America, I conclude that the father of Richard Comfort, born 15 August, 1745 was actually Robert Junior. Robert Comfort , Jr., married Elizabeth Betts on 19 October, 1722. If one assumes a marriage age at roughly 16-22 years old (sadly, I have no d.o.b. for either Robert Sr. nor Jr,), this makes a paternity at age 39 to 45 the likely range for Robert, Jr’s siring of Richard. Not unreasonable.
But if one assumes only one “Robert Comfort” then one is faced with this problem. How old would an immigrant have to be to make a solo trans-atlantic move in the late 1600’s? Since “Robert Comfort” came to Newtown, Long Island in 1698, we might safely assume him to be at least 16 to 18 years old, minimum. That would mean that by the time Richard was born in 1745, the “Robert” who came over would have been 63 to 65 years old. Not impossible —but not likely, either.
The problem is solved, however, if my notes are correct, and there was a Robert Comfort, senior who emigrated with his family, which included a young Robert, junior. Robert, Sr. could have been 20, or he could have been 40 in 1698. That doesn’t matter so much. But if he had a baby named Robert with him, a marriage by a “Robert Comfort” to Elizabeth Betts in 1722 makes much more sense –as does having a child named Richard in 1745.
Further, the record of Robert being or becoming a member of Captain Daniel Stevenson’s Military Company at Newtown in 1715 would make good sense: Robert junior would have been at least 17 or 18 by then if he’d emigrated with his parents, or a couple years younger if he was born here. After marriage to Miss Betts, they could have removed up the Hudson to Fishkill in Dutchess County, as I believe they did about 1740 (where I believe evidence shows Richard was born).
Last on this topic, Mrs. Gilbert has Robert married to a Phoebe Thorn. I have him married to an Elizabeth Betts, daughter of Mercy Whitehead & Thomas Betts. This discrepancy is also reconciled if we can assume that it was Robert, senior who was married to Phoebe Thorn, not Robert, junior. While at this time I have no documentary record of this marriage to Phoebe Thorn, I urge other Comfort researchers to adopt it as a working hypothesis and try to substantiate Phoebe Thorne as Robert, senior’s wife.
A second problem I see is in the second paragraph, concerning Richard. Mrs. Gilbert has the correct birth date for him, but in specifying 1834 as the year of his death, I believe she errs by a decade —or else it is a printer’s error. My other source says Richard died on the 6th or 7th of March, 1824, making him a bit over 82 at death, rather than 92 as her document would have it. His passing at Southport, Chemung County provides no problem for me, as I have no information to the contrary.
A comment on the story of Mary Ann McKune’s refusal of a marriage proposal from a young Robert E. Lee at West Point: this detail is also mentioned in my other Comfort Family source, so I have no reason to doubt it. Mary Ann must have been quite a girl! And what about James Comfort? On the battlefield of the heart, he out-generaled the great Lee! (Do you see why I love researching this family? I hope someone has pictures of these two that can be digitized!)
John Comfort was one of the founders of Lanesboro, PA., operating a sawmill and gristmill after moving there around 1808. In those days millers and their operations were very nearly THE commercial center of most rural communities. It is not a wonder that a man in his position would be the target for the frontier criminal element, as related in this document. Still, I have not as yet researched the details of the Harper murder and Treadwell’s subsequent hanging, but it should be fairly easy to substantiate or refute if it was indeed the first criminal execution in the county.
“Aunt Hotchkiss” must be Sarah Ann Comfort, daughter of John Comfort and his second wife, Lydia Ann Bridgman. That would make her a half-sister to James S. Comfort, whose mother was John’s first wife, Phoebe Gildersleeve. Sarah Ann married a Jedediah Hotchkiss in 1858, so the chronology would work in harmony with Mrs. Gilbert’s recollections. The only error in her story I can detect is that she must have meant that Aunt Hotchkiss asked for Northern relatives to fight for the South, not against it –else she would not have felt the need to ask forgiveness after the war before she could come visit. [Editor’s note: John Boice’s interpretation is incorrect. Sarah Ann Hotchkiss arrogantly invited the sons of Northern families to fight against the south, insisting that 4×6 graves would await them in Virginia. Her husband, on the staff of Stonewall Jackson and later of Robert E. Lee, was one the best known cartographers of his day. Years later, Sarah Ann Hotchkiss would beg forgiveness from her Northern relatives for her smug letters during the Civil War.]
John G. Boice
There are a number of Comfort family members buried in Section 3 of the Lanesboro Cemetery in Lanesboro, Pennsylvania:
Comfort, Clarissa S. – Died Jan. 28, 1891 – Aged 70 yrs.
Comfort, Effie (Kelsey) – June 5, 1865 – June 25, 1951
Comfort, Frances L.(Martin) – Feb. 13, 1841 – June 17, 1928
Comfort, Harold Martin – Aug. 10, 1895 – no dates
Comfort, Isaac L. – Died Apr. 5, 1881 – Aged 69 yrs. (Veteran)
Comfort, James – Died Jan. 17, 1885 – Aged 79 yrs.
Comfort, Jane P. – Died Mar. 26, 1873 – Aged 25 yrs.
Comfort, John Esquire – Oct. 4, 1776 – Apr. 5, 1850
Comfort, Lydia Ann – Died Mar. 1, 1830 – Aged 6 dys.
Comfort, Marian G. – 1845 – 1916
Comfort, Mary A. (McKune) – May 3, 1884 – Aged 73 yrs.
Comfort, Nelson R. – Dec. 2, 1839 – Sept. 28, 1900
Comfort, Phoebe (Gildersleeve) – Oct. 23, 1776 – Dec. 27, 1830
Comfort, Ralph M. – Sept. 10, 1868 – Feb. 1, 1902
Comfort, Rev. George – Apr. 28, 1831 – May 12, 1908
Comfort, Silas B. – Died 1855 (other dates illegible)