Tracking down some Hotchkiss and Clark kinfolk in Woodbridge

Tracking down some Hotchkiss and Clark kinfolk in Woodbridge

Every so often the Amity & Woodbridge Historical Society receives an inquiry by email from someone trying to trace their family tree through the forest of old-timers here in Woodbridge. Lately I've been able to help out -- and have some fun in the process. So I thought, why not step through a good example here of the phenomenon I like to call 'Digging The Dead' -- shall we? We begin with a reply to our initial contact which lays out a set of clues as they stand at the start of our pursuit:

Monday, May 2nd 2016 at 5:05 AM:

Good morning Sheila and thanks so much for your response. Jennie Camp, 1852 to 1931 was married to my wife's great, great grandfather Warren Hotchkiss, 1852 to 1924. We found their grave site at Woodbridge cemetery off Grassy Hill [ed. Racebrook] road. I have been able to trace the Camp line back to Buckingham and I look forward to learning more of their history in Connecticut. I am stuck however finding the parents of Warren Hotchkiss . If you have any leads, that would be great. Thanks so much. So to begin our adventure, I look for this Jennie Camp and find her listed in my genealogy database. She appears to be my 5th cousin five times removed on her father's side. She is also mentioned in the Historic Woodbridge book, on the page for the Nathaniel Camp, III house at 1024 Racebrook Road where she lived before her marriage. [By the way, this book continues to be available for purchase from the Woodbridge Town Clerk.]

Now, Jennie's husband, Warren F. Hotchkiss -- a mystery! I have a lot of Hotchkiss ancestors in Woodbridge and Bethany but he is not directly connected to any of them as far as I can tell at this point. I see him listed at Find-a-Grave in the graveyard mentioned above where he and Jennie are buried together in Milfordside Cemetery, which sits just up the road from the Nathaniel Camp house by the way -- our correspondent may have passed the house on the way to the cemetery. Here is the gravestone for this couple:

I am also able to verify both Jennie and Warren's death by looking them up in some recently transcribed Woodbridge Death Records. In this document, Warren appears to be listed with an entry for the death of "Frederick Hotchkiss" on 10 October of the year we know he died according to his gravestone, 1924. Jennie's death is listed as occurring 19 September 1931 in West Haven, CT. Perhaps she went to live with one of her grown children after Warren's death?

But looking for more clues on Warren/Frederick, I did a search of Woodbridge Census records to see if he was living here as a child. I picked him up in the 1860 census at age 8, and again in the 1870 census, still unmarried at age 18.

Interestingly, at both points in time he is living in the household of William H. Clark and his wife Minerva Higgins Clark. Neither census return indicates the relationship between the young Warren and the Clarks however.

The house they are living in is also featured in the Historic Woodbridge book, and as we were putting the book together last year we had the good fortune to be able to include a lovely old photograph of it taken in September 1893. Don Menzies as President of the AWHS had purchased this photo not knowing what house was depicted, and subsequently we we were able to identify it as this house even though it was only labeled with the cryptic "Rose Ridge - Woodbridge, Conn." If you look carefully, above the top row of spindles on the front porch, you can even see the words 'Rose Ridge' spelled out. [Click to enlarge this photo and take a look at all the folks posed on the porch and off by the barn -- could one of them be Warren Frederick Hotchkiss himself?] What a handsome tavern -- can you just imagine spending the night?

After some sleuthing/guess work, the subject of this photograph turns out to be the Lazarus Clark Tavern at 230 Peck Hill Road -- a house that is still standing today, although it is almost unrecognizable now that the elaborate porches have been removed. This reminds me that I will have to create a 'fade to today' image with this photograph to post here at some point -- it really is a remarkable transformation of one beautiful house into another! [Update - May 2022: Well I remembered to do this, and it only took six years to come back and add the link here! Now you can visit the website What Was There to view this house as it looks today, and using the fader tool, slide back to 1893.]

But to get back to our narrative, William H. Clark is identified as a son of Lazarus Clark and his wife Dennis Bradley Clark, born about 1795 in Woodbridge. At the time of the 1860 census William is living here and running his father's tavern. In 1868 the Beers Map of Woodbridge identifies this property with William's name even though he has died six years earlier on 6 August 1862. At the time of the 1870 census his widow Minerva is listed here along with the teen-aged Warren Hotchkiss and several other tenants.

So why would a boy with the surname Hotchkiss be living in the household of William and Minerva Clark? I am guessing that they are raising him and he is somehow related to them -- perhaps his mother has died? I went through the death records to see if there is any woman of child bearing age with the Hotchkiss surname who has died sometime between Warren's birth year of 1852 and the first census record he appears in, 1860. In the death records for 1858 I found:

Sept. 12 Hannah wife of Delazon Hotchkiss AE 27 Yrs.

Could this be Warren's mother? If so, what was her maiden name, and who is this Delazon Hotchkiss she married? Are either of them somehow connected to the Clarks? I checked the 1850 census to see if I could pick up this likely newly-wed couple and sure enough they are listed, but they are the only two people in their household, so no clues for either set of parents, or the existence of any elder sibling for Warren.

Next, I found Hannah's grave listed at Find-A-Grave in the records for Northwest Cemetery in Woodbridge -- this is just down the road from the Lazarus Clark Tavern and is also the burial place of William and Minerva Clark, as well as William's father Lazarus and many other members of this family.

Looking carefully at the Hale Gravestone Records, it appears that Hannah is buried alongside Lazarus' father David Clark, and David's father Elder George Clark. All these gravestones are within a fenced enclosure -- and this would seem to indicate they are all members of the same family. Here is another photo from Find-A-Grave showing the placement of Hannah's grave in relation to this fenced-in area.

Perhaps Hannah's maiden name was Clark? Her gravestone gives her name as "Hannah C. Hotchkiss" and this initial could stand for Clark as her maiden name. The gravestone indicates she was born about 1831, so I did a quick search for "Hannah Clark" born about that year in Woodbridge, but have not turned up anything yet.

So then I did a search for a marriage record for Delazon Hotchkiss at -- here's what I found there:

Great! Hannah's maiden name appears indeed to be Clark. Is this really Warren's mother? With another search at the same website, we can connect a child to this couple -- and we find that the son we are looking for is indeed listed, only with his first and middle names rearranged, as Frederick Warren Hotchkiss!

Now, what else can we discover about Delazon? With a visit to 'Oxford Past' [a nearby town's genealogy site where I often find Woodbridge families from this time period included], I quickly find a variation on the spelling of Delazon's name in a listing for his parents, Eber and Thirza Hotchkiss and their children:

This website traces Delazon Hotchkiss back many generations, and I can see now how he connects to my Hotchkiss ancestors. He is my 4th cousin 5 times removed, so that makes both Jennie Camp and her husband Warren Frederick Hotchkiss my 5th cousins, 4 times removed. What a small world!

Well, I guess we will have to look further to discover parents for Hannah Clark Hotchkiss, and see how she may be related to the Clark's living at the Lazarus Clark Tavern where her son is raised following her death. Enough fun for now -- thank you for providing that little mystery to be unravelled, it was a nice challenge!

Update #1: Hannah's birth is discovered

I found one more record, this one directly connecting Hannah as a child of William and Minerva Clark -- and added bonus, Minerva's parents are also named:

Now that I can connect Minerva through her mother's Lyman family ancestors, I can see that she too is related to me -- she is a sixth cousin, 4 times removed. So now I can say [at least!] three of Warren Hotchkiss's four grandparents are members of my extended Woodbridge family tree.

The next time I am over at the Woodbridge Town Clerk's office I will see if we can locate his mother Hannah's birth record there to confirm her Clark heritage, now that we have her birth date. I'll also dig into the death records there to see if a cause of death is listed for Hannah.