Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Revolutionary War Ancestor - Johannes/John Belllinger

Tracking down the John Bellinger name in my family history can be quite mind-numbing at times. Going back to my great-grandfather, John William Bellinger, his father was John Bellinger; his grandfather was John Bellinger; and his great-grandfather was John (or Johannes) Bellinger.

My Bellinger ancestry takes me to the area of Herkimer, New York, where it seems every Bellinger in the country must have lived at the time.

The first story I found about my Revolutionary War Johannes/John F. Bellinger was a tale written by my great grandfather, John Bellinger, in 1934. I don't have the original, but it was recopied by my grandmother, Sina Bellinger Kelly, many years later. His account was shared by Joy Deal Lehmann in her book, The Bellingers of Greenwood, Nebraska (2001).

Great-grandfather Bellinger's story read as follows:

"As told by my grandmother, she came to Nebraska with us. She was 97 years old when she died in 1874. So you see she was born at the close of the Revolutionary War. I was 20 years old. She told how the John Bellingers fought. We had two war vessels laying in Sockets Harbor. Wasn't finished yet when three English war vessels came across from Canada. Ours wasn't moured yet when they seen them coming. They rushed on our boats with a John Bellinger leading with hat in hand yelling like an Indian. Giving orders and sunk two of them and the other one got away and went back to Canada."

Great Grandpa Bellinger's story seems to have become embellished over time. William V.H. Barker reports in the book, Early Families of Herkimer County, New York (1986) that my ancestor was killed by Indians while mowing hay. Barker goes on to report that my ancestor "refused to run for his gun when stalking Indians approached and was thus slain while Harter brother-in-law got away." The incident occurred on July 24, 1780.

At the time of his death, Johannes/John was about 25 years of age and married to Ernestina Harter, daughter of Captain Henry Harter (variations in spelling: Herther, Harther, Harder). They had only been married for two months when he died. Ernestina Harter had been married to Lt. John Meyer and later to Adam Staring. She was pregnant with Johannes/John's son, John Bellinger, when Johannes/John died. The son was born March 8, 1781 and was my great great great grandfather. He married Anna Eva Clapsaddle.

In Lyle Frederick Bellinger's Genealogy of the Mohawk Valley Bellingers and Allied Families (1976), Ernestina is referred to as the "It Girl" of the Revolution! What descendant wouldn't want to know more about that!

I have discovered some pension records and correspondence regarding Johannes/John on And while being killed when mowing hay is not quite what Great Grandpa Bellinger had told of his ancestor's death, we do know that Johannes/John did serve during the Revolutionary War. 

UPDATE: More details about the death of John Bellinger in the Revolutionary War (26 Jan 2011)

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