William Woolcott—c.1785–1842

Woolcott headstone

William Woolcott or Wolcott was born in 1785 in Copake, Columbia county, New York.

Much of the starting point for William came from the Wolcott website.

As I was growing up and curious about family history (a strange child—we know) my mother and grandmother pronounced it Wool-cot. Spoken language is disseminated differently than written. If I'd never heard it, I would have pronounced it Woll-cott.

In any event, it was mostly spelled Wolcott, but always pronounced—within our branch at least—as Woolcott. So it appears that the transliteration on the headstone is just as William and Susan probably wanted it.

William's family of origin included his father, Francis Wolcott, and mother, Lydia Rees, and six older siblings and one younger sister.

There were dozens of relatives on Columbia county, NY where he was born. His father, Francis, had eight brothers and sisters and seven half brothers and sisters, most of whom had survived to marry and have children of their own. Lydia Rees was a member of an old Dutch family that had resided in the area for decades as well.

I don't know when or where Francis and Lydia died. Francis Jr. shows up in the 1800 census. So does another Francis, but I can't tell if it's the father or one of the other many Wolcotts in the area. I haven't found a Francis Wolcott for 1790 at all. His brothers, Peter and Gideon, are there. It's possible Francis and Lydia died and William was raised by other family members.

Around 1800, when William was in his middle teens, some of his older cousins moved west to Genesee county, notably Erastus, Elisha, and Stephen Ashley Wolcott. All were sons of William's uncle, Gideon. While Erastus remains an enigma, the talented carpenter, Stephen, is relatively well documented. And Elisha's progeny are most notable for their doctoring and other amazing feats.

When William went to Le Roy is unknown. It was probably after April 1802, when William sponsored his nephew's (Harry) baptism in the Columbia County Reformed Church in West Copake. It was certainly before 1809.

He was recorded in the census for 1810 with a wife and baby. The wife was Susan Fordham, daughter of Gideon Fordham and Mary Culver. The baby is unknown, but probably a girl. She appears in the 1820 and possibly the 1830 censuses. This unknown daughter may have married in Chautauqua county and followed the family or remained behind in Mina.

Despite his participation in the War of 1812, William was still able to fulfill the role of pater familias. By 1820, still living in Le Roy, the Wolcott family had grown to include the following children:

In the 1830 census, the Wolcotts were living in Mina, Chautauqua county, New York near the Pennsylvania border. By then the family consisted of thirteen members. Children born since the last census included:

How long they remained in Mina is unknown, but by 1840, William and Susan had moved to Sandusky county, Ohio and were living in Scott. At the 1840 census, only the younger children remained at home. William obtained a land grant in 1837, so they were there by then.

Sandusky county was on the edge of the Great Black Swamp. Life was hard and dangerous; the land itself was relatively inhospitable.

Youngest daughter Susan died in February 1841 and is buried at Quinshan cemetery in Sandusky county. William followed not long after in June 1842 leaving Susan to finish raising the children and carve a life out of this wilderness.

Updated June 12, 2008

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