Daniel McNitt, Jr. (1788-1854) and Jane Moores (1795-1862)

Daniel McNitt Jr., a son of Daniel and Mary Rogers McNitt, was born on July 29, 1788 at Salem, Washington County, New York. He spent his early life on the family farm at Salem, but moved to the Finger Lakes region of central New York soon after reaching adulthood. Daniel settled in Cayuga County, not far from his brothers Benjamin, Elijah, and Stephen and his uncle Alexander. His brother Alexander lived in nearby Cortland County.

Two prominent citizens of Brutus Township of Cayuga County when the McNitts arrived were James Vandike (Van Dyke/Van Dyck) and his son-in-law Samuel Moores. Both were natives of Somerset County in northern New Jersey. They moved to Cayuga County in 1805 as part of a large migration of families of Dutch heritage from New Jersey's Raritan Valley to central New York. Over the next few years, Van Dyke and Moores bought about three hundred acres of land in Brutus Township. An indication that the McNitts were well acquainted with these families is the fact that in 1817 three of the McNitt brothers in owed money to Vandike.

It is possible that the McNitt, Moores, and Van Dyke families knew each other through attendance at the same church. Although the McNitts were Presbyterians and the other two families Dutch Reformed, people from these two churches of quite similar Calvinist beliefs might have joined together, especially on the sparsely settled frontier.

 Around 1814, Daniel McNitt Jr. married Samuel Moores' oldest daughter Jane. Daniel was part of the first generation of McNitts in America which did not live in predominantly Scotch-Irish communities and did not marry into other Scotch-Irish families. The "melting pot" had begun the process of turning people from various ethnic backgrounds into Americans. Another sign of change was that none of Daniel and Jane's children received traditional McNitt family names. In fact, they named virtually all of the children after relatives in the Moores family.

Daniel probably rented farms or worked as a farm laborer for several years before being able to buy land. The newlyweds might have lived with or near the Moores family for the first few years of their married life. On March 4, 1819, Daniel and Jane McNitt bought a farm of 56.25 acres in Mentz Township for $225 from James Hamilton. Four days later they reaped a large profit by selling this land to Robert Andrews for $560. There were no further land transactions in this period, but in 1820 the family was living in Cato Township, several miles north of their relatives.

On July 10, 1824, Daniel and Jane McNitt finally acquired a farm of their own by purchasing 50 acres of land in Victory Township from Jane's father for $650. When Samuel Moores died suddenly just over a month after this purchase, Daniel still owed $130.50 toward the purchase price. Daniel also owed his father-in-law $12.50 on another note and $30 for a horse he had bought. Jane's share of her father's estate probably cancelled these debts.

Daniel's nephew Sidney McNitt, son of Elijah, left New York to settle in north central Ohio in October 1833. His reports from Ohio must have convinced Daniel and Jane to join him. On April 24, 1835, Daniel sold his farm to William Hager for $800. Then he and Jane packed up their belongings and set out for Ohio with their seven children ranging in age from 3 to 19.

The McNitts may have traveled west by canal boat on the nearby Erie Canal or followed a road along the canal. Undoubtedly they stopped to visit Daniel's brother Benjamin who had moved to Niagara County, New York some years before. From Buffalo, they could have taken a boat across Lake Erie to Ohio, but it is more likely that they traveled by covered wagon along the southern shore of the lake. The trip from central New York to Ohio took a little less than a month to complete.

Sidney McNitt lived on a 200 acre farm in sections 26 and 27 of Thompson Township in Seneca County. After examining nearby farms, Daniel bought 80 acres in Section 27 for $300 on June 2, 1835 from an absentee owner, Jacob Smail of Columbiana County, Ohio. Land was considerably cheaper in Ohio than New York - Daniel sold his New York farm for $16 per acre and bought his new one for $3.75 per acre.

Although Daniel purchased his new farm without borrowing any money, by 1837 his financial situation had worsened. Possibly this was due to the Panic (or Depression) of 1836. On May 3, 1837, Daniel took out a 7% mortgage for $300 from the Fund Commissioners of Seneca County. It was over three years before Daniel could pay off any of the principal on the loan and then he paid only $30. He did not succeed in paying off the entire mortgage until 1849.

As the McNitts were a farming family, their children probably attended school in the winter when farm work was not quite so demanding. Daniel and Jane must have encouraged their children to learn as much as possible because John and Samuel, then aged 22 and 18, were still attending school in 1850. It is interesting to discover that Jane signed deeds with a mark rather than her signature, an indication that her own education had been neglected.

The McNitts lived quite near the main route west from New York state, so Daniel's farm probably became a stopping place for all McNitts who moved west. Four of Daniel's nephews lived in Seneca County for varying lengths of time, as did a James W. McNitt whose relationship is unknown. Several other nephews lived just over the county line in Sandusky County. Perhaps Daniel's oldest brother Alexander McNitt stopped on his way to Illinois in 1838. Many nieces and nephews who moved from New York to Michigan and Illinois must have paid visits. Living in Ohio certainly did not mean total isolation from the family members they had left behind.

Daniel and Jane's three daughters all married between 1837 and 1847 and subsequently left Seneca County. Margaret and her husband moved about 40 miles northwest to Ottawa County, Ohio around 1838 and Polly and her husband followed them soon thereafter. Martha and her husband settled in western Sandusky County, just across the county line from the others, in 1849.

 When Daniel was almost 60 years of age, he decided to pass the family farm on to one of his children. Since Joseph had already purchased land, Daniel sold the 80 acre farm to his second son William on May 18, 1847 for $1200. On November 2 of that year Daniel granted a mortgage in return for an agreement in which William pledged to:

"... supply maintenance and support of Daniel and Jane during their natural lives and be of good behavior to them and bred [sic.], board and cloth [sic.] them in his own family ... and pay all doctor bills and pay one hundred and seventy dollars on the debts of Daniel as they become due."
Just over six months later, on May 13, 1848, William sold the farm back to his parents. Apparently he had decided to join his cousins Horace and Ira McNitt in Michigan.

William moved to the area around Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1849, although his wife Sarah remained with relatives in Ohio until the following year. Soon other members of the family began thinking about joining them. In the summer of 1854, Daniel and Jane's children John and Martha decided to follow William. When John and his family set out from Seneca County, Daniel and Jane must have accompanied them on the first part of the trip in order to visit their three daughters. It also gave them a chance to say goodbye to Martha and her family before their departure for Michigan.

While visiting his daughters, Daniel fell ill and died on August 29, 1854, at the age of 66. It is possible that he was a victim of the severe cholera epidemic which swept over the area that year. Daniel's death did not prevent John and Martha and their families from moving to western Michigan soon thereafter. Jane returned to the family farm after her husband's death and lived there with her son Samuel and his wife Cordelia. When Samuel decided to move to Michigan in 1857, Jane opted to accompany him as four of her seven children would now be living there.

By 1860, at least 47 McNitts lived in the area around Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jane resided in Wright Township of Ottawa County, as did her children Samuel, William, and Martha, and her nephew Frank, along with their families. Her son John had a farm in nearby Chester Township, while nephews Sidney and Ira lived in Sparta Township of Kent County and Horace in Grand Rapids. Jane lived only two more years, dying on September 5, 1862, at the age of 67.

Sources used in writing this chapter


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