The Bolton Brothers and McNitt Sisters of Washington and Cayuga Counties in New York

By William H. McNitt

The 1800 census of Cayuga County (in the Finger Lakes region of central New York) shows that Alexander Bolton lived in Scipio and his brother James in Aurelius. Their surnames are spelled Boulton in the census, but appear as Bolton in most other records.  We know that Alexander settled in Cayuga County in 1799, but do not know exactly when James arrived.  Assuming that all of the younger individuals included in James' household in 1800 were his children, his entire family seems to be accounted for in the census.  Alexander, however, is shown with only a 16-25 year old female in his household.  Perhaps his wife and children had remained back east until his farm was better estaslished (his wife Sarah gave birth to a new baby in September 1799 in addition to their five older children ages 2 to 12).  Later censuses show his entire family in Cayuga County.

Normally it would be difficult to find genealogical information about such family living on what was then the American frontier.  Unlike many of the towns of New England, most New York communities did not compile records of births, narriages, and deaths.  Even in Massachusetts such records were less likely to be recorded in rural Scotch-Irish communities than they were in those near the eastern seaboard that were settled primarily by English families.  Therefore the history of the Boltons, who were Scotch-Irish, is generally hard to piece together. 

The Bolton brothers I am writing about both served in the Revolutionary War, however, thereby creating records of military service that have been preserved in state archives and the National Archives.  More importantly for genealogical purposes, Alexander Bolton lived long enough to benefit from legislation giving pensions to all who could prove significant service in the Amcerican Revolution (earlier laws had limited pensions to those who were crippled by injuries or the heirs of those who were killed while serving). After Alexander's death, his wife Sarah applied for a widow's pension.  James Bolton died long before the pension laws were liberalized, but his widow Margaret also applied for a widow's pension.

These pension files (96 pages for James and 43 pages for Alexander) are preserved at the National Archives.  Digital copies of both are available on the Ancestry.com website.  They are a treasure trove of family information because neither family had doumentary proof of any of the information about military service or family relationships. Instead they collected affidavits from individuals who knew the facts.  Among those who provided affidavits were soldiers who had served with the Boltons, people who were present for their marriage or other important occasions in their life, and family members (including their sister, their widows, their children, and even one grandchild).  These documents provide all sorts of details about their lives and family relationships that are not available in any other sources.  For instance, Alexader Bolton's file includes a record in his own handwriting giving his date and place of birth and marriage and listing the births of each of his eleven children (see below). In addition, affidavits in James Bolton's file give the only known inofrmation about the life and family of his oldest daughter Isabel and give various clues that facilitate finding information about his other children.

Information about the birth of Alexander Bolton  Information about the marraige of Alexander Bolton and Sarah McNitt Bolton  Birthdates of the children of Alxander Bolton and Sarah McNitt Bolton

Who were the Bolton brothers and where did they come from?  An affidavit in James's file makes clear that his father was also named James Bolton and another establishes the fact that he and Alexander were brothers.  Alexander states that he was born in Glasgow, Massachusetts and that his father was born in 1720.  Although many Scottish and Scotch-Irish families wanted the town where Alexander was born to be named Glasgow, the leaders of Massachusetts Bay Colony instead gave it the name Blandford.  Searching for a James Bolton who was born in 1720 and lived at Blandford, we find one on page 83 of the book Bolton Families of Ireland by Charles Knowles Bolton (Boston: Goodspeed's Bookshop, Inc., 1937).  This James and his parents, William and Elizabeth Bolton were born in Northern Ireland and then settled in Windham, New Hampshire.  According to the  book both James and his brother David lived at Blandford and then later in Cayuga County, New York. 

Alexander Bolton's affidavit provides the additional information that the family left Massachusetts when he was six years old (1764) to go to Dover, Dutchess County, New York. Six years later they moved to Stillwater, New York (now in Saratoga County), and two years after that to Cambridge, New York (now in Washington County) where they lived throughout the Revolutionary War.  The family of Alexander and Elizabeth McNitt, also of Scotch-Irish background, lived between the nearby towns of Salem and West Hebron.  Obviously the two families were acquainted as James Bolton married Margaret McNitt in 1778 and his younger brother Alexander married Margaret's sister Sarah in 1786 (affidavits make clear that both weddings took place at Salem). 

Actually, the connection between the Boltons and the McNitts may have been even closer.  After the death of Alexander McNitt's father Barnard in Palmer, Massachusetts in 1773, one of the couples listed among his heirs was James Bolton and his wife Isabel.  We know nothing else about this couple, but could it be that this James Bolton was the same as the one who lived at Blandford, Massachusetts and Cambridge, New York and fathered the James and Alexander about whom I am writing?  If that were the case, then Isabel McNitt Bolton would be their mother (she was apparently a sister or half-sister to Alexander McNitt of Washington County, New York).  It would also mean that the two Bolton-McNitt marriages at Salem, New York involved cousins marrying each other. It is interesting to note that the first daughter of James Bolton, Jr. and his wife Margaret McNitt Bolton was named Isabel.

James Bolton, Jr. died at a relatively young age in 1803 in Cayuga County.  I have not identified his family in the 1810 census, but in 1820 Margaret headed a housefhold in Marcellus, Onondaga County (the county to the east of Cayuga County).  In 1830, a John L. Bolton (probably the son of James and Margaret) lived at New Albion, Cattaraugus County (in the southwest part of the state of New York).  Included in the household of this John Bolton is a female age 70-79, who is probably Margaret.  We know that she was a resident of Cattaraugus County when she began the process of applying for a Revolutionary War widow's pension in 1837 and when she died in 1839.  Since the widow's pension was not finalized in her lifetime, her heirs filed a claim to receive the money she should have gotten.

Alexander Bolton lived on for several decades in Cayuga County.  He received a Revolutionary War pension from 1833 until he died in 1836.  Sarah then applied for a widow's pension.  Although her pension was not awarded until 1841, the Pension Office made it retroactive to Alexander's death.  By that time Sarah had moved from Cayuga County to Ontario County, a couple of counties west, because two of her sons lived there.

 

Children and Grandchildren of James Bolton and Margaret McNitt Bolton

First Generation


1. James BOLTON was born before 1755. He died on 13 Sep 1803 in Mentz, Cayuga, New York.  James married Margaret MCNITT, daughter of Alexander MCNITT and Elizabeth MEKLEM, on 24 Sep 1778 in Salem, Washington, New York. Margaret was born in 1754/1755 in , , Massachusetts. She died on 29 May 1839 in Ellicottville, Cattaraugus, New York.
They had the following children.

Second Generation

2. Isabel BOLTON (James) was born in 1779 in , , New York. She died in 1810 in , , New York.  Isabel married Isaac LEMMON on 4 May 1796 in Bridgewater, Oneida, New York. Isaac was born on 29 Jan 1768 in Salem, Washington Co., New York. He died on 31 Mar 1857 in Lyons, Wayne Co., New York. He was buried in South Sodus Cemetery, Sodus, Wayne, New York.
They had the following children.

3. Susannah BOLTON (James) was born in 1784/1785 in , , New York. Susannah married Joseph JEFFRIES. Joseph died before 1850.
They had the following children.

4. Betsey BOLTON (James) was born on 19 Apr 1786 in , , New York. She died in 1850/1855 in , Allegany, New York.  Betsey married David HAYNES. David was born on 30 Apr 1782 in , , Pennsylvania. He died on 14 Aug 1863 in Rushford, Allegany, New York.
They had the following children.


6. Sarah BOLTON (James) was born in 1796/1797 in , , New York.  Sarah married Elijah VANDERHOOF. Elijah was born on 24 Aug 1799 in , , New York. He died on 28 Oct 1871 in , Montcalm, Michigan. He was buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Greenville, Montcalm, Michigan.
They had the following children.

 

Children and Grandchildren of Alexander Bolton and Sarah McNitt Bolton

First Generation

1. Alexander BOLTON was born on 27 Apr 1758 in Glasgow, Berkshire, Massachusetts. He died on 25 Oct 1836 in Ledyard, Cayuga, New York. Alexander married Sarah MCNITT, daughter of Alexander MCNITT and Elizabeth MEKLEM, on 10 Aug 1786 in Salem, Washington, New York. Sarah was born in 1769/1770 in , , New York. She died after 1845.
They had the following children.

Second Generation

3. Barnard BOLTON (Alexander) was born on 27 Dec 1788 in , , New York. He died before 1870.  Barnard married Mary. Mary was born in 1786/1787 in , , Connecticut. She died before 1860.
They had the following children.


Please send corrections or additions to wmcnitt@hotmail.com


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