Two Migrations to Western New York

By William H. McNitt

Joseph Bullen was born in what is now Livingston County, in western New York, and served in the militia around the Niagara River during the War of 1812, so it was not surprising that he settled in the western part of the state and all of his children were born there.  The only real question is how he met and married his wife, Mary Warner, who was born and raised in Pittsford, Vermont.  We do know that her brother-in-law Samuel Hawkins had moved his family from Essex County, New York (along the New York-Vermont border) to Ridgeway in Orleans County (western New York) at some point before 1820.  Her brother Peter Warner and his wife were also living at Ridgeway by 1820.  Perhaps Mary visited from Vermont and she met her future husband.  Joseph traveled to Mary's hometown in Vermont to marry her in 1819, but they returned to New York and settled about 17 miles away from her sister and brother, just across the county line in Somerset, Niagara County.

Somerset, New York is located at the red marker near Lake
Somerset, New York is located at the red marker near Lake Ontario 

So, this first migration of Warner family members to western New York took place between 1815 and 1820 and involved Betsey, Mary and Peter and their spouses.  It appears that Betsey probably died around 1821 as her husband Samuel Hawkins married again in 1822.  Hawkins, however. remained closely associated with Betsey's Warner kin even after he remarried.

I have not found any additional Warner family members moving to western New York for the next couple of decades, but it is known that by 1840 the three families in Niagara and Orleans counties were trying to interest their relatives in Vermont in making the move.  A letter from Edward Wheeler to Joseph Bullen dated April 6, 1840, shows that Wheeler had recently been out to western New York to visit his relatives and look at possible places to settle.  

Wheeler's letter reveals that that their brother-in-law German Warner had decided to move to Niagara County if the Bullens could help him out financially.  Wheeler then makes clear his own intention to settle in western New York "somewhere between the Genesee and Niagra [sic.] rivers and if Providence smiles on my efforts I shall do it next fall."  

He also goes on to say that "... I want you should tell Mr. Hawkins that according to his request I have stirred up an emigrating spirit in Harvy [sic.] Wilder and he is making his calculations to move out there with me next fall if he want him and will make some little provisions for him  when he gets there.  He is a poor man but honest and is able and willing to work and he cannot get there with much money."  Edward's proposed plan had the three families who were already in New York providing assistance to those who were about to join them - Peter Warner would help the Wheelers, Joseph Bullen would assist German Warner's family, and Samuel Hawkins would help the Wilders.

We also get a picture of the nature of travel in those days.  Wheeler says in the letter that his trip home to Vermont involved "a stage to Rochester and a boat to Utica and steam to Saratoga then stage to White Hall and from there I walked."  It is likely that the town he refers to as White Hall is Whitehall in Washington County, New York, so he would have had a little over 30 miles to walk.

Edward Wheeler apparently did not meet his goal of moving to New York by the fall of 1840.  We know that his wife Abigail was in Vermont on May 3, 1841, when their son Edward was born.  The families of Harvey Wilder and German Warner were both in New York by 1842 when Wilder's son Joseph was born and German's daughter Eliza got married.  Although German Warner may have moved his family to western New York in 1840, it is likely that the Wheelers and Wilders followed sometime in the fall of 1841.

Nowhere in Edward Wheeler's letter was there any mention of a subsequent move to Michigan, so the intention of these families apparently was to settle permanently in western New York.  Peter and German Warner and Samuel Hawkins did spend the rest of their lives in New York, although Peter apparently died while visiting his sisters in Michigan and is buried in Brooklawn Cemetery in Walker, Kent County, Michigan.  But within a few short years, the other three left New York to move permanently to Michigan.

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