Suspect #1: James Armstrong

James Armstrong. In the right place at the right time. The 1800 census, NYS tax records and an Administrator’s bond put him in Onondaga County from 1800-1803, the right time to have been a father to William. (Apparently a different man than the one who married Dorothy Vail and died before 1800.)

Onondaga’s Centennial (1896) says in its section on the Town of Salina:

“Meanwhile settlement began to reach out to other points in the town. John Danforth began making salt in 1794 at Liverpool, and was soon followed by Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon, James Armstrong, and Charles Morgan.”

Under the heading “LIVERPOOL,” Clayton’s History of Onondaga County has:

John Danforth was the first settler in 1794, and commenced the manufacture of salt. He was soon followed by Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon, James Armstrong and Charles Morgan.

This information may have originated from Onondaga, or, Reminiscences of Earlier and Later Times (1849), which says:

“Jonathan Danforth was the first settler at Liverpool, in 1794 and commenced the manufacture of salt. He was soon followed by Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon, James Armstrong and Charles Morgan.”

An index for the two volumes of “Clark’s Onondaga” is apparently for the 1849 volume, above. All of the above men are listed at 2:148. The original source of the above information is not yet known.

An 1803 rent roll lists James Armstrong as a lessee for some part of 1803; the list is transcribed in A History and Description of the Manufacture and Mining of Salt in New York State, by Charles J. Werner (Huntington, N.Y. : by the author, 1917), p. 29. There are 57 leases listed (some people have multiple leases). Listed among them are Patrick Riley, William Mitchell and P. M’Cabe (see Known Associates, below).

James Armstrong is enumerated in the town of Onondaga, Onondaga County, New York in the 1800 census ( subscription required), next door to William Conner and Patrick Riley. (Patrick Riley is also mentioned in Onondaga’s Centennial.) One man (apparently, although mark is hard to see) and one woman were enumerated, both between the ages of 26 and 44 (born between 1755 and 1774).

New York State tax records for the Town of Onondaga show James Armstrong in Onondaga County from 1800-1803 ( subscription required):

  • 1800: $30 in personal property, no real estate
  • 1801: $30 in personal property, no real estate, listed as James “Armsrong”
  • 1802: $150 in personal property, no real estate
  • 1803: $80[?] in personal property, no real estate

Known Associates
There is some information about the other men who came to Liverpool with or at the same time as James Armstrong. Onondaga’s Centennial mentions Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon and Charles Morgan. Pioneer Irish of Onondaga has a section on Patrick Riley and his heroism during an outbreak of disease among the salt makers. (No mention is made of James Armstrong in the book, but it is possible he was also Irish, or of Irish descent.) Liverpool was known as “Little Ireland” before taking its present name.

There is a transcription of “Administrator’s Bonds, 1794-1804”, p. 58 in Onondaga Tree Talks, p. 17. It says:

“GORDON, Joseph, of Onondaga, deceased. Bond $500 filed December 18, 1802, by Wm. Mitchell, Patrick McCabe, adms., William Cannon (or Carmon) and James Armstrong, all of Onondaga.”

A transcript of Onondaga County Book of Administrations 1:10, online at FamilySearch, says:

To William Mitchell and Patience Mc Cabe Adms
Estate of Joseph Gordon, dec’d late of Onondaga
18th day of Dec. 1802.

Joseph Gordon is probably the same one mentioned in Onondaga’s Centennial as one of the salt manufacturers. Patience was perhaps his wife. William Cannon (or Carmon) may have been difficult to read; it may be William Conner, who was living next door to James Armstrong in 1800.

John Danforth and Patrick McCabe are listed in Salina in 1810, but James Armstrong is not, and the rest have not been found there either.

Suspect #2: Dorothy Vail of Camillus

Dorothy Vail of Camillus, wife of James Armstrong and Thomas Ferrall. Her father was probably a miller, and appears to have been in both Onondaga and Madison Counties.

Dorothy Armstrong is listed in Camillus in the NYS tax records for 1799 ( subscription required), next to Thomas Ferrel. We believe that Dorothy was listed in the tax records because she was a widow and that her husband died before 1799.

According to Genealogy of Some of the Vail Family Descended from Jeremiah Vail at Salem, Mass., 1639, p. 53, online at (subscription required):

i DOROTHY, b. 7 Jan., 1765; m. 1st James Armstrong; m. 2d Thomas Ferrall.

Dorothy is said to be the daughter of Daniel Vail, who was born 19 February 1745 at Southold, and married Elizabeth Smith on 3 January 1764 at Goshen, Orange County, New York. Of Daniel, it says:

Daniel Vail moved from Orange County to New Jersey, where he lived six years; then he went to Camillus, Onondaga Co., N. Y., in 1792. From Camillus, he went to Marcellus, N. Y., now Skaneateles. He was a weaver by trade. His wife died March 12, 1815. He died February 23, 1832, aged 87.

Dorothy Ferrall is buried in Elbridge Rural Cemetery in Elbridge, Onondaga County, New York. Thomas Ferrall is also buried there.

Daniel Vale is enumerated in the 1800 census in Camillus ( subscription required) on the page after Thomas Ferrall. Dorothy is not listed in the 1800 census. She is also not listed in the 1800 NYS tax records. Thomas Ferrall’s property does not increase in 1800, however.

Suspect #3: Hezekiah Armstrong, of Brookfield

Hezekiah Armstrong was enumerated in Brookfield in 1820 (requires subscription). Hezekiah was 16 to 26 years old, and enumerated with a woman of the same age range, his presumed wife, and three children, two female and one male, all under ten. William was likely in Brookfield by this time, as his wife grew up in Brookfield and their suspected son George was born there about 1822. Could this be William’s brother or other relative? Unfortunately, nothing more is known about Hezekiah.

Could Hezekiah be Hackaliah Armstrong, enumerated in Hamilton, Madison County, New York, in 1830 and 1840? Or are they perhaps related to each other?

Suspect #4: Hackaliah Armstrong

Hackaliah Armstrong was born about 1791 in New York, according to the entry for him in the 1850 Mortality Schedule. He died in August of 1849, in Paris, Oneida County, New York. Although he was listed only by first initial H, and not his first name, we can be reasonably certain it was Hackliah, because his wife, Charlotte, and son, Reuben, were living in the same town in 1850. Charlotte’s gravestone in Graham Cemetery lists her as the wife of Hackaliah.

He was enumerated in Hamilton, Madison County, New York, in 1830 and 1840. Hackliah purchased land at auction in Hamilton on 16 April 1840, Lot 50. William also lived in Hamilton. Although too young to be a father of William, he could be a brother, or other male relative.

Hackaliah, wife Charlotte, son Reuben, daughter Mary Wilbur, and daughters-in-law Almira and Laura Ann are all buried in Graham Cemetery, in Hubbardsville, Madison County, New York. This is the same cemetery where William’s daughter, Ellen Holt, and her family are buried. It’s very close to where William was living in 1860 and 1870 in South Hamilton.