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Eliphalet Curtis died on November 2, 1796. He was buried in the Flatbrook Cemetery, Town of Canaan, Columbia County, New York. At the base of the grave marker, hidden in the grass, it says that Eliphalet was aged 7 years so he was born about 1789. According to the headstone, his middle name was Wheel. Per a U.S. Find a Grave site, his middle name was Wheeler. There apparently wasn’t enough room for his full first and middle name on the top line. Though this photo cuts off the right side of the marker, I preferred the lighting and depth of field. We know very little about Eliphalet. His parents (who both died in 1851) and his siblings lived and died in Canaan and are buried in Flatbrook Cemetery, except one.
History is fascinating and the most interesting information can be discovered if you follow the leads on genealogical websites. Eliphalet’s youngest sister, Catherine Curtis (born 1811) married Orson Spencer, a prominent Baptist minister, in 1830. In 1841, Spencer and Catherine joined the Mormon Church and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Spencer, and his brothers Hyrum and Daniel, rose to prominence in the church in Illinois and later in Utah. Catherine became ill and died in Iowa in 1846 after the Mormons were forced to flee Nauvoo. She was secretly buried in Nauvoo. Her obituary written by Spencer says Catherine was “The youngest daughter of a numerous family, brought up in affluence, and nurtured with fondness and peculiar care as the favourite of her father’s house . . .” When she became ill and her distant friends (family?) offered to take her, she refused, according to Spencer, saying, “no, if they will withhold from me the supplies they readily grant to my other sisters and brothers, because I adhere to the Saints, let them. I would rather abide with the church, in poverty, even in the wilderness, without their aid, than go to my unbelieving father’s house, and have all that he possesses.”
Spencer was sent on a mission to England in 1846, and their children were left in the care of a relative. The children traveled to Utah in 1848 in a Pioneer wagon train, where they settled. In 1849 Spencer led a wagon train of Pioneers to Utah. He became the chancellor of what was to become the University of Utah, a position he held until his death in 1855.
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In the US, cemeteries are often the oldest existing remnants of European settlers. In the Husdson Valley, which luckily has preserved much of its heritage, many small towns maintain their historic cemeteries. This headstone is from 1785, in the town of Canaan. RIP Esther Million.
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