Working out the Abrahams

This information was researched by Jim Mau

There is no doubt that an Abraham Carley was in the Green Mountain Boys. He is on the same record (as a private) as Seth Warner and Ethan Allen. What is in doubt is which Abraham Carley? At first I pondered whether it was the father Abraham born in 1711 or the son Abraham born in 1756. Both were living in Albany (later Columbia) County, New York, during the Revolutionary War. The Green Mountain Boys were formed in Albany County, New York, in 1775. At that time the elder Abraham would have been 64 and the younger Abraham 19.

What could be fathomed from the records? There seemed to have been at least five Abraham Carleys in the area at the time. The plan became to collect every possible record and then create timelines and profiles for each Abraham. (As always, I wished there were more and better records.) For convenience, each Abraham was assigned a Roman numeral.

Abraham (I) was the senior resident of Hillsdale, the Abraham said to have been from Marlborough and born in 1711.

Abraham (II) was the junior resident of Hillsdale, the son of Abraham (I), and was born in Marlborough in 1756.

Abraham (III) was the infant son of Abraham (II), and was born in Nobletown in 1780. He can be eliminated from this inquiry.

Abraham (IV) was the man who joined Captain Van Vranka’s Company of Militia in Albany County on 12 Apr 1760, aged 23, and was born in Connecticut.

Abraham (V) was the Abraham who kept showing up in the Vermont records. It seemed safest to identify him separately, at least while information was being collected, until he could be merged with one of the others.

First, we will look at Abraham (V). He was in the Green Mountain Boys and left a trail of records in Vermont. Any of the contenders must match his timeline and profile. Here is a timeline of the found records.

Abraham (V) was living in Manchester, Vermont, in 1765. He appears as Abraham Carly in the ledger of a tavern in Putney, Vermont, between 1766 and 1771. He appears as Abraham Carly on a list dated 1 Nov 1770 as a “Petitioner of New York for land grant titles in Vermont”. In 1771 he was living in Cumberland County, Vermont. On 4 Jul 1775 he appears as an enlisted man on the roster of the Green Mountain Boys, this time as “Carley, Abraham”. He enlisted in Captain Gideon Brownson’s Company of Militia (Vermont) on 16 Jan 1776. He was on the Pay Roll of Captain Asaph Cook’s Company of Militia in Colonel Gideon’s Warren’s Regiment, dated October 1781, being paid “for service done in the defence of the Northern Frontiers of this State” (Vermont).

The profile of Abraham (V) shows him consistently in Vermont and never in the company of other Carleys. (Other Carleys found in Vermont during this era were Ebenezer, Ichabod, and William.) Do any of the other Abrahams match this profile? (NOTE: Roughly the same geographical area of New York was called in turn Claverack, Nobletown, and Hillsdale. To complicate matters, the area was first in Albany County and only became Columbia County in 1786. Earlier, there had even been a dispute as to whether this area was a part of Massachusetts or New York.)

Abraham (I) was baptized on 23 Oct 1715 in Marlborough, Massachusetts. On the same day four other Carleys were baptized there, assumed to be his siblings. Several of his children were in turn baptized in Marlborough during the 1740s and 1750s. His family was ordered out of Marlborough in 1755. However, his son Abraham (II) was baptized there on 9 May 1756. Also, Abraham (I) in 1757 joined the Marlborough Militia Company of Captain (later promoted to Colonel) Abraham Williams during the French and Indian War.
Abraham (I) served in the Claverack Militia Company of Captain Johannis Hogeboom. He name appears on the roster of 13 May 1767 as ‘Abraham Carly’. Immediately following him are ‘Moses Carly’, ‘Joel Carly’, and ‘James Carly’, probably his sons. Also on this roster, but in a different column, is ‘Joseph Carly’. The roster seems to include the entire adult male population of Claverack and, since it is not alphabetical, may have been compiled simply as the men signed-up. (Note also, the Claverack militia shows no correlation with the 1770 list of Vermont land grant petitioners, something that might be expected if families were moving back and forth – as had happened between the settlers of Sudbury, Lancaster, and Marlborough, Massachusetts.)

Abraham (I) and several of his children lived in Nobletown. His children, Mary (who married Samuel Mallery), Joel, Moses, and Abraham (II) had children who were baptized by the Reverend Gideon Bostwick in Nobletown between 1770 and 1791. In 1773 Abraham (I) was appointed one of the road commissioners of Nobletown. In 1790 Abraham (I) was living in Nobletown. He died in November of 1790 and is buried with his wife on the family farm.

The profile of Abraham (I) shows him to be firmly anchored in Hillsdale and when he appears in records he is generally with his immediate family. He was old enough to have been the Abraham of the Green Mountain Boys, but his profile conflicts in every detail with the Abraham found in the Vermont records. Perhaps Abraham (I) was too old to be Abraham (V). By 1781, when Abraham (V) appears on the Pay Roll, Abraham (I) would have been 70 years old.

Abraham (II) was the son of Abraham (I) and born in Marlborough in 1756. He was living in Nobletown no later than 1780 as that is when his own son Abraham (III) was baptized by the Reverend Gideon Bostwick. As he was only 14 years old in 1770 he could not have been the ‘Abraham Carly’ in Vermont petitioning New York for land grant rights. By 1775 he would have been old enough to enlist in the Green Mountain Boys, but it is clear from the Pay Roll records of Vermont that Abraham (V) was still serving in the militia until at least 1781. During this time Abraham (II) was busy raising a family in Nobletown. Neither the timeline nor the profile fits for him to be Abraham (V).

Another timeline conflict is the fact that while Abraham (V) was serving in the Green Mountain Boys (1775-1783 by enlistment and payroll records), either Abraham (I) or Abraham (II) was serving in the New York Levies (1779). An exploration of their military service can be found in another post.
Abraham (IV) joined Captain Van Vranka’s Company of Militia in Albany (Rensselaerswyck) 12 Apr 1760, aged 23, and born in Connecticut. He was born in 1737 so he cannot be confused with Abraham (I, II or III). What else do we know about him? He was a laborer. He was 5’9” with a fair complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He could have moved to Vermont and joined the Green Mountain Boys. Or, he could be the Abraham Carley who was a loyalist and eventually settled in Ontario. Or, he could be someone else entirely.
Some may feel short-changed by the inclusion of Abraham (III) since he was barely born during the period in discussion. As a bonus, for balance, or just to add to the intrigue – there may be one more Abraham Carley to sort out. In the Vital Records of Bolton, Massachusetts can be found the record of a marriage between Abraham ‘Corley’ of Nobletown and Ruth Diggins on 15 May 1769. Who was this Abraham? Was he the Abraham born in 1737? Was he the Abraham who ended up in Ontario? Could he have been a brother of the Bartholomew who was born in Nobletown in 1757 and later lived in Ontario? Or did Abraham (I) lose his Susannah and return to the East to remarry? (Does anyone have a copy of the will of Abraham (I) and does it name his wife?)

So, while the Abraham Carley who was a Green Mountain Boy cannot yet be identified and placed within a lineage, we have identified three Abraham Carleys who can be eliminated as possible contenders – the three who lived in Hillsdale. Abraham Carley in the New York Militia In 1779 an Abraham Carley of Claverack (later Hillsdale), New York served as a private in the New York levies. He was in Captain Stockwell’s Company of Militia assigned to the regiment of Lieutenant Colonel Van Rensselaer. Two Abraham Carleys lived in Claverack at that time. They were father and son, one born in 1711, the other in 1756, both from Marlborough, Massachusetts.

I wore a uniform (U.S. Air Force) between the ages of 20 and 44. During those years I was involved in campaigns ranging from Viet Nam to Desert Storm. I particularly enjoy researching the military activities of my ancestors. To gain a better understanding of the hardships endured by our soldiers I read Joseph Plumb Martin’s fascinating story of his experiences during the American Revolution. (A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, sometimes published as Private Yankee Doodle – a book I recommend without reservation.) Joseph was born in 1760 and began his service in 1776. He served through the entire war yet was only 22 when it ended. War is a young man’s endeavor – even more so then than now. This made me doubt that it was the father serving at age 68. I know I was ready to hang up the uniform at age 44. My gut said this should be an easy call, but my brain said to check the records.

In 1757 Abraham Senior joined the Marlborough Militia Company of Captain (later promoted to Colonel) Abraham Williams and served in the French and Indian War. Captain Williams’s Company was called-out and sent to assist in the defense of Fort William Henry but was halted at Westfield, Massachusetts, when word reached them that the fort had already fallen to the French. They returned to Marlborough. The Claverack Militia in 1767 includes the name of Abraham Carley, certainly Abraham Senior, as Abraham Junior was only 11 years old. Immediately after Abraham on the list were Moses, Joel, and James – probably other sons of Abraham Senior. Also on this list, but in another column, was Joseph Carly. This list seems to include the entire male population of Claverack at the time.

In the spring of 1779 the State of New York had passed “An Act for raising 1,000 men for the Defence of the Frontiers of the State”. The 1,000 “Levies to be raised by Drafts from the Militia of such Counties as the Governor, with the advice of the Colonels, shall decide.” The militia consisted of every man living in the local district. Levies were a specified fraction of the militia that were drafted to meet certain situations and for defined periods. Portions of the Levies could be assigned to the Continental Line as required. (New York In The Revolution as Colony and State by James A. Roberts, published in 1888,) Abraham Carley had to have joined the Levies during this spring draft as he was assigned to the company of Captain Levi Stockwell. Captain Stockwell was hardened combat veteran, perhaps best known for his 1777 exploit of slipping out of a besieged Fort Stanwix (with Marinus Willett) in the middle of the night, penetrating the British lines and returning with a rescuing force. By the late summer of 1779 Captain Stockwell had transferred to the Continental Line, accepting the rank of Lieutenant, to join General Sullivan’s expedition against the Indians and Tories operating out of Niagara, New York. Happily, the correspondence between Captain Stockwell, General Schuyler, and Governor Clinton has survived. (It can be found in Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777-1795, 1801-1804, published in 1900.)

The letter of 24 Apr 1779 from General Schuyler to Governor Clinton mentions the appointment of Captain Stockwell and the planned movement of the expedition along the Mohawk to rendezvous at Canajoharie on 12 May 1779, then to remain in the area to defend the Northern and Western frontiers. Governor Clinton then notified Captain Stockwell to obey General Schuyler’s orders pertaining to the security of the frontier settlements. At the end of his letter the Governor wrote: “And as the nature of this Service & the Safety of the Frontiers require the greatest Exertions I expect the utmost diligence & vigilence on your Part.”
General Schuyler’s letter of 29 Apr 1779 instructs Captain Stockwell to deploy his company “as will best Cover the frontiers against the Incursions of the Enemy”, to station an officer, two sergeants, and 25 privates at Skenesborough, while also deploying scouts on the north side of the Hudson River as well as toward Ticonderoga and both sides of the lake. The scouts were to detect enemy presence, numbers, and movement. They were to report such intelligence immediately so specified appropriate actions could be taken. The situation was obviously dire and the General added this warning – “The disgrace of a surprise must be strictly guarded against, and that you may not Experience one, you will be Extremely vigilant and watchful; not suffering your men to strole from the post or be absent on furlough is Indispensibly necessary.”

Captain Stockwell sent a report on 30 May 1779 from Skenesborough, telling of his arrival at his post on 6 May. He was short of men as few of the promised troops from other brigades had arrived, and requested his other men could join him “as Duty is very Hard here”. His scouts had been busy but had no enemy activities to report. Showing how little some things change – “Sir, I should be glad to no in what form the pay for my men Can be got, whether by proper pay roles, or abstracks to the Pay master; likwise to no, who is my Colonel that I may Communicate to him.”

I hope these fragments of history provide a hint of what Abraham Carley must have experienced during his time in the Levies. Stockwell was a highly respected combat veteran, well aware of the demands and risks facing his levies. It seems unlikely that he would have accepted a 68 year-old man to face such challenges, especially since only a small fraction of the militia was being tasked. Then there is the rest of the record. A nearly parallel military career trajectory exists between Samuel Mallery and Abraham Carley. They were brothers-in-law, both living in Hillsdale. Samuel Mallery had married Abraham Carley’s older sister, Mary. The records show that both served as enlisted men during the Revolutionary War and as officers after it. (The following records can be found in Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of the State of New York, 1783-1821.)

In 1777 Samuel Mallery was a Sergeant in 9th Albany Regiment. In 1786 he was a Lieutenant 2nd Class in Colonel Scott’s regiment of Columbia County. In 1791 he was a Captain in Colonel Scott’s regiment. In 1795 he was a 2nd Major in Livingston’s brigade. In 1800 he resigned from the militia.
In 1779 Abraham Carley was a Private in Levi Stockwell’s company, Van Rensselaer’s corps of levies. In 1791 he was an Ensign in Columbia County in Colonel Matthew Scott’s regiment. In 1794 he was removed (no cause cited) from Colonel Scott’s regiment.

If the reader still is not convinced that it was Abraham Carley, Junior, who was in the Levies, there was a law regulating the militia. (New York In The Revolution as Colony and State by James A. Roberts, 1888, page 122) “10 Aug 1776. Whereas a number of the Inhabitants of this State by removing from one County to another have by that means avoided Military duty in either to the great injury of this State, Therefore be it Resolved and it is hereby Resolved that every person between the age of 16 & 50 abiding & continuing in any County for the space of 14 days be enrolled and appear in the Militia of the County in which he so abided under the penalty of 40s for every day’s difference on which he or they shall not be so enrolled once after notice is given him or them by the Officer of the Beat in which they shall reside, Provided always that this Resolution shall not extend to such persons as are in the Service of this State or of the Continental Congress.” (Emphasis added)

This law could have been presented earlier in this post, but think of how much interesting information might have been missed! Anyone interested in further reading ought to try Walter Edmonds’ rich novel Drums Along the Mohawk.

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