The Origins of John (and James) Padget

    According to his granddaughter, John Padget came from the town of South Cave in Yorkshire.  South Cave is a small place, just a dot on the map even today, but what it lacks in geographical extent, it makes up in historical depth.  South Cave is old.  Really old.  It was there before the Normans conquered England in 1066.  It may well have been there before the Romans conquered England and built (or, more likely, merely upgraded) the road on which South Cave lies.  There was already a thriving population in the area of South Cave as far back as the Neolithic, or even earlier.

    The Padgets go way back too.  The Padget name is more common in Yorkshire than anywhere else, and there are still Padgets living around South Cave and the nearby towns of North Cave, Beverley, and Market Weighton.

    John Padget was a shepherd.  The sheep-herding way of life also goes back to the Neolithic, but by the 1760's it was a profession of no great status.  John's wife, Hannah Wilson, was from a more exalted background.  It seems unlikely that she had been a lady-in-waiting as her descendents would one day claim, but there is no doubt that her family had money and probably owned land.  And yet she gave up the prospect of marrying a young man of wealth in order to go with John.  Perhaps it was all for love, or perhaps the radical ideas that would soon lead to the American Revolution were stirring in Yorkshire, as well.

    Whatever Hannah's motivations may have been, the 1760's were not a good time to be a Yorkshire shepherd.  The Industrial Revolution which began in England at this time was closely paralleled by an Agricultural Revolution, in which the great landowners forced their tenant farmers off the land in order to merge their fields and apply the latest scientific methods of farming.  Many of those who were evicted or had their rents raised beyond their ability to pay headed for America.  For the first time since the great Puritan Exodus of the 1630's, emigration from England to America reached substantial numbers, and the largest single source of migrants was Yorkshire.

    One book on the migration points specifically to "the farmland in the dales and on the moors of the East and North Ridings" and states, "Modernization through enclosure had long been in process; it rose swiftly in the years after 1765.  Of 147 Yorkshire enclosures before 1776, 70% were awarded in the decade after 1765, the largest number made in the East Riding."  In other words, when John Padget and Hannah Wilson left their home in the wolds of the East Riding of Yorkshire to go to America in 1772, they were not isolated adventurers but part of a demographic flood.

    There are no records of their passage or of where they settled.  British subjects who migrated to the colonies were not considered foreigners, and the authorities were not required to keep track of their comings and goings.  But John and Hannah almost certainly sailed from the ancient port city of Hull on the Humber River, where Hannah's brother would later grow wealthy as an insurer of ships, and just as certainly disembarked in New York City, where land speculators routinely waited at the docks to grab new arrivals and sell or lease them land in upstate New York.

    It seems probable that John and Hannah quickly became tenants on one of the vast estates which were a legacy of Dutch rule in New York, extending along the upper Hudson River around Albany.  Most records from this period were lost in a fire in 1911, but a nineteenth century map of leaseholds from about 1790 shows John Padget renting a farm in Rensselaerwyck Manor, which lay on the east side of the Hudson near the town of Troy.

    The name of James Padget appears on that same map with a farm perhaps a mile away from John's.  James was born in England in 1746, and although we have no record of exactly where he was born or how he came to America, it seems certain that he must have been John's brother.  Not only did members of the two families repeatedly settle in the same localities, but John's granddaughter, Hannah Barstow, refers in her memoir to things she learned about her grandmother from a cousin of her mother's who lived to be just over a hundred -- a description that matches James Padget's daughter, Barbara Padget Brooksbank.

    In addition, there are several British records recently posted online that appear to refer to this family.  One refers to the "will of Ann Padget of North Cave spinster," dated August 1, 1794. It lists bequests to "brothers John and James Padget and sister Mary wife of Haugh McManus all 'now in America'; nephew Robert Padgett of North Cave; niece Sarah daughter of James Padget 'now living with me.'"  Hugh and Mary McManus were residents of Troy, NY, where Mary died on July 9, 1834, confirming that this is a reference to the same Padget family.  Sarah was James Padget's oldest daughter, born in 1780.

     Another record, dated November 2, 1789, refers to "John Padgett, formerly of New York Province, North America, then of North Cave, yeoman, with the consent of Ann Padget as administrators of Barbara Padget, deceased."  And there is a further reference to the "will of Robert Padgett of North Cave yeoman," dated January 30, 1762," which lists bequests to "wife Barbara; sons Robert, John and James; daughters Ann, Jane and Mary Property: South Cave, Everthorpe, Broomfleet and North Cave."

     So it appears that Robert and Barbara Padget were the parents of six children.  John, James, and Mary all went to America.  The younger Robert had apparently died by 1794 but left a son, also named Robert.  Ann was unmarried and Jane presumably died young.

    The earliest official mentions of John and James Padget in American records appear with the start of the Revolution.  Pay records dated August 11, 1777 name John Paget as a member of the 3rd Rensselaerwyck Battalion of the Sixth Regiment of the Albany County Militia, under the command of Colonel Stephen John Schuyler.  John is listed again -- as a corporal -- in a roster of all NY state militia members made at the end of the war.

    James served at the same time in the 4th Rensselaerwyck Battalion of the Sixth Regiment, and on May 28, 1778, was appointed an ensign by order of Governor George Clinton.

    The Sixth Regiment played a modest but significant role in the Revolution, fighting many skirmishes with Indians and Tories along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers in order to prevent the establishment of a British base of operations in the area.  After the taking of New York City by the British in 1776, upstate New York had become the crucial link between New England and the rest of the colonies, and its loss could have proved fatal to the Revolution.

    A crucial turning point came in the summer of 1777.  The British General Burgoyne had devised a plan to bring his army from Canada down the Hudson River, at the same time that General Howe brought his own troops upriver from New York City, with the two forces to meet at Albany.  It was a clever scheme to split the colonies, and it might have worked if not for one of the greatest bureaucratic blunders of all time:  The Secretary for the Colonies who approved Burgoyne's idea somehow forgot to tell Howe about it.  Not only that, but a few weeks later, he approved Howe's own plan to lead his forces in an attack on Philadelphia.

    Burgoyne's expedition started off well enough, with his men moving down Lake Champlain in June and capturing Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of July.  This sent the American forces scrambling in retreat to Fort Edward, and brought the militias out from all directions to support them.  John Padget's unit was among these, and there is a record of his having received his pay at Fort Edward that July.  By late September, Burgoyne was close enough to Albany to cause widespread alarm.

    However, with General Howe not there to provide support, the further Burgoyne advanced the more trouble he got into, climaxing with his defeat at the Second Battle of Saratoga on October 7, 1777 and surrender ten days later.  This was one of the great American victories of the war, leading directly to France joining in on the American side.  It is recorded that the Sixth Albany Regiment of Militia was present under the command of Colonel Stephen J. Schuyler, forming part of Ten Broeck's Brigade.

    The fighting being of an on-and-off nature, family life continued in the midst of war.  Crops were harvested and children born.  James Padget even found time to get married, to Rebekah Crout, on September 7, 1778.

    After the war ended, John and James and their growing families continued in Rensselaerwyck for a while.  The 1790 census records John and Hannah with their eight children and James and Rebekah with six out of their eventual nine.  They would seem to have been well settled in.  But something -- almost certainly the promise of owning land of their own -- uprooted them one more time.

    John led the way, moving from Rensselaerwyck to the newly-founded town of Oxford in Chenango County, out beyond the Unadilla River in what had before the war been Indian Territory.  It appears that two of his sons, James and William, arrived there in 1792, with the rest of the family following a year or so later.

    James also moved some time between 1793 and 1798 but did not go nearly as far, settling in the town of Glen, Montgomery County, only some 25 miles northwest of Albany.  A generation later, however, most of his children would wind up in Oxford.  James himself died in Oxford while on a visit to his daughter, Barbara, and after his death Rebekah took up residence with her children in Oxford as well.

    From that time to this, Oxford has never been a very important place.  It is a pinprick on the map, with a current population barely more than half that of South Cave.  But it somehow drew the Padgets to itself, fulfilling the dreams of a Yorkshire shepherd for someplace better and freer to be.


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