Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cornelius Vincent: Prisoner of War Love Story (#6 of 52 Ancestors)

My Vincent ancestors moved from Essex County, New Jersey to Northumberland County, Pennsylvania in the mid to late 1700's. During the Revolutionary War, they were at Fort Freeland when it was attacked by the British and their Indian allies in 1779. The women, children, and elderly men were set free, but the able-bodied men were marched to Canada as prisoners.

In 1876, The Columbian published a series of articles titled "History of Columbia County." The fourth part of this series was published on January 28th and told about the capture of Fort Freeland.

Part of the article tells about Bethuel Vincent:

It would be interesting to know who were taken prisoners, and who returned from the captivity. But one case is known, that of Bethuel Vincent, who had been married a short time before he was taken prisoner. His wife returned to her home in New Jersey. For four years she heard nothing from her husband. One evening she was out with a sleighing party, and having stopped at a tavern a roughly dressed stranger inquired if a Mrs. Vincent lived in the vicinity. She was pointed out to him, and he informed her that he knew her husband in Canada, had lately seen him, and that he was well. On the return home the stranger went with the party, and the extra passenger crowding the sled, he proposed to take Mrs. Vincent on his lap; but she indignantly declined the familiarity, whereupon the stranger discovered himself to be her husband, when the proffered courtesy was joyfully accepted.

What a lovely, romantic story! Bethuel was the brother of my 5 times great grandfather, Daniel Vincent, who was married to Angelchy/Angelica. But, it looks like the author of this story got a major fact wrong! The following week a letter is published in The Columbian which attempts to correct a mistake made in the story:

This letter from A. I. Quigley explains that the story was actually about Daniel Vincent (my direct ancestor), and not his brother, Bethuel. And, this information is from Daniel's grandson-in-law!

Bethuel Vincent, who was supposedly the subject of the story, didn't marry until about 1788 while the attack on the fort occurred in 1779 so the 'sleighing' incident would've taken place about 1783. Daniel's wife, however, gave birth to their first child in late 1779 several months after the attack on the fort. Their second child wasn't born until late 1783, which pretty much corresponds with the story that she hadn't heard from her husband in four years. (Though perhaps, and hopefully, it was more like three years.)

So, I'm happy to claim this story for my 5 times great grandparents who were separated for several years after Daniel was taken captive and marched up to Canada. She might have thought she'd never see her husband again. But, I love how my 5th great grandmother "indignantly declined this familiarity" of sitting on a stranger's lap until, when she realized it was her long lost husband, she "joyfully accepted" the "proffered courtesy." What a happy reunion that must have been!

(Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow at "No Story Too Small" for creating "52 Ancestors" where we can share our ancestors stories, one week at a time.)

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net


  1. What a great story! My 2xGreat-Grandfather Joel Charles was a POW held in Elmira, NY and the brother of another 2xGreat Grandfather was held in Ohio. I have always hoped I would find a letter or two...maybe someday.

    1. I would LOVE to find a letter someday. Maybe we will one day...

  2. I really enjoyed your story, Dana. This just goes to show how important it is to correct misinformation when it occurs - thank goodness the grandson-in-law took the time to do that.

  3. I really enjoyed your story, Dana. This just goes to show how important it is to correct misinformation when it occurs - thank goodness the grandson-in-law took the time to do that.

  4. Not only is it a great story, but I love the language in those old newspapers!


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