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A Revolutionary War Tragedy and Two Sons Named Zerah

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Data on a page, or a story of family sorrow?

Data on a page, or a story of family sorrow?

Samuel Payne and Abigail Grimes Payne are my 4x great grandfather and grandmother. His son, Zerah, had a daughter, Sephronia, who gave birth to my great grandmother Sarah Angeline Smith who married Calvin Croy.

Not long after the Battle of Bennington (August 16, 1777,) in Bennington, Vermont on November 29, 1777, Samuel Payne joined the “Green Mountain Boys” (formally the Continental Troop under Captain William McCune (McCun) in the Battalion of Forces commanded by Col. Seth Warner.) The enlistment originally was for a three-year term, but family tragedy intervened.[i]

In April of 1778 on the 22nd and 23rd, his oldest son, sixteen years old Zerah Payne, signed up along with 17 other young men to serve the newly formed Vermont Militia. (Vermont, less than a year before in July, had become a separate independent republic.) Who knows to what purpose they were employed, likely some necessary form of manual labor “of Capt. Comstock’s company …by order from Governor Chittenden.” He received 3 shillings 4 pence for the duty and it wet his eager young appetite for more.

When Capt. William Hutchins formed the Provential troops in service of the United States on May 1, 1778, Zerah (Zeruah Pain in the record) enlisted for a seven month term. He was seventeen and a half and was killed on May 26, 1778. No official record exists as to how this occurred. There were no major battles or even minor skirmishes recorded with Captain Hutchins’ Company during that timeline. So perhaps the “family lore” is correct. (Note that it could not be “before the Battle of Bennington” as that battle occurred long before his death.)

“The story is handed down in the family that he was killed by the accidental discharge of a comrade gun before the Battle of Bennington. The village men and boys were getting such weapons as they had ordered and one boy had a very decrepid (sic) and superannuated gun which the other boys were laughing at and making jokes. The owner, in fun picked up the lock, which was detatched (sic) from the barrel and merely held it on the barrel and aimed it at the group about him. The barrel was loaded, and he snapped the trigger and by some strange chance, the load was discharged killing Zerah.”[ii]

No matter how the death occurred, the pain of loss is great. And the pain of an untimely and early death of a beloved child is beyond measure. Samuel’s wife Abigail, to accentuate the stress, was five months pregnant. Samuel arranged an early release on July 15, 1778. In September of that year, Abigail gave birth to a son.[iii]

Much later, on July 1, 1781, Samuel enlisted in the Vermont Militia along with his second born son, seventeen year-old Jared, since Zerah’s death, his oldest boy. They served in Capt. Daniel Comstock’s Company in the Battalion of Infantry commanded by Samuel Fletcher in the service of the State of Vermont.[iv] Samuel enlisted for 150 days and earned 11 pounds 16 shillings, while Jared served for 171 days earning ll pounds 8 shillings. Note that for twenty-one fewer days of duty Samuel earned 8 shillings more indicating that Samuel in some way earned more through some type of greater responsibility. While the period in which they served saw no major conflicts in Vermont, it was a pivotal point in the Revolutionary War eventually leading to winning of the war.[v]

And that son who celebrated his third birthday while his father and brother served with Capt. Comstock? They named him Zerah. He grew to be a boot maker moving with his wife Amy first to Zaneville and then Coshocton County, Ohio. He is my 3x great grandfather.

[i] All Military information from: NARA M881. Compiled service records of soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783. www.fold3.com

[ii] Notes of Rosa Belle Phelps Gordon from personal collection

[iii] Edmund West, comp.. Family Data Collection – Births [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2001.

[iv] Vermont became a state on March 4, 1791 but the copy of the original record indicated “state,” a likely error.

[v] See this link for a better understanding of the import of 1781

http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/amrev/peace/

 

About croywright

The author, a writer of history and historical fiction, always yearned to go back in time.

4 responses »

  1. Hello. In 2015, you mentioned a “next post” titled “The Payne family experience of the Revolutionary War and the aftermath.” Did you ever write it? (I’m descended from Samuel Payne’s brother, William (1728-1805).

    Reply
    • I did post an article about the Payne family in the Revolutionary War here. https://croywright.com/2015/03/11/a-revolutionary-war-tragedy-and-two-sons-named-zerah/ They were in Vermont/Mass. by then. If you look to the right on my site and choose The Payne Family… all my posts with them mentioned will appear. What was the migration pattern of your William (whom I have not researched.) Very interested…

      Reply
      • My William Payne (1728-1805) didn’t migrate far. He married (some say) Elizabeth Bibble (or Bevin) and settled/died in New Hartford, Conn. Records on his children are spotty; his will mentions five children, though I have seen assertions that there were three more. Of those I know about, all came down with Ohio fever. My ancestor, Abraham Payne (1758-1827) — son of William and “Elizabeth” — removed 1812 from Winsted, Conn., to Salem Twp., Washington County, Ohio. Feel free to email me directly. I’m happy to share what I know.

  2. FYI, regarding Samuel’s Revolutionary War service, I picked up that he was a captain in the Vermont Light Infantry under Major John Wheelock. (Source: Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783, Goodrich, 1904, pg. 642) Since the officers are different (Comstock vs. Wheelock), perhaps I found a different Samuel?

    Reply

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