James Burnet, 1732-1807, was the oldest son of Robert Burnet, the original settler, and his wife Ann Reid Burnet

This article appeared in the ORANGE COUNTY POST on Thursday, July 2, 1970 on Page 10


The James Burnets
by Margaret V. S. Wallace

James Burnet, 1732-1807, was the oldest son of Robert Burnet, the original settler, and his wife Ann Reid Burnet. He seems to be the only son of Robert Burnet who has descendants in this region now.

In 1760 he married Mary Nicholson, 1739-1808. They lived on the eastern half of his father’s farm, the present Nadas place. Robert Burnet’s will made in 1771 states, "I give to my son James Burnet all the Easterly side of my farm whereon he now dwells in Little Brittain as the same has been surveyed and marked out for him by James Clinton together with the Priviledge of a road one rod wide from his house along the line of Peter Mulliner’s land northeasterly into the road that leads from Little Brittain to New Windsor to have and to hold to him my said son James his heirs and assigns for ever he his heirs Executors and Administrators paying out of the said lands and out of the one half of the goods and chattles which I shall have at the time of my decease (my household furniture only excepted) the sum of eighty five pounds New York Currency which is to go to the use of my younger children."

The "Priviledge of a Road...along the line of Peter Mulliner’s land" was evidently along the east edge of Peter Mulliner’s farm. The Robert Burnet farm of 200 acres touched the Little Britain Road only at its north west corner. Thus the eastern half of the farm was landlocked. So, the right of way was secured from Peter Mulliner. In 1767 John Reid sold five acres of his southwest corner to James Burnet. This gave him access on the east to what we know now as Toleman Road, then just a path. According to RECORDS OF ROADS, in 1771 the path developed into a "Road of 20 feet wide Beginning where the path leading to George Denniston’s enters the Kings Road on the west side of his land thence running along the path leading to John Wellings..." Thus James Burnet had a way out on his own property.

What we call Bull Road was not laid out until 1779. From the Town of New Windsor RECORDS OF ROADS we have ‘Whereas Genl. James Clinton, James Burnet, William Scott and several others of the Freeholders and Inhabitants of the Precinct of New Windsor did set forth unto us that there might be a good public highway laid out from the High way that leads from the Wall Kill through Little Britain to New Windsor, beginning one chain and ninety links west of the Burying Yard of the Mulliner’s family and running thence south ten degrees west twenty chains and eleven links across the land in possession of the said Mathew Dubois to James Burnet’s land thence crossing the same south two degrees east twenty degrees west eight chains and eight six links to degrees west thirteen chains and fifteen links and south twenty degrees west eight chains and eithy six links to the land of James Clinton thence crossing the same south thirty eight degrees west thirty eight chains, thence westerly crossing the brook before the said James Clinton’s door..." It should surely be called either Burnet Road or Clinton Road. After it was laid out there was no more need for the right of way left to James Burnet by his father, and it has been obliterated, nor for the piece he bought from John Reid, and it was sold to George Denniston in 1781.

James Burnet was a lieutenant in the Ulster County Militia, second Regiment, All four of his brothers, John, Robert, Thomas and Patrick, served in the same regiment. John became a major later. When the Militia was called to the defense of Fort Montgomery there was not enough time to get the call to them in time, the attack having been made suddenly and means of communication being very poor. James Burnet was on his way to Fort Montgomery with reinforcements when the Fort was taken. With his men he joined the troops that gathered at The Square and marched to the defense of Kingston, but reached there too late too. From a letter in Washington’s Headquarters Museum, Newburgh, dated West Point, 26th October 1779 from J. Burnet to Major General Lord Sterling, we know that James Burnet was assigned to West Point for a time.

In 1773 his father died and he came into ownership of the farm, but he had to pay eighty five pounds toward the legacies to two of his younger brothers and to his sisters. He mortgaged his one hundred and five acres to James Denniston January 11, 1774 for one hundred thirty seven pounds. This mortgage is recorded in Kingston. It was paid, and in 1786 he mortgaged again, this time to James Clinton. This was only three years after the close of the Revolution. Serving in the war evidently kept him from earning much on his farm. Not long after his mortgage to James Clinton, perhaps partly to pay it, he sold twenty five acres to his oldest son Robert R. Burnet in the south west corner of his farm joining twenty five acres that Robert R. had bought from his uncle John. James Burnet lived on his seventy five acres until 1801.

James and Mary Nicholson Burnet had ten children. The oldest was named Robert Reid for his great grandfather John Reid and his grandfather Robert Burnet. He and his descendants will appear in another article. The other nine children were Ann, Elizabeth, Sarah, Charles, James, George, Mary, Thomas and Margaret. Only a very few facts have been found about them.

Ann 1764-1827 married John McLean 1756-1821. The New Windsor Presbyterian Church records the marriage "Jan. 20, 1784 John McLean, Walkill and Ann Barnet, little britt." His name appears often on deeds and mortgages in this area. That he made money is evident in Ann McLean’s will, made and probated in 1827. She left to "Mary M. Ross the Piano Forte and five hundred dollars" and half of her wearing apparel. She left five hundred dollars to each of the following: John M. Gardner; John McLean, son of G.W. McLean; William McLean, son of William B. McLean; and James McLean Jr.; to Ann Eliza Garner her gold watch and half of her wearing apparel; to Mary McDonald one hundred fifty dollars and her white leghorn hat; and also to Peggy Jackson, evidently her youngest sister, her black leghorn hat. The only son named as such in the will was John, but she mentioned other property, considerable as shown by other records, and named six heirs, among them John McLean, William B. McLean, Ann Eliza Garner, George Washington McLean and Alexander Clinton McLean. It seems that those to whom she made specific bequests were mostly grandchildren, and that the children of John and Ann McLean were John, Mary S. Ross 1787-1812, William B. McLean, Ann Eliza Gardner, George Washington McLean, Alexander Clinton McLean and James.

OLD TOWN BURYING GROUND, NEWBURGH, N.Y. INSCRIPTIONS, published by the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands, lists "General John McLean born in Scotland in 1756; he bore arms through the war of American Independence and was for many years Commissary General of the State of New York. Died Feb. 28, 1821." NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION lists John McLean as an enlisted man in The Line, Fifth Regiment under Capt. Alexander McArthur (his wife’s cousin), Ensign John McClaughry and Lieut. John Burnet. THE OLD TOWN BURYING GROUND INSCRIPTIONS also lists "Ann McLean, wife of General John McLean of New York, died15th July 1827 aged 63 years 7 mo. and 8 da....Captain James McLean... This monument erected March 9, 1839 by George Washington McLean to the memory of...father, mother and brother." Also "died at Newburgh on the 31st of Mar. 1812 in the 26th yr. of her age Mary S. Ross, wife of William Ross Esq., daugh. of John and Ann McLean." THE OLD TOWN BURYING GROUND INSCRIPTIONS also notes "General John McLean lived in what is now sometimes called the Wyckoff place, junction of Montgomery and Water Streets. His father was an early settler in what is now Blooming Grove." Ann Burnet seems to have married well.

Elizabeth, 1765-1867, married William Welling. They and their children Peter, William and George are buried in the Mulliner Burying Ground.

Sarah married Andrew Kevin and had one child, Mary. Sarah had died by 1807 when her father made his will and left her portion to her daughter Mary.

Charles, 1768-1852, married Elizabeth Kernochan. Their children were Eliza 1801-1872 who married James Shaw 1795-1882, Margaret 1803-1850 who did not marry, and Mary F. 1814-? who married Nathan Coleman. Charles lived to be over eighty, was cared for by his daughter Eliza in their home where Kenneth Shaw now lives, and was left money for his care by Charles’ brother, Robert R. Burnet. Charles and his daughter Margaret are buried in Berea Cemetery.

James also married a Kernochan, Mary. Each had a daughter who married Shaws. The Shaws and Kernochans had close connections in early days and even in recent days for a Shaw and a Kernochan had a store in partnership on Broadway, Newburgh, not many years ago. The children of James and Mary Kernochan Burnet were Ann, Robert, Sally 1785-1821, Eleanor 1798-1821, Rachel 1808-1883, Clinton and Elizabeth. Sally married Samuel Houston and they are buried in Goodwill Cemetery. Eleanor married Thomas Shaw 1794-1871 and they are buried in Little Britain. This Thomas Shaw is to be distinguished from the Thomas G. Shaw who married Elizabeth M. Kernochan. They were probably distant cousins. Rachel married Robert Brown and they are buried in Goodwill Cemetery. Clinton married Jane Henderson and went to Michigan.

George 1770-1849 married Mary Brown and had no children. On April 22, 1801 James Burnet bought the fifty acre farm of Rev. Thomas G. Smith for $1350. Two days later he sold his seventy five acres on the old Burnet place to his son Robert R. He gave the new farm to his son George, and came and lived with him. This is the farm now owned by Henry Wold. James Burnet added five acres to the farm on the south by purchase from George Denniston in 1805 for $125. After the death of his father and mother George Burnet bought ten more acres on the south. He is probably the one who enlarged the house. In 1810 he mortgaged the farm to his sister Ann’s husband John McLean and lost it.

Mary was baptized in 1779 as recorded in the Bethlehem Church records. This seems strange for Rev. Robert Annan was pastor of the Little Britain church, and the Burnets were Little Britain church people. She married Lucas Belyou and had two sons, Robert 1816-1885 who married Elsey Eager Milliken, and James B. 1798-1854 who married Elizabeth Crofford (Crawford?).

Thomas 1776-1836 married Gracie Smith 1777-1871, in 1800. She was a daughter of Rev. Thomas Gibson Smith. He probably recommended the farm to his father, seeing not only Gracie but the fine farm in his frequent calls, and his father bought it in 1801. Their children were Sally who married William Brown, Katie who married William Welling, Jane who married Moses Estis, Mary who married J. R. Reynolds, Hannah who married Samuel Smith, Thirza who married Henry Shultz, Gibson who married Jane McClure, George who married Marie Johnson, Amzi 1808-1891 who married Joanna Granger and John who married Fannie Horton. Thomas and Gracie moved west. He died near Lyons, Wayne County, N. Y. in 1836.

Margaret married James Jackson. They were members of the Neelytown church. Their children were Charles 1802-?, William 1806-?, Burnet 1808-?, Mary Anne 1812-?, Caroline 1814-?, Virgil 1817-? and John McLean 1821-?.

James Burnet made a will. "In the name of God Amen. I James Burnet of Little Britain in the township of New Windsor County of Orange and state of New York being weak in body but of sound and perfect mind and memory blessed by Almighty God for the same...December 13 in the year of our Lord Christ 1807..." He mentioned his wife Mary. He left to his son George the fifty five acre farm and he was to care for his mother, to his son Robert R. fifteen pounds, to his son Thomas fifteen pounds, to his daughter Ann, wife of John McLean five pounds, to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of William Wellings five pounds, to his daughter Mary, wife of Luke Bellew five pounds, to his daughter Margaret, wife of James Jackson five pounds, to his granddaughter Mary Kevin five pounds, to his son James the bond "I have against him except twenty pounds," to his son Charles twenty pounds. The witnesses were Neal McArthur, Thomas Nicholson and Henry McArthur. The executors were his sons Robert R. and George.

James Burnet was a man of good reputation. He died Dec. 23, 1807. His wife died a few months later, July 28, 1808. They are buried in the Little Britain cemetery. Two small stones mark their graves near the big stone of their better known oldest son Robert R. Both father and son were lieutenants in the Revolution.

Much of the above lists and dates was supplied by Mr. David Burnett of Middletown. If any reader can supply more information about these people, please send it, especially the location of the farms where they lived.

Two Postscripts to the article about the Robert Burnet family, Orange County Post, April 20, 1970.

1. The Burnet Coat of Arms was loaned by William Brown of Newburgh Free Academy, a member of the Burnet Family.

2. There is disagreement about the married name of Robert Burnet’s daughter Mary. Ruttenber calls her Mary McCarty, but her father calls her Mary McArthur in his will. Robert Burnet evidently dictated his will, for his handwriting is legible but his signature almost illegible. His pronunciation could have been equally poor. So his will does not settle the matter.

But there are other proofs. Unfortunately Ruttenber was quoted in the article. Since then, a search has been made, which we fear Ruttenber, writing the history of the whole county, did not have time to do. McArthur seems to be the correct name.

Spelling was often inaccurate in those early days even as now. In NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION, Neal McArthur is listed in Ulster County Militia Second Regiment. The index also suggests "McCarthy see McArthur."

In 1787 Isaac Belknap Senior of New Windsor willed to his son Benjamin "all that Farm I lately purchased of Niel McArthur."

In the 1790 Census, town of Newburgh, there is listed Neil McCarter, that spelling being about half way between McCarty and McArthur, having one male over 16, four males under 16 and two females, which is almost correct for that family.

In the 1800 Census, town of New Windsor, Neil McArthur is listed near Molineaux (probably Mulliner) Burnet and Telford.

In the 1820 Census, town of New Windsor, Mary McArthur is listed as head of family.

In the 1825 state Census, town of New Windsor, Mary McArthur is listed as head of family.

When James Burnet, brother of Mary, made his will, two of the witnesses were Neal McArthur and Henry McArthur. As two of Mary’s sons were Neal and Henry, these witnesses were evidently James’ nephews. Neal, Neil, Niel had as many variations in spelling as McCarty, McCarthy, McCarter, McArthur. The weight of the evidence is for McArthur. Sorry we did not know that when the Robert Burnet article was written.

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