History of the Comfort Ancestors

 

 

Introduction to
"HISTORY OF THE COMFORT ANCESTORS"

The following is a document I found among my late father's papers, typeset in two justified columns on an 8 " X 11" quality rag stock. It was dated by him in pencil as having been received and filed on "8/18/62." I have no indication of the dates on which it was written or printed, nor of how many copies were printed. It is conceivably the only surviving copy of the document, but considering the genealogical work done by some members of the Comfort family in producing that book from which I copied most of the information for The Descendants of Robert Comfort in America, I suspect other copies of this document may still exist, and I apologize for any violation of any existing copyright that may be held by someone else. No copyright notice is printed on my document, and if none can be proven to exist, I (John G. Boice) claim a copyright in the year 2001 but give permission to freely print the document providing that it is printed in it's entirety without emendation, addition or deletion, and that it include this introduction of mine as well as the final "compliments" of the authoress, Mrs. Florence Comfort Gilbert, and my concluding discussion about the document.

I reproduce the document exactly as I received it, without editing, despite a few typographical errors as well as what appear to me to be minor inconsistencies. I wish readers to see it as it is, without "(sic)" interjected wherever I think the authoress or the printer made an error. As a one-time professional proofreader, this requires immense discipline on my part, I hope you all realize!

But from my other readings on the Comfort family history, I have every reason to accept it as being a substantially accurate and valuable family document. The only major historical problem I perceive is that, as with other genealogists of the Comfort family, Mrs. Gilbert does not acknowledge or realize that there was a Robert Comfort, Senior and a Robert Comfort, Junior. Either they both emigrated from Britain to Newtown (Long Island), New York together or else Robert, Jr. was born within a year or so after arrival. Sometimes Comfort researchers are puzzed by conflicting data in the early 1700's about "Robert Comfort" because they assume there was only one "Robert Comfort." I will discuss this and other minor problems afterwards.

 


 

HISTORY OF THE COMFORT ANCESTORS

The name Comfort was originally Montfort. At the time the Puritans left the English Church these Puritan Montforts changed their name to Comfort. They are the descendents of the Earl of Montfort, founder of the British Parliament.

There is a tradition that three brothers named Comfort came too New York from England. One settled in New Jersey, one in Old Point Comfort, Virginia, and one, Robert, who is our ancestor married Phoebe Thorn and settled at Fishkill on the Hudson River. Richard Comfort (Robert's son) of the Amer. Revolution was born Aug. 15, 1745 and died at Southport, Chemung Co., in 1834, was his son. He served in the second Regiment of Dutchess Co. He married Charity Young. Their Children were Edward, Silas, Robert, Elizabeth, Jacob, Sarah, Mary, Hannah, Benjamin, Charity, Mercy, Thomas and John, who was our ancestor. He married Phoebe Gildersleeve.

Going back to Silas who wrote "The End of the Argument" a book which is still referred to by clergymen. Sons of Silas were Charles, Merville, and George F. who was professor of Modern Languages in Syracuse University.

Joseph McKune came to Harmony from Orange Co. in 1812. His son Robert married Mary Hillborn (a Quakeress) whose forebears came to Philadelphia with Wm. Penn. John Hillborn and wife came north of Philadelphia on horseback. She with a young baby. They settled at the mouth of the Cascade Creek and lived in a "lean-to" until they could build a cabin. This baby grew up and married Robert McKune and were our ancestors. Their daughter Mary Ann McKune married James Comfort (son of John), and not until as my grandmother told me she had rejected a proposal of marriage from Robert E. Lee, who was then a student at West Point.

Going back to John Comfort, to quote from letters I received from Attorney Randall Comfort of Long Island, a man named Treadwell waited to kill and rob John Comfort, who was returning from Philadelphia with the money he had received from the sale of his raft of logs which he had floated down the river. A man named Harper came along before John Comfort did, and Treadwell killed him thinking it was John Comfort. Treadwell was the first man hung in Susquehanna Co. The rope woven by Mrs. Elizabeth Sands is still preserved. Another story of John Comfort's honesty and integrity. In his lumber business he borrowed $1000 and gave his note. The man from whom he borrowed the money, brought the note back to him for safe keeping. John Comfort was also a Captain in the war of 1812 and a pioneer of Methodism in the territory. John's son James and Mary Ann McKune had thirteen children. Those whom I can trace were, Flora Phoebe, Helen, Sarah, Elizabeth, Esther, Oliver, Nelson, John and George. Nelson, John and George served in the Civil War, George as a chaplain. An interesting article in the Pottsville Library concerns George. Many years ago Rev. George Comfort rode horse back thru the Schylkill Valley as a Persiding Elder in the Methodist Church. He was called a Ciruit Rider. Another item of interest, Flora Comfort's husband Gilbert McKune was wounded in the Civil war. I remember his telling us, when we were children, of seeing soldiers riding in battle with blood running from their ears caused by the roar of the artillery.

Also another story-James Comfort's sister married a man named Hotchkiss. He taught school at Lykens, Pa. Near us. Later her went to Virginia to teach. When the war started, he joined Robert E. Lee's staff. His wife (I only remember her as Aunt Hotchkiss) wrote to some of her Northern Relatives to send their sons down to fight agaist the South. They had room for them 4 x 6. Later after Uncle Hotchkiss died she again wrote to her Northern relatives and asked to be forgiven and to come north and visit. Of course she was accepted. I remember her visit. I have not been able to find much information about the Lyons family, who always came to our reunions. Only the story of David Lyon who helped throw the "detestible tea" over board into the Boston Harbor at the Boston Tea Party.

    Compliments of

          Mrs. Florence Comfort Gilbert

 


 

Discussion of the document
"History of Comfort Ancestors"

First of all, I would like to thank (I assume postumously) Mrs. Florence Comfort Gilbert for her document, which —together with other efforts by others in the Comfort line— makes family research so much easier and more rewarding for those of us who have survived into the twenty-first century.

The main problem I perceive with this document is the failure to realise that there was both a father and a son named Robert who came over. The senior variously also signed as "Robart" and had apparently sometimes spelt his surname as "Cumfort," to add to the confusion of us modern birth-certificate, SS-card oriented researchers!

As indicated in The Descendants of Robert Comfort in America, I conclude that the father of Richard Comfort, born 15 August, 1745 was actually Robert Junior. Robert Comfort , Jr., married Elizabeth Betts on 19 October, 1722. If one assumes a marriage age at roughly 16-22 years old (sadly, I have no d.o.b. for either Robert Sr. nor Jr,), this makes a paternity at age 39 to 45 the likely range for Robert, Jr's siring of Richard. Not unreasonable.

But if one assumes only one "Robert Comfort" then one is faced with this problem. How old would an immigrant have to be to make a solo transatlanic move in the late 1600's? Since "Robert Comfort" came to Newtown, Long Island in 1698, we might safely assume him to be at least 16 to 18 years old, minimum. That would mean that by the time Richard was born in 1745, the "Robert" who came over would have been 63 to 65 years old. Not impossible —but not likely, either.

The problem is solved, however, if my notes are correct, and there was a Robert Comfort, senior who emigrated with his family, which included a young Robert, junior. Robert, Sr. could have been 20, or he could have been 40 in 1698. That doesn't matter so much. But if he had a baby named Robert with him, a marriage by a "Robert Comfort" to Elizabeth Betts in 1722 makes much more sense --as does having a child named Richard in 1745.

Further, the record of Robert being or becoming a member of Captain Daniel Stevenson's Military Company at Newtown in 1715 would make good sense: Robert junior would have been at least 17 or 18 by then if he'd emigrated with his parents, or a couple years younger if he was born here. After marriage to Miss Betts, they could have removed up the Hudson to Fishkill in Dutchess County, as I believe they did about 1740 (where I believe evidence shows Richard was born).

Last on this topic, Mrs. Gilbert has Robert married to a Phoebe Thorn. I have him married to an Elizabeth Betts, daughter of Mercy Whitehead & Thomas Betts. This discrepency is also reconciled if we can assume that it was Robert, senior who was married to Phoebe Thorn, not Robert, junior. While at this time I have no documentary record of this marriage to Phoebe Thorn, I urge other Comfort researchers to adopt it as a working hypothesis and try to substantiate Phoebe Thorne as Robert, senior's wife.

A second problem I see is in the second paragraph, concerning Richard. Mrs. Gilbert has the correct birthdate for him, but in specifying 1834 as the year of his death, I believe she errs by a decade —or else it is a printer's error. My other source says Richard died on the 6th or 7th of March, 1824, making him a bit over 82 at death, rather than 92 as her document would have it. His passing at Southport, Chemung County provides no problem for me, as I have no information to the contrary.

A comment on the story of Mary Ann McKune's refusal of a marriage propsal from a young Robert E. Lee at West Point: this detail is also mentioned in my other Comfort Family source, so I have no reason to doubt it. Mary Ann must have been quite a girl! And what about James Comfort? On the battlefield of the heart, he out-generaled the great Lee! (Do you see why I love researching this family? I hope someone has pictures of these two that can be digitized!)

John Comfort was one of the founders of Lanesboro, PA., operating a sawmill and gristmill after moving there around 1808. In those days millers and their operations were very nearly THE commercial center of most rural communities. It is not a wonder that a man in his position would be the target for the frontier criminal element, as related in this document. Still, I have not as yet researched the details of the Harper murder and Treadwell's subsequent hanging, but it should be fairly easy to substantiate or refute if it was indeed the first criminal execution in the county.

"Aunt Hotchkiss" must be Sarah Ann Comfort, daughter of John Comfort and his second wife, Lydia Ann Bridgman. That would make her a half-sister to James S. Comfort, whose mother was John's first wife, Phoebe Gildersleeve. Sarah Ann married a Jedediah Hotchkiss in 1858, so the chronology would work in harmony with Mrs. Gilbert's recollections. The only error in her story I can detect is that she must have meant that Aunt Hotchkiss asked for Northern relatives to fight for the South, not against it --else she would not have felt the need to ask forgiveness after the war before she could come visit.

     "Compliments of"
              John G. Boice

 

...go home to "Comfort"

webpage copyright 2001 by John G. Boice
[email protected]

last updated on: 28 March, 2001