There were many of them in Little Britain from 1730 through the 1800ís

There were many of them in Little Britain from 1730 through the 1800’s. Now only one is left.

According to records sent a few years ago by Edna Denniston of Rockville Center, NY: the Dennistons trace back to the time of William, Duke of Normandy. One of his followers was named DeNyson. The name became changed from the Norman DeNyson to Scotch Dennistown. From being French Catholics, they became ardent followers of John Knox. For service in Ireland with William of Orange, they were given land in Ireland. Farming and living there became difficult, and many decided to come to America. Among these were four families at Longford, Charles Clinton, Alexander Denniston, John Young and James Little. Charles Clinton organized a party of 94 and another group of about 100 came with them on the George and Ann. The ship’s captain was a scoundrel. He had their passage money, and they brought money for land, farming tools, seeds, provisions and books. He decided to lengthen the voyage by zigzagging across the ocean till all would die and he could have their possessions. Many did die. For the list see Ruttenber’s History of the Town of New Windsor, page 179.

After five months, they paid the captain more money, and were let off the boat at Cape Cod. They had planned to go to Pennsylvania, but any dry land would do.

They came to New York to buy land. Patentee Andrew Johnston was there to sell his 2000 acres in farm size lots. Charles Clinton’s deed is registered in Kingston, for this part of Orange County was then in Ulster County, 215 acres in the southwest corner of the patent. Strangely, the deed of his brother-in-law Alexander Denniston is not registered, but we know he had about 200 acres in the southeast corner of the patent, bordering the Clinton land. Charles Clinton’s wife was Elizabeth Denniston.

Alexander Denniston’s wife died on the voyage or at Cape Cod. He married Frances Little, a passenger on the George and Ann, and they proceeded to have six sons and four daughters. They were James, 1733-1806, George L. (for Little, his mother’s name) 1735-1804, Alexander, 1737-1818, William, 1744-1825, John 1750-1836, Charles ?-1808. Their daughters were Elizabeth who married Henry Douw, Mary who married William Mulliner, and Catherine who married Edward Falls.

The years went by. Alexander Denniston’s sons needed farms of their own, and he helped them. James settled in Blooming Grove. He married first Jane Crawford, daughter of David Crawford of Little Britain, and had six children. His second wife was Rachel Mulliner Falls.

William’s farm was near the town of Cornwall on what is now Jackson Ave. He built a fine brick house, still standing. The bricks were brought from England. He married Fanny Little, and had Isaac, born in 178, and others. Isaac married Jane McDowell, daughter of Thomas McDowell, and they had six sons and two daughters.

John had a farm in the Mount Airy region. He married Ann Moffatt and had two sons and two daughters. Anne, 1780-1844, married Jacob Schultz.

Charles had land in the town of Newburgh, and married Mary Blake Milligan.

Alexander was given the eastern part of his father’s land. He married Nancy Gray, and they had five children. His second marriage was to Margaret Jane Niven, and they had five more children. His third marriage was to Martha Sears Ellison, but they had no children. The site of his house has not been found. It could be near the home of the Keans on Station Road.

Alexander Denniston was a member of Bethlehem Presbyterian Church as was his father, who brought his church letter from Ireland. The younger Alexander had a theological quarrel with the church officers; Deism was wide spread in those years. He was accused, but maintained that he was true to the Lord.

George L. is the most important of the sons from the Little Britain point of view. He inherited the western part of his father’s land. He married first Isabella Craig, 1733-1770. Their children were Alexander, who died young, David who married Fanny Denniston, and Martha who married, first William Trumble, and second Enoch Gridley, and Isabella who married Charles Blake. George L.’s second wife was Mary McClaughry. Their children were Elizabeth, 1779-?, William G., 1780-1832, George, 1785-? And James, 1788-1850.

George L. seems not to have lived on the land he inherited from his father. He bought land further west, probably needing a home before his father’s death. In 1802 he and his wife Mary sold 185 acres to Stephen Ingersoll. How much earlier he bought it and from whom has not been discovered. It is on record that in 1798 Henry Mandeville rented from George Denniston a house 24 by 31 feet, one storey, with five windows, and a frame kitchen 12 by 12 feet. This question is: did he live in it or buy it only for investment? Probably both. It is the small ell of the Denniston-Bacher home near Rock Tavern Post Office.

Stephen Ingersoll sold to Henry Miller. It remained Miller property for many years and several generations, but came back to the same Denniston line when several Miller heirs sold the property to Walter Denniston in 1910. Agnes Denniston Bacher inherited it from her father, Walter Denniston, but lost it when MTA took 8000 acres of Little Britain land against the wishes of the owners.

George L. lived on McClaughry land. He married Mary McClaughry, and what was hers became his. Also he bought from the other McClaughry heirs. This is the land his son James inherited. James too bought from other McClaughry heirs till the Dennistons seemed to own most of Little Britain.

George L. gave his inheritance of about 125 acres to his son William G., 1780-1832. The Roosje home is on this land with its date 1837. He could have built an earlier house and it was improved in 1837, or it may have been built later by George W., 1802-1879, or he could have lived where some lilac bushes and a cellar hole a little north of the 1837 house mark the home of an early Denniston.

William G.’s heir was George W., 1802-1879. He could have lived in the 1837 house. He married Mary Mulliner. Their children were William, Alexander and George W., 1830-1903.

This George W. married Agnes Stewart, 1830-1893. Their child was Walter. He married Mary McCartney and they were the parents of Agnes Denniston Bacher. She is the only Denniston still living in Little Britain in 1981.

In 1859, George W. (1830-1903) bought from William Couser the 65 acres, 50 of which date back to Charles Cook, part of which is now the property of Charles McCracken. This is on Station Road. He sold it in 1876. Thus it was a Denniston farm from 1859-1876.

James, son of George L., married Prudence Morrison. Their children were Mary, who married William Miller, John M. who married Elizabeth Weeks, Hamilton, who married Mary Weeks and Jane, who married John B. Kernochan.

James’ second marriage was to Nancy Stewart. Their children were Sarah, George Alexander, who married Mary Wood, James who married Jane Anderson, and David, who married Elizabeth Traphagen. He owned over 200 acres in the Little Britain church area. James’ third marriage was to Lydia Peck. Their daughter Josephine married Co. Thomas Bradley.

David Denniston, who married Elizabeth Traphagen, built a small house about 1860 in a corner of his property on the Salisbury Road, so her parents could live near her. This house became Wallace property 100 years ago.

Much more could be written about the James Dennistons. In fact, much more could be written about all the Dennistons. It would fill a sizable book.

From 1730 to the present, the Dennistons served in peace and in war. They settled in an undeveloped country and did their full share to change it to productive land with good government. For instance, the Precinct Journal of 1763 lists George Denniston as an assessor, James as an overseer of roads, Alexander as a constable. When the Revolution came, George was in charge of a militia company with his five brothers serving with him. They served in all phases of the war.

The Denniston story has to stop before it is completed. Care has been taken, but if mistakes are found, Please report them.

Trace back the history of almost any farm in Little Britain and you will find a Denniston.

We salute the Dennistons, splendid folks of early Little Britain.


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Created by Elizabeth Finley Frasier


April 21, 2002