I decided to join the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks project for 2021 a few days ago. I anticipated with great excitement getting the prompt for this week today (with many great stories about my ancestors whirling in my head). Then I learned the prompt for this week is “voting’ and my excitement waned. For I really don’t have any great voting related stories or politicians / suffragettes that are my direct ancestors (or closely related family members). I thought about expanding it to the third-cousin level and writing about U.S. President John Adams (who was a direct 3rd cousin to one of my ancestors) or even further with Presidents Richard Nixon or Gerald Ford, who are my 7th cousins a few times removed. Finally, I settled on writing the short entry which you will find below.
Nathaniel Cole and his son Nathaniel Cole, Jr. of Colesville, Broome County, New York are my 4th and 5th great-grandfathers. There are many interesting and cool stories to be shared about them and their families, but keeping it within the subject of being related to “voting” is what this entry will be about in general.
Nathaniel Cole came to Broome County, New York in 1795 and in that year, he first struck his axe into the giant trees of the hill named after him to build his home.
The original house of Nathaniel Cole was expanded in 1800 and was the first tavern in the area, as well as a meeting hall and social center (and later was the site for court hearings and trials).
“Cole’s Tavern was impressive. It had two front entrances and two large chimneys at
either side housed large interior fireplaces. Ground level access was into a large entry
hall that featured fine carpentry. There was a bar and a sitting parlor on the first floor.
A broad staircase led up to the ballroom on the second floor. The ballroom spanned the
full front of the building and featured a raised bandstand. Wax mannequins of
celebrities graced the ballroom. Two stories, painted red with hipped roofs and 5 large
windows across the upper front and each side of the clapboard structure, the tavern
stood out in the settlement at its highest crest.” (1)
In 1806, Nathaniel Cole, Sr. was granted approval to establish a post office, and to serve as
the first postmaster. This area which had been called the ‘Cambridge Settlement’ officially became Colesville.
In 1821, the citizens petitioned Broome County to be recognized as a town. The county approved the application and on the 2nd day of April 1821, it was split off from the town of Windsor to create its own township..
The home and tavern (Cole’s Tavern) of my ancestor Nathaniel Cole was assigned as the polling place for the first official election and town meeting in 1822. John Warren Harpur, the son of local prominent citizen Robert Harpur, was elected Supervisor. Nathaniel Cole, Jr. (along with Elisha Huntington) were chosen as overseers of the poor. Also selected were a town clerk, assessors, commissioners of highways, town collector, commissioners of schools, inspectors of schools, sealer of weights and measures, and constables.
In general an overseer of the poor was an official who administered poor relief such as money, food, and clothing to those in need; including orphans, widows, and paupers in general. An overseer of the poor was responsible for estimating how much poor relief money was needed in order to set the poor rate, collect the poor rate (the monies), and distribute relief to the poor. If there was a poorhouse, then they were also responsible for supervising the poorhouse. Nathaniel Cole, Jr’s duties as an overseer of the poor, would have been very similar to those described, with the exception of supervising a poorhouse, for in 1822 there was not a poorhouse or poor farm in Broome County. It wasn’t until 1833 that the Broome County Poor Farm was created in the town of Dickinson. It was also known as the Broome County Alms House. Surprisingly, the building was not demolished until 2010.
Side note: I will say that maybe writing just about a specific subject has allowed me to share just a small amount of specific information about a ancestor and their life, and that’s okay (even if the verbose voice in my head disagrees). We’ll see how next week goes with a new prompt that I may find easier.
If you’d like to learn more about the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project, please visit here:
Or join the Facebook group Generations Cafe.
References and Sources:
- Colesville Comprehensive Plan – FINAL 2015.pdf (gobroomecounty.com)
- History_of_Colesville(3).pdf (stier.org)
- Overseer of the poor – Wikipedia
- Broome County Alms House – Wikipedia
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