Timothy and Lois Bemis are the 5th great grandparents of Pat Renschler on his mother’s side.
Timothy Bemis, son of Timothy Bemis and Martha Wesson, was born at Weston, Middlesex County, Massachusetts on July 19, 1776, fifteen days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He married Lois Rhodes on June 3, 1795 at Marlborough, Cheshire County, New Hampshire.
Timothy is recorded on the 1800 Census of Marlborough, New Hampshire, and the 1820, 1830 and 1840 Censuses of Malone, Franklin County, New York. He died May 24, 1848 on his farm near Malone. He and his wife are buried in the Webster Street Cemetery there. This information can be found on several family history web sites.
However, there is much more to Timothy’s story than just a recitation of dates and places. Timothy moved his family, a wife and seven children, to Malone about 1812. It is not known how they traveled, but many settlers from the New England states crossed Lake Champlain when it was frozen solid. Franklin County is located in upstate New York on the Canadian border. The area is rugged and mountainous, and in 1812 it was nearly uninhabited. The Bemis family must have suffered many hardships while establishing their 130 acre farm in the wilderness.
Timothy is one of our patriot ancestors, serving in the War of 1812 as a private in Stephen D. Hickok’s Militia on its march to Plattsburg, New York on September 11 to September 20, 1814. The Battle of Plattsburg, also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, occurred when British troops converged on Plattsburg which was defended by New York and Vermont militias and US Federal troops. The British were defeated and retreated into Canada. Hickok’s militia, which was raised in Franklin County, New York, responded to the alarm of the battle of Plattsburgh, but didn’t reach there in time to participate in the engagement. Timothy’s pay as a Private was $2.66. The only record found of his service is in the Historical Sketches of Franklin County and Its Several Towns With Many Brief Biographical Sketches. By Frederick J Seaver, published in 1918. The militias were local organizations and many of their records have been lost.
Timothy built a saw mill on Branch brook near his home. It was successful and he was considered wealthy at the time of his death.
The Franklin Telegraph of March 9, 1826 printed the minutes of the Annual Town Meeting. Timothy Bemis was named a Fence Viewer. The job of fence viewer was to inspect fences, notify owners of needed repairs, and to settle fence disputes. Fence viewers were also called haywards.
Timothy’s wife, Lois, bore him thirteen children. Our ancestor, Hiram, was born in 1798. She was 42 years old when her last child, Charles, was born in 1817. Lois died August 2, 1856 at the age of 81 years.
No biographical research project is complete without searching probate records. Many years ago, before PCs and the internet, during a research trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, I located microfilm copies of Timothy Bemis’ will located in Volume 2, page 212 of Franklin County probate files. That’s when Timothy’s story became interesting—a blind man changing his will shortly before his death, a will kept in a hat, the previous will burned in a stove, a housekeeper who was the mother of two illegitimate children, and a legitimate son challenging the validity of the second will.
The second will is dated November 14, 1844. In it he leaves very small amounts to most of his children, sons Varanes and Hiram (our ancestor) received $25 each; the heirs of daughter Nancy received $5; daughters Eunice Story and Mary Perry received $20 each; son Ebenezer received 28 acres and use of the saw mill for five years. To son Charles Bemis he gave half the saw mill and two houses, and half of 136 acres of land with equipment, tools, etc. Now comes the interesting part, to Harry Bemis, son of Olive R. Bradish he left half of the saw mill and two houses, and half the 136 acres, equipment, tools, etc. Also one bed and bedding, a brass fancy clock also his brass bed and bedding and schooling till he arrives to the age of twenty-one. He also left his pew in the Baptist church and a horse stall “marked T B” in the shed attached to the church to Charles Bemis and Harry Bemis. To Olive Bradish’s daughter, Josephine Bemis, he left a bed and bedding, $400, and her maintenance, clothing and schooling until she reached eighteen years. He directed that Olive R Bradish receive her support and maintenance during her natural life or as long as she remained unmarried. After Timothy provided for the housekeeper, and near the end of the will he directed that his “beloved wife” Lois Bemis be supported equally by Charles and Harry Bemis. Lastly, he directed that grave stones be erected on his and his wife’s graves.
Timothy & Lois’s son Varanes contested the will. The testimony in that suit included: Timothy Bemis was blind, he could only see some light. Olive Bradish was in the room when the first will was destroyed. She had lived in Mr. Bemis home for fifteen years, until the day of Mr. Bemis death. (Olive would have arrived at the Bemis household about 1833. Harry was born in 1834 and Josephine in 1840.) Olive Bradish admitted that she and her daughter had read the first will which was kept in a drawer. The executor stated he put the second will in his hat, what happened to it after that isn’t stated. One of the persons who signed the will as a witness stated the will was not read and he did not know what it contained.
In December 1848 the county judge found that the will was duly executed by Timothy Bemis. Olive Bradish never married and lived until 1877.