Eveline Allen, 1815–1899
I discovered A Narrative History of Remsen, New York, 1789–1898 while researching my 3 x great-grandmother, Eveline Allen. As the title suggests, it’s a local history book, self-published in 1914 by one Millard Fillmore Roberts; only 250 copies were printed at the time, but as with many such volumes, it’s been rescued from obscurity in the digital age and granted a new life online. A PDF version is freely available via the link above.
A quick search through the book revealed several extracts from letters written by Eveline, late in her life, to the author, who drew upon her memories as a resource to fill out his knowledge of Remsen in the early to mid-1800s. His preface describes her thus:
For much valuable assistance I am indebted to Mrs. Eveline (Allen) Rockwood, of Union City, Pa., long a resident of Remsen, and who from the time she was fifteen years of age taught school here and in surrounding districts for several years, thus having a most favorable opportunity for knowing intimately the people who resided here at that time. From various reminiscences written me after she had attained the age of eighty years and upwards, I have been able to give in these pages many names and historical facts that otherwise could not have been obtained ; and thus, only for her superior intellect, retentive memory, and kindly interest in aiding the work, it would have fallen far short of what it is.
Clearly this was written in a spirit of polite gratitude, and there may be some flattery going on, but I’m choosing to be impressed with Eveline nonetheless. If you’re only going to know one personal thing about a nineteenth-century ancestor, it might as well be that she had a “superior intellect”.
Eveline was born in Massachusetts in 1815, the second daughter of Calvin Allen and Polly Leach. The family moved to Remsen when she was three years old. Calvin, a carpenter, built numerous houses in Remsen, including the one in which he and Polly raised their family of five daughters and one son. There was, I think, some vague connection on both sides (as Calvin and Polly were distant cousins) to the Revolutionary patriot Ethan Allen, but I haven’t yet felt moved to sit and search for that; if it’s there at all, it’s rather unexcitingly distant.
Roberts quotes Eveline at some length on topics relating to the religious affairs of the village, such as the following:
“About 1821 or ’22, my mother was received into membership of the Congregational church, in the old school house, in Remsen village. There were two services, one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon. At the afternoon service on the same day, three of her children were baptised. I think Rev. Evan Roberts was the minister. I remember the communion service and the Sabbath school. Other churches united with us at different times, holding special meetings for one, two or three days, first in Trenton perhaps, then Holland Patent, Western, etc. Rev. Evan Roberts served this church for some time—Dr. Everett came often.
“Then a Rev. Wilcox became pastor, and about 1825 there was a religious revival, and many came into the church. In 1830-31, an evangelist spent several weeks here, and a general revival of religion extending through the several towns, Remsen was greatly blessed, and over sixty joined the church, myself among the number. A Rev. Waters from New Hartford was pastor at this time. Among the converts was our Dr. Earl Bill, then over sixty years old. His son, Charles Oliver Bill, was expected to join the church the same day, but did not. The next day, August 2, 1830, he, with two lady cousins and his sister, visited Trenton Falls. The water was high, the rocks slippery, and while walking with his sister near the edge of the chasm, his foot slipped and he went into the current and over the falls to the bottom, where his body was found on the following Wednesday.
“And what added to the sadness of the tragedy, the young man was just ready to join the father in business, to make lighter his burden of visiting the sick, and to be the staff of his old age. He was a young man respected and beloved by all who knew him.
“About this time (1830-31), measures were taken to bring about a change in church government or affiliation. I was present when action was taken, changing from Congregational to the Presbyterian church government by uniting with the Presbytery. My father was a delegate, and I remember to have seen him start from home to go with others to represent the Remsen church in the Presbyterian assembly. Removals began which weakened the society, and those left, having no one who was accustomed to lead, and being unable to sustain preaching, all gave up.
“A little band afterwards started a church of some name—Union Church, I think. Members of the former society, with some newly joined, formed this church, but I do not remember that it stood long. Services continued to be held in the Academy until the society became extinct.”
If Roberts is to be taken at his word, Eveline’s teaching career would have begun around 1830, when she was fifteen – so, around the same period as some of the developments in the local church that she recalls above. Roberts’s description of the Remsen educational system suggests a modest, one-room-schoolhouse sort of arrangement, and the Oneida County Historical Society describes the Remsen village school as “a log building on the northeast side of the turnpike”.
I haven’t yet found a record of Eveline’s marriage to farmer Nathaniel Rockwood, but the first of their seven children was born in 1835, so it seems likely that the children of Remsen had the benefit of her superior intellect for only three or four years before marriage meant that she had to stop teaching. She and Nathaniel left the area for Union City, Pennsylvania at some point in the 1850s. Eveline became a widow at 55, and remained unmarried until her death in 1899 – some fifteen years before Roberts finally published his book – at the age of 83.