Burch, Spencer, Stark, Neff, Thornton, Billings, Keech, Keese (Keyes), McKee…families @ Quaker Hill in Dutchess County, Unadilla in Otsego County, Mohawk & Amsterdam in Montgomery County, and at town of Western in Oneida County:
I have just spent several days going over every bit of info I could find online about these families who were so closely connected in Montgomery County and/or Dutchess County or @ Unadilla, and then @ Oneida County. I started researching my early Keech's six years ago with other researchers in Ontario and with Dan Touse in New York, who had also spent many years working with other Keech researchers before I got started.
It has always frustrated me that we could not put the pieces together farther back than our known ancestor 1763 James Keech who applied for a military pension for his service in the Rev. War, (his claim was rejected). Dan has always been pretty sure that the name of 1763 James Keech’s father was George- and I agree. I can only guess at his year of birth- my assumption is anywhere between 1720 and 1730 but from hereon in I will refer to him as 1730 George Keech.
In examining many of the applications that have surfaced for those persons who were trying to get a pension for their military service during the Revolutionary War, it seems to be a common thread that persons who filled out affidavits in support of any particular application were often relatives. One of the persons who filled out an affidavit on 1763 James Keech's behalf was Thomas Thornton of Western, Oneida County. We knew the Thornton, Burch, and Spencer families were connected to our Keech’s but some vital piece of information was missing, so that we weren’t connecting all the dots.
As of last week, I have the documents that were prepared for Thomas in regards to his military pension for service in the American Revolution and the ones that his wife, (Olive nee Keyes) filed as she tried to obtain a widow's pension- I will get these pages transcribed and online as soon as I can, because they reveal a connection between some of these families that had previously eluded me. That connection has been the Keech family all along.
As I worked through the Keech genealogy, this statement always bothered me, taken from an old book somewhere, that “sisters of Jonathan Spencer were the wives of Jeremiah Birch, Jonathan Stark and Jeremiah Thornton”. Jonathan Spencer was born 1744-1745, his first wife was Ruth Mudge, his second Martha Keech, whom we knew to be the sister of our 1763 James Keech. As far as I could tell from well researched Spencer genealogy, Jonathan did NOT have sisters married to these men. But they WERE related- they were his Keech sisters-in law...! These Keech women we are talking about were born anywhere between 1748 and 1768, and I can identify some of them, but not all.
I am still stumped by which Keech sister was married to a Jonathan Stark- there is a Jonathan Stark in Unadilla on the 1820 and 1830 census’s- but is this the same Jonathan or a son? There is a Jonathan Stark who died in 1836 and is buried @ Unadilla- is this the Jonathan Stark who was married to Tryphosa Greenman and if so, who was his father? Tryphosa’s Jonathan was born about 1790 and could easily be a son of an older Jonathan who was married to one of the Keech women. One of the other Stark connections in this family would be Caty Neff b. 1767 married to John Stark b. 1763- Caty’s brother Henry Neff born Sept. 10, 1769 was married to Johanna Keyes who was born about 1770-1775. Johanna Keyes was the daughter of Nathan Keyes Sr. and his wife Johanna KEETCH, the latter born about 1752. Johanna is another Keech sister from the same family (daughter of 1730 George). Caty and Henry Neff were children of Jacob & Catrina Neff, there is excellent information online about this Neff family at this site:
or just type in Genealogy of a Neff Family and the pages will come up. There is only one son listed for Henry Neff and his wife Johanna Keyes but I am sure there were others. The Keyes surname also shows up as Keys, Kees, Keese, Kies or Kee and was apparently originally McKee (out of Killingly, Connecticut).
Keyes researchers Gloria Reynolds and Dan Hinckley have been working on their Keyes genealogy, knowing there was a connection between families in Montgomery County, Oneida County, Ohio, Wisconsin and other places. They retrieved documents in which it was confirmed that Stewart Keyes, Nathan Keyes and Eleanor McKee were siblings:
a.) Stewart Keyes was born 1779, was married to Lany Fort and to Barsheba Allen. Stewart died in 1852 in town of Western, Oneida County. We are working on finding his children.
b.) Nathan Keyes was born 1777, married to Mary M., her surname as yet unknown, had ten children; Nathan was born in Montgomery County, but moved with his family to Walworth County, Wisconsin and died there in 1853.
c.) Eleanor McKee was born 1768 and married as her first husband David Crouch, and second to Mathew Wiley. She died sometime between 1861 and 1871 in Camden East, Lennox and Addington County, Ontario as she went there to live with one of her daughters, Julia Crouch who had married John Keech, son of 1763 James.
The document that states that these three were siblings also states that the family surname was originally McKee, but that some families had changed the name to Keyes or Keese. I am fairly certain then that this family is a Killingly, Connecticut McKee family, and that they are descendents of Ebenezer McKee born 1680-1690 and his wife Susannah Cady daughter of 1663 Nicholas Cady & his wife Patience Redland. We just have not been able to connect the senior Nathan or Nathaniel McKee, father of Stewart, Nathan and Eleanor above, to anyone. It is my guess he was born about 1740-1745. Strangely enough, there was a Nathan Kies who was buried @ Plainfield, CT with a wife Joanna who would fit perfectly, but I don’t think Joanna died at that place or is buried there.
Gloria Reynolds and Dan Hinkley had been searching for any clue at all that would reveal the names of the parents for Nathan, Eleanor & Stewart- and hit the jackpot by coming across some information that has been published by Frank Doherty in one of his books about Beekman Patent settlers. Frank refers to Nathan Keese (Senior) being married to Johanna Keetch, daughter of George Keetch of Montgomery County, New York, and that a daughter of Nathan and Johanna’s was Olive Keyes who married Thomas Thornton- Olive having siblings Johanna who married Henry Neff, and Nathan Keyes born 1777 married to Mary M. And because we know that 1777 Nathan was a brother to 1779 Stewart and to 1768 Eleanor, we now have a family group of five known Keyes children for Nathan Keyes senior and his wife Johanna Keetch: Stewart, Nathan, Eleanor, Olive & Johannah. George Keetch and his son in law Nathan Keese both had an account at the Merritt store @ Quaker Hill in Dutchess County, New York in 1767-1769, info taken from "The Settlers of the Beekman Patent, Dutchess County, NY, volume VII, Frank J. Doherty. www.beekmansettlers.com."
Frank Doherty had also included two other children for Nathan & Johanna as Henry Keyes and Jacob Keyes but I have no info about them or verification that they belong in this family. From the pension application documents for Thomas Thornton, I have been able to verify more Keech connections- Olive Keyes wife of Thomas Thornton was born April 1767, and had two AUNTS who signed affidavits on her behalf- Mercy Thornton of Unadilla age 80 years on July 26, 1837 (date of affidavits) states she was a sister to said Olive’s mother (who was Johanna Keetch, daughter of George) and also to Martha Spencer of Unadilla, whom we know to be Martha Keech wife of Jonathan Spencer (!); and that said Olive was the daughter of Nathan and Johanna Kees, and that Olive was married to Thomas Thornton on 28th January 1783 at Florida in Montgomery County, New York.
This does get to be confusing because of the Keese-Keech names, but here is very brief genealogy for George Keetch and family, (and still no idea who HIS wife was):
1. Johanna Keech born 1752, died July 1847 @ Town of Western, Oneida County, New York, wife of Nathan Keese Senior, her death as per this information posted @ Oneida County genweb, note that Stewart W. Keys buried at same place was son of Johanna & Nathan Sr., and we have no idea when Nathan Sr. died or where, or where he is buried- he may have died in Montgomery County; possible seven Keyes children so far for Nathan & Johanna:
Keys Family Cemetery
Webster Hill, Western, NY
This small family cemetery was transcribed by Ruth Traxel & Sara Lewis for the
DAR in October, 1953. Location of the cemetery was listed as off the Rome
Gorge Road, on Webster Hill.
Keys, Stewart W. died August 16, 1852 age 70 yrs
Keys, Barshabe, wife of Stewart Keys, (no dates)
Keese, Johanna, wife of Nathan Keese, died July 1847 age 95 yrs
one small stone marked B. K. (Probably Baby Keese)
two large stones lying flat, plain side up.
2. George Keech Sr. born about 1753, died Jan. 5, 1830 @ Augusta, Oneida County, NY, was married Dec. 14, 1792 @ Warrensburgh, Town of Florida, Montgomery County, NY to Mary Porter, 6 children
3. Mercy Keech married to a Thornton, possibly Jeremiah of Unadilla, Mercy born about 1754, was still alive on 1850 census @ Oneonta, Otsego County, NY..,living with Edmund Marble and his wife Charlotte nee Thornton- Charlotte a daughter of Thomas Thornton and his wife Olive Keyes…I don’t know how Mercy’s husband was related to Thomas Thornton, could they have been brothers? Someone has posted info online that name of Thomas’ mother, or Charlotte’s mother was same elderly Mercy, but she was NOT mother of Thomas, she born 1754, he born 1764. I suspect her husband (Jeremiah?) and Thomas were brothers.
4. John Keech born 1755-1760, was referred to in 1763 James Keech’s pension application, this part taken from much longer deposition:
“That he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers, and served as herein stated: that he was born at New Fairfield, Con. January 1763. No record of *****. Lived at Warrensbush, Montgomery Co., New York, where he ****** ******* lived since war back at same place and since at Western, Oneida Co., N.Y. that he entered the army as a substitute for his brother John Keech at Fort Stanwix, N.Y.”
Although no one has found definite proof, I am sure that same John Keech went to New Brunswick as a Loyalist and was the progenitor of the Keetch and Ketch families of New Brunswick, and York County, Ontario and spread out across North America now. Keetch/Ketch desc’s record that their earliest known ancestor John Ketch was from NYS.
5. Margaret Keech born about 1760 married to Jeremiah Burch- (named in a description online about Martha Keech Spencer)…here is an excerpt from longer piece about Jonathan Spencer family online where ref. is made to 4 other sisters:
“Following them were several Families to whom they were related by marriage, sisters of Jonathan being the wives of Jeremiah Birch, Jonathan Stark and Jeremiah Thornton .... Jeremiah Birch as well as the Spencers had served in the Revolution in the Third Regiment of Tryon County Militia and probably at Oriskany. ...Another relative of Jonathan Spencer was Jalleal Billings, who was a son of one of his sisters. He settled near the bridge that now crosses to Shaver's Corners.”
And here is another online reference to Martha Keech Spencer and her sister Margaret, PLUS a sister who was living at Wyoming Valley, Luzerne, Pennsylvania during the Wyoming Massacre which occurred on July 3, 1778- I don’t know who this sister was, was it Johanna Keetch married to Nathan Keese, or perhaps the sister married to a Jonathan Stark as it is known that the Stark’s were @ the Wyoming Valley at the time of the massacre (see magnificent website of Clovis LaFleur)…or was it Sarah Keech who was married to Samuel Billings, and the infant in her arms was her son, either Jalleal or Jasper Billings?
“She was a woman of remarkable bravery, as is shown by the following: When the Indians, led by the noted Chief Brant, made a raid in the vicinity of the settlement, and the men were away fighting, the frightened women sought refuge in old Fort Plains (sic), and she stood guard. She came from a family well known for their bravery and fighting ability. James Keach, one of her brothers, in a raid on Johnstown, during the Revolution, captured the suit of clothes in which Sir William Johnson was knighted. When a band of Tories made a raid on the home of her sister, Margaret Burch, in search of Mr. Burch, the redoubtable pioneer woman met them half way and repulsed them with a red hot poker. Another sister, having been driven from her home in the Wyoming Valley, fled across the country on foot, carrying an infant son in her arms.”
Sarah Keach was born 1748-1750, date of death unknown, married to Samuel Billings who was born 1747-died 1803, Samuel born @ Stonington, Connecticut, died at Plains, Pennsylvania; some researchers list name of their eldest child as “Julian” Billings, but he was prob. same as Jalleal mentioned above, or possibly even Jehiel Billings, as Samuel had a brother Jehiel Billings. Samuel was the son of Increase Billings Jr. (1724-1808) & his wife Phoebe Stark (born 1726). (Same Phoebe Stark was an aunt to 1763 John Stark who married Caty Neff). Children listed online for Samuel Billings and Sarah Keach are: Jalleal or Jehiel, Samuel Jr., Jasper, Cain, Joseph and Phoebe all born between 1767 and 1777.
There are a few DAR references online to this family- here is one:
Mrs. Mary Reynolds Breidinger.
DAR ID Number: 33556
Born in West Nicholson, Pennsylvania.
Wife of Jacob P. Breidinger.
Descendant of George Reynolds and of Samuel Billings.
Daughter of Albert Gordon Reynolds and Pauline Evalina Billings, his wife.
Granddaughter of Joseph Whipple Reynolds (1815-66) and Phoebe Stark
(1822-1903), his wife; Lewis Billings and Rachel Stevens, his wife.
Gr.-granddaughter of Robert Reynolds (1791-1856) and Susan H. Capwell
(1798-1855), his wife; Jasper Billings (1770-1831) and Mary Mullison, his
first wife, m. 1793.
Gr.-gr.-granddaughter of George Reynolds and Freelove Northrop, his wife;
Samuel Billings and Sarah Keech, his wife, m. 1766.
George Reynolds, (1761-1844), enlisted 1778 under Capt. Benjamin West, Col.
John Tappan's regiment for one year; was in Sullivan's expedition. He was
drafted and served under Col. Charles Dyer. His pension was allowed for
sixteen months actual service as private Rhode Island line. He was born in
Exeter, R. I.; died in Factoryville, Pa.
Samuel Billings, (1747-1803), enlisted 1776 in the Wyoming Valley and during
the battle his wife and son Jasper were in the fort. He was born in
Stonington, Conn.; died in Plains, Pa.
Also No. 32292.
From this reference I do not know if the child Jasper Billings who was in the Fort @ Wyoming with his mother during the massacre is the same child as “Jalleal” or a different son- researchers so far have listed two individuals, Julian or Jehiel or Jalleal, and another son Jasper as children in this family. In reading online descriptions about the massacre, any survivors gathered up infants and children and did run as fast as they could to a nearby Fort for protection- perhaps this is what happened to Sarah Keech Billings. Did she survive the ghastly event?
Also above, is a reference to Martha Keech Spencer’s sister “Margaret Burch” but no first name given for her husband- he must have been Jeremiah Burch, as there is an earlier reference to him as being married to one of the sisters. Are Jeremiah Burch and his wife Margaret Keech the parents then of:
a.) Jeremiah Burch Jr. born 1778 who was married to Barsheba Allen, lived @ Unadilla; and
b.) Sarah Birch born 1780 lived at Unadilla, married Israel Keech who was born 1780-1784, if so, Sarah and Israel would have been first cousins….??? and
c.) Joseph Birch born Nov. 1790 who married Polly Crouch
Continuing with names of children in family of 1730 George Keech:
6. Isreal Keech born 1760-1765, unknown wife, died after 1830, possible father of Israel Keech above (born 1780-1784), lived @ Unadilla
7. James Keech born Jan. 1763 @ New Fairfield, CT as per his own deposition, never have found name of his wife, 10 children, lived at Town of Western, Oneida County after moving there from Montgomery County; 3 sons moved up into Ontario, Canada @ 1828. No date of death or place of death for James, no burial info.
8. Martha Keech born Feb. 25, 1765, died Dec. 11, 1843 @ Unadilla, was married July 23, 1781 @ Warrensbush/Warrensburgh in Montgomery County to Jonathan Spencer, son of Sgt. Nathaniel Spencer & Elizabeth Lee, Martha was Jonathan’s second wife (Rhoda Mudge his first).
9. And now because of info in above excerpts, Sarah Keech born about 1748-1750, married to Samuel Billings 1747-1803, 6 known children
It would be awesome to be able to fill in some of the missing pieces and expand on the families mentioned herein, and the background information for them. Anyone with info, comments, questions, please contact me.
Nora Keech McLean @ Alberta, Canada
November 24, 2006
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