Thursday, January 31, 2013

Connecting the Family of JOHN VAN ARSDALE of Harrison County, Indiana, with the FENTON & VAN ARSDALE / VAN ARSDALEN Family of Bucks County Pennsylvania

You know, sometimes one photo really IS worth a thousand words!

I have been working steadily on documenting the family of my gg grandmother NANCY VAN ARSDALE for over a decade now. She was born March 31, 1828 Harrison Co IN, married ELI BRANSON FRAZIER, a Quaker, of Thorntown, Boone Co IN and Bangor, Marshall Co Iowa.

I started out with only a Van Arsdale family story / legend which indicated that NANCY’s father was born in Pennsylvania, and her mother was born in Virginia.  There were a lot of other details in the story: NANCY & two sisters HARRIET & MARGARET were the only survivors of a typhoid epidemic which wiped out the entire rest of their family;  they were subsequently raised by an “Aunt D” (actually it was the cholera epidemic of 1832, but the three girls were indeed the only survivors of their family and I did eventually find their “Aunt D” );  NANCY was bound out at a young age in Indiana to a “Squire Craven” (never found him); their grandfather was JACOB VAN ARSDALE  whose parents died on the ship coming over from Holland ( not true), and NANCY was born in Elizabethtown, Hardin Co KY (not true, their homestead was  near Corydon, Harrison Co IN, and according to records, they had no connection whatsoever to Elizabethtown KY). 

NANCY VAN ARSDALE was the daughter of SIMON VAN ARSDALE born about 1796 Bucks County Pennsylvania.  His wife was NANCY WALKER, who was born about 1795 in Rockbridge Co VA; they married on  Sept 21, 1814 at the Corydon courthouse in Harrison Co IN. NANCY WALKER’s family was living in New Washington, Clark Co IN, from which Harrison Co was formed.

Old Courthouse, Corydon, Harrison Co IN as it looks today
(photo 2011 by James Tartas)

Eventually a kind person sent me a photo of the original will of SIMON VAN ARSDALE, which was written May 3, 1828 Corydon, Harrison Co IN and signed by his father JOHN VAN ARSDALE.  The will was proved on May 5, 1828, so SIMON died very shortly after making his will. 

I recognized at once that  JOHN was SIMON's father because he was so much older than both SIMON VAN ARSDALE & JACOB VAN ARSDALE in the 1820 Harrison Co IN census.  They were all living adjacent to each other.  JOHN could not have been a brother. 

Which led me to start searching in Pennsylvania for JOHN or JAN VAN ARSDALE.  And it appeared that the only branch of the New Amsterdam/ New York VAN ARSDALE / VAN ARSDALEN family to settle in Pennsylvania was the family of SIMON JANSE VAN ARSDALEN & his wIfe JANNETJE “JANE” ROMEYN . He died in Southampton Bucks County Pennsylvania, in 1766, according to his will.  All of his children remained in Bucks County Pennsylvania.

His son SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALE born April 18, 1726 married ELSJE KROESEN and lived in Southampton twp, Bucks County PA.  They had a son JOHN/JAN VAN ARSDALEN born Sept 14, 1766.

Here’s where my search began to get interesting.  Living in Bensalem, Bucks Co PA around the time of the Revolution was a young couple MATTHIAS FENTON & his wife RACHEL HARDINGRACHEL came from a Quaker family and was orphaned with her sister MARTHA HARDING  in 1768; neither of them married Quakers, or stayed with the Quaker church.  Unfortunately, according to Orphan Court records, both MATTHIAS & RACHEL (HARDING) FENTON  died in 1781, leaving four underage orphaned children: JOSEPH FENTON, THOMAS HARDING FENTON, MARY FENTON and MARTHA FENTON.

Three of these four orphaned children married children of SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALE & ELSJE KROESEN in Bucks County PA.

JOSEPH FENTON married MARY VAN ARSDALEN  Sept 25, 1795 Bucks Co PA; he died 1822

THOMAS HARDING FENTON married ELIZABETH VAN ARSDALEN  no marriage date, but I did find records in Bucks Co PA Orphans’ Court proving this family. THOMAS died in 1815, and all his children were underage at the time.

**MARY FENTON married JOHN VAN ARSDALEN  Aug 17, 1795 Bucks Co PA; no record of them in Bucks Co PA after 1800 census.  The first Indiana record for JOHN is an 1810 territorial census.

(MARTHA FENTON married JOHN SMITH April 7, 1800 Bucks Co PA)

So how to prove that JOHN VAN ARSDALE & MARY FENTON were the parents of my ggg grandfather SIMON VAN ARSDALE who died 1828 in Harrison Co IN?  The circumstantial evidence began to pile up...

--JOHN VAN ARSDALE son of SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN & ELSJE KROESEN seems to disappear after 1800 census in Bucks Co PA--although he is mentioned in his mother's 1810 will in Bucks Co PA.  I have yet to find the full text of that will. 

--I have ferreted out all the other descendants of SIMON JANSE VAN ARSDALEN & JANNETJE ROMEYN with the name “JOHN VAN ARSDALEN” living in Bucks Co PA during the time period in question and discounted them all, using census, wills & other sources, such as Bucks Co PA Orphans’ Court records.  None of the others of that name ever left Bucks Co PA.

--SIMON JANSE VAN ARSDALEN,  his son SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN, MATTHIAS FENTON & DERRICK KROESEN  were all slave owners, according to tax records and their wills.  I believe this was fairly unusual for those of Dutch extraction, especially if they were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Apparently few other branches of the VAN ARSDALEN family were slave owners.  

A punitive tax (supported by the Quakers ) was levied on slave owners in Bucks Co PA in 1782, and all slaves had to be registered.  Slavery was abolished completely in Pennsylvania by 1830.

The curious thing is this:  JOHN VAN ARSDALE, SIMON VAN ARSDALE & JACOB VAN ARSDALE of Harrison Co IN all owned slaves in the 1820 census.  It's impossible to know if they were the same slaves (or their descendants) who were named in the 1766 will of SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN

So. The final clincher, the ultimate proof,  came to hand a few days ago.  While researching the extended FENTON family in Bucks Co PA, I came across a photo on of MARY ANN FENTON born 1804 who married ABRAHAM HOGELAND.  She was the daughter of THOMAS HARDING FENTON & ELIZABETH VAN ARSDALEN of Southampton twp, Bucks Co PA, and, if I’m correct,  was a double first cousin of SIMON VAN ARSDALE, father of my gg grandmother NANCY VAN ARSDALE.  When I compared the two photos side by side, and focused on the shape of their mouths & noses,  I nearly fainted!

Nancy Van Arsdale Frazier, photo taken 1890s

Mary Ann Fenton Hogeland, photo taken about 1860

For more information on these families, or to see my documentation, check out my public tree "Ancestors of Alonzo Cox Huber" on

The same tree is on  "Ancestors of Alonzo Cox Huber"

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2013

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