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More Pioneers to Remember — the Persons Family and Homestead

July 13, 2016
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Historian , Westfield Republican

WOW! What a delight to find the following email when I returned from vacation in June!

"Subject: 7853 Route 5 Westfield 14787"

Message reads in part: "I am the new owner of the home address listed above. Your may be familiar with the property, it is located on the corner of Route 5 and Persons Rd. document lists the house built in 1840..." and that the 1867 map shows the home owned by O. Persons the owner "very interested in the history of this property as it must be one of the oldest homes in Westfield/Barcelona area"

YES! This current Westfield Historian is very familiar with the property in question, having been born in 1940 in the Blackburn family farmhouse on Persons Road, about a quarter mile or so south of the old Persons Family Homestead. All the families along Persons Road, from Bourne Street to East Lake Road, and several families along Lake Road spent many congenial times at the home, the barn, the yard, the grape arbor, and also at Persons Beach in the first half of the 1900s at least, if not prior. During research sessions on microfilms of old Westfield Republicans, and while reading family diaries, many articles and stories were found describing meetings, parties, and picnics and even weddings, from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s, at the Persons'.

The Westfield Town Clerk, when I became historian in 2007, was Tim Smith, who commented that he was the then owner of the Persons property, and was wondering about the possibility of nominating the home to the National or State Historic Register. (Concerns were raised at that time about the changes made to the building in recent years that might invalidate this, so apparently the matter was not pursued.)

About 2010, the only known living descendant of the Persons family was in Westfield, and contacted the historian whose office was then at Parkview Ice Cream Parlor at 3 East Main. Since she still lives in a nearby community, she has been contacted and is willing to share information about her family's pioneer home with the new owner. Unfortunately, the historian's reply to the new owner's email message was unable to send - that "Mailer Daemon" says email is "full"!

Meanwhile, much research has commenced and much information has been collected using the resources at the Patterson Library (Manuscript files, Microfilmed newspapers, Obituary files, and Cemetery records; also historian's computer and online resources including 1854, 1867, & 1881 maps, digitized newspapers, and records. A family tree has been roughed out using the above materials, as well as a brief historic timeline and a few stories of interest.

Starting with "O. Persons" on the maps, the name "Orris Persons" was located, as well as several "Paul Persons" (at least 3 in the local family line), "Jay Persons" who was known to the historian, and several other names that appeared in mortgage and will notices in the newspapers.

The Persons family was traced back to John Persons (1754-1832) and wife Lydia (Whitmore), discovering that John Persons was a noted Revolutionary War soldier who fought at Lexington. Massachusetts Vital Records for Uxbridge show that John and Lydia had at least seven (7) children born in Uxbridge between 1785 and 1799, and indicated that at least one earlier child, Paul Persons (Sr.), was born earlier (1780) at Northbridge MA.

Paul Persons, Sr. (b. 1780, Northbridge MA, d. 1862, Westfield, NY) married Nancy Willard Jones in 1803 in Northbridge MA, and together, there, they had at least 10 children between 1804 and 1820. Of these, at least 5 sons (Paul Jr., Chandler, Samuel W., Orris, and Nathaniel) came with Paul and Nancy Persons to Westfield, arriving about 1829 or 1830 according to an interesting 1923 manuscript by a granddaughter, Amanda, located at the Patterson Library. Amanda F (Persons) Mason (husband Silas W Mason, whose home is illustrated in the 1867 Atlas), describes the pioneer home of her grandparents, on East Lake Road (the only brick one for miles either direction).

She also tells of her hotel proprietor (American Hotel that eventually became the Minton House hotel) father, Paul Persons, Jr. who had the contract to feed the Civil War regiment at the Metropolitan Fairgrounds in 1862. Paul Persons Jr. also provided the food for the Fourth of July Celebrations in 1861 and 1862 according to glowing articles in the Westfield Republicans of those two years.

Orris Persons (1815-1890) married Melva Shaw (1824-1912) and they had seven (7) children, one of whom, Walter E. (1851-1935), married Carrie (Caroline) Stockley (1853-1933) in 1872. Walter and Carrie had six (6) children, and lived in the Persons homestead on Lake Road for their entire lives.

It appears that the original brick home had a large addition at some point, because two Persons families are shown on several census records, living at the address - two heads of households, etc. One son of Walter and Carrie, Jerry Walter Persons (J Walter Persons, Jay Persons) who was born in 1881, married Loula Morse in 1906, and had three (3) children - Ruth (1910), Paul J (1911), and Edward (1913). They were living on West Main according to 1910 Census, but by the 1920 and 1930 census records, were living in the Persons homestead on East Lake Road. Paul J (1911-1979) married June Marie Skinner, his second wife, (1921-2009) in 1942. Paul was enlisted and served in WWII, and they had one daughter, Susan, who is married and still living.

Susan recalls the large addition on the homestead as being wood, painted a dull yellow, and said the bricks were the same color (painted or natural?). The addition had a huge family cooking kitchen with the old-time wood-burning stove (I even remember THAT). Susan says she has a photo of the Persons homestead, which we are hoping to scan and share at a future date.

Buzzings from BeeLines

Back Home Sneak-previews Looking Forward

Hi faithful readers! It's good to be back after a month of vacation trips about the US!

Stories are already popping up to share What a delight to see my recent story regarding "the bark that named The Bark Grill" being re-shared in an Erie PA newspaper article of June 16, 2016, "Memory serves at Bark Grill" by Jim Cuneo.

Also, be sure to drop by the Westfield-Barcelona Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center now located in the keeper's cottage of the Barcelona Light House. More stories are brewing in Barcelona and environs as people discover related ancestors among the early light house keepers. Pioneer homes are being purchased and unwritten histories researched as well.

Diner Historian, Mike Engle, forwarded a newly discovered article linking several of the old diners in Westfield NY, Sherman NY, and Corry PA, in particular Mead's Modern Diner (Westfield) and Aggie's Diner (Sherman).

Amish Mysteries are providing some exciting possibilities for Historic Preservation that could involve connections with old railroad cars. And speaking of historic preservation, it is exciting to see the rebirth of the Landmark Society, with new blood and energy and ideas.

And these are just the "tip of the iceberg" for upcoming BeeLines Articles, so stay tuned



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