Lucia and I paid a visit in July to my Aunt Susie in Rochester, Minnesota.  On a beautiful, but hot summer day, we drove over together to Quincy Township, about 20 miles east.  We were hoping to find the farm where our ancestors, Avery Vermilya (1819-1904) and Fanny Mead (1821-1897), lived when they first arrived in Minnesota in 1863.  We also wanted to check out nearby Little Valley Cemetery where some Vermilya relatives are buried.

The pedigree chart below shows Avery & Fanny highlighted in green.  They were the great-grandparents of my maternal grandmother Helen King Vermilyea (1909-1994).  Both Avery & Fanny were born and raised in the Catskill Mountains and married there in 1844 – in Roxbury, Delaware, New York, to be precise.[1]Sandra Vermilyea Todd, “The Vermilyea Family (Vermilya, Vermilye, Vermilyea, Vermilyer), Descendants of Johannas Vermelje, New York, 1662-1998,” p. 140, unpublished manuscript, report for … Continue reading  By 1850, they had migrated 100 miles west to Owego, Tioga, New York.[2]1850 U.S. census, Tioga County, New York, population schedule, Owego town, p. 229A, dwelling 918, family 951, Avery Vermilyea; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 14 October … Continue reading

Pedigree Chart for Helen King Vermilyea (Created by author in Family Tree Maker 2019)

MyHeritage, by the way, recently launched a new photograph enhancement tool.  The two photos below are enhanced images of Avery and Fanny.  They came out very nicely, I think.  I’m guessing the photos were taken at the time of their 50th wedding anniversary.

Avery Vermilya circa 1894, enhanced by MyHeritage (Author’s collection)

Fanny (Mead) Vermilya circa 1894, enhanced by MyHeritage (Author’s collection)

 

In April 1863, during the middle of the Civil War, the family moved even further west – over 1,000 miles – to Olmsted County, Minnesota.  At the time of the move, Avery was 42 and Fanny 41.  The couple already had 8 children; three more were born in Minnesota.  The first one, Jesse Charles Vermilyea (1863-1930), was born 26 June 1863 in Olmsted County, so Fanny must have been 6 or 7 months pregnant during the journey west.

My sister Sara once wondered if the family moved in 1863 because they were hoping to evade service in the Civil War.  I doubt that’s the case because Union draft calls very much affected Minnesota, and I don’t think the chances of conscription were any less than in New York.  I had a client whose ancestor lived in Martin County, Minnesota, for example.  He was conscripted on 2 December 1864, the last draft call of the war.  He failed to report to duty as required, though, and was arrested by the Provost Marshall and declared a deserter!  He ended up serving in the 4th Minnesota Infantry Regiment the last few months of the war in Georgia and the Carolinas.  (The client took it well: she actually got a kick out of the fact her ancestor had deserted.)

Most of Avery & Fanny’s sons were too young to have served in the Union Army anyway.  Their four oldest sons were 17, 16, 13, and 11 in April 1863.  It is possible that the oldest, David Mead Vermilya (1845-1884), could have been drafted after he turned 18 on 9 June 1863, but he was not.  On 17 February 1864, Congress lowered the minimum draft age to 17, making the second son, Abram Augusta Vermilya (1846-1926), immediately eligible, but he too was not conscripted.  Both boys were still living at home at 1865.[3]1865 Minnesota state census, Olmsted County, population schedule, Quincy Township, page 113, line 23 and 24, David and Abram Vermilye in household of Avery Vermilye; digital image, Ancestry.com … Continue reading

The more logical explanation is that Avery simply wanted to take advantage of the new federal homestead law.  The Homestead Act of 1862 went into effect on 1 January 1863 and Avery was one of the first few hundred Americans to apply.  Thus, I believe the primary reason for the move was to acquire what was essentially free virgin farmland in the Midwest (as long as one lived on the land and worked it for 5 years).

Avery applied for his homestead at the U.S. Land Office in St. Peter, Minnesota, and received temporary claim to the land, recorded as Application no. 321.[4]Avery Vermilya, (Olmsted County) homestead file, application no. 321, final certificate no. 366, St. Peter, Minnesota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers, 1800-1908; digital image, Bureau of Land … Continue reading  His claim was for 80 acres in Township 107N, Range 11W, 5th Prime Meridian – the land description for Quincy Township.

After five years, Avery filed for the deed to his 80-acre farm property, called a patent in homestead parlance.  The U.S. Land Office in St. Peter would have gone through a process of proving that Avery met the necessary homestead conditions and wasn’t engaged in fraud, including interviewing Avery and a couple witnesses (usually neighbors).  Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the details on that now.  I wanted to order Avery’s Homestead File from the National Archives but it is closed during the COVID pandemic, and once it opens, it’s going to take the good folks there awhile to get through the backlog of requests.  However, we can tell from online records that Avery Vermilya received Homestead Certificate no. 366 on 1 September 1869, giving him full title to the property.[5]Ibid.

Avery’s 80 acres were situated in the SW quadrant of Section 18 of Quincy Township.  Below is a plat map from 1878 showing the location.[6]Warner & Foote, “Plat Book of Olmsted County, Minnesota,” 1878, Olmsted County Historical Society; digital image, Minnesota Reflections (reflections.mndigital.org/catalog/olms:913 : … Continue reading  The map has been cropped to focus on sections 16 through 21 of Quincy Township.  In Section 18, note A. Vermilya written vertically and 80 underneath the name, representing the number of acres.

Sections 17-20, Quincy Township, 1878 (Source: Minnesota Reflections).

If you look closely, you can see another Vermilya property on this 1878 map.  The NW corner of Section 20 shows A & J Vermilya owning 140 acres.  That probably refers to two of Avery’s sons, Abram A. and James I. Vermilya.  In 1878, Abram was 32 and James 29 years old; both were recently married.  This property was not acquired as a homestead because it is not listed in the General Land Office database.  It would have been purchased privately.

Possibly Avery himself purchased it earlier and then transferred it to his sons.  I say that because he had already acquired an additional 40 acres by 1870, so he must have bought additional land as his farm prospered.[7]1870 U.S. census, Olmsted County, non-population (agriculture) schedule, Township of Quincy, p. 661-662, line 14, A. Vermilya; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 … Continue reading  This was revealed by the 1870 U.S. agriculture schedule.[8]Agriculture schedules were performed by the federal government in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880; they were separate from the population schedules with which we are more familiar.  In Avery’s case, it shows he owned 60 acres of improved land, and 60 acres unimproved, 40 of which were wooded.  His farm produced 1200 bushels of spring wheat, 300 bushels of Indian corn, 500 bushels of oats, 50 bushels of Irish potatoes, 300 pounds of butter, and 5 tons of hay; they owned 6 horses, 2 milk cows, 2 cattle, and 2 swine.  The value of the real estate was estimated at $2,500, farm machinery & tools at $400, livestock $1100, and total farm produce $1,820.  It seems to me Avery & Fanny were doing pretty well – of course, they had a small army of children to help!

I created a customized Google Map showing the Vermilya homestead in Quincy Township, as well as the location for Little Valley Cemetery.  I’ve also included the farm property in Section 17 owned by son James I. Vermilya in 1914.  He was the only child of Avery & Fanny’s who stayed in Quincy Township.  (You can zoom in and out of the map and navigate around.)

When we were in Rochester, I found Avery’s homestead on a current map and we drove over there.  Below are some images, showing it is still being farmed today.  In the first photo, we are traveling north on County Hwy. 7 NE in Quincy Township and all the land to the left of the road would have been part of the 80-acre homestead.  You can see a farmhouse in the distance.

Quincy Township, Sec. 18, homestead farm once owned by Avery Vermilya, 18 July 2020 (Photo by author)

The second photo is right next to the farmhouse where the yard meets the cornfield.  It shows a more intimate view of the property and the nicely forested knolls that run along the western edge of this farm.

Straight-on view of Vermilya homestead property near farmhouse, 18 July 2020 (Photo by author)

The third photo is a close-up of the farmhouse.  Certainly this is not the same structure that Avery would have built in 1863, but it is in the same location.  If you go back to the 1878 plat map and look at the A. Vermilya property again, you can see a small dot in the northeast corner of the property.  That indicates where the farmhouse was in these old plat maps, basically in the same place where this house is located today.

Quincy farmhouse on property once owned by Avery Vermilya, 18 July 2020 (Photo by author)

At some point, Avery & Fanny moved from Quincy Township into the village of Dexter, Mower, Minnesota, which was a little over 40 miles southwest of their farm.  Although Fanny’s obituary states that she and Avery moved to Dexter from Quincy about 1890,[9]“Reporter’s Notes: Dexter,” obituary, Mower County Transcript (Austin, Minnesota), 20 October 1897, p. 8; digital image, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 22 … Continue reading the 1880 U.S. census places them in the village of Dexter 10 years earlier, including their 4 youngest children (Orville, Jesse, Lilly, Reuben).[10]1880 U.S. census, Mower County, Minnesota, population schedule, Dexter Village, ED 165, p. 510A, dwelling 7, family 9, Avrey Vermilya; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 21 … Continue reading

Confusingly, the Minnesota state census of 1885 enumerates them back in Quincy Township, including all 4 of the children named above.[11]1885 Minnesota state census, Olmsted County, population schedule, Quincy Township, p. 6, line 39, family 44, Avery Vermilya; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 … Continue reading  I’m not sure what to make of the back-and-forth switch.  Perhaps there was an aborted attempt to move to Dexter earlier than 1890.  Or, possibly, Avery was prosperous enough to own two homes and inhabit them seasonally.  Or maybe he did not sell the Quincy home for some years and one of his children resided there, which he & Fanny sometimes visited.

In any case, Avery & Fanny lived in Dexter full-time at the end of their lives; both are buried in Dexter Cemetery.  Fanny died in 1897, age 76, and Avery in 1904, age 83.

Little Valley Cemetery is located at the intersection of County Rd. 10 NE and 163rd Ave. NE in Quincy Township, Olmsted County.  It’s a small but pretty rural cemetery, and still well-maintained.

View of Little Valley Cemetery, Quincy Township, Olmsted, Minnesota, 18 July 2020 (Photo by author)

The Vermilya relatives buried in Little Valley cemetery are all descendants of Avery & Fanny’s 3rd son, James I. Vermilya (1849-1938).   James himself is buried there, too.  He farmed in Quincy the rest of his life, and also served as a Minnesota state senator 1915-1917.  All four of his children – Cora, Mead, Ervin, and George – as well as a number of grandchildren are buried in Little Valley.  I was tickled to see that one of James’s grandchildren, Hugh C. Vermilya (1918-2014) was buried there as recently as 2014.  96 years old!

Grave marker for James I. Vermilya, Little Valley Cemetery, 18 July 2020 (Photo by author)

Headstone for Hugh C. Vermilya, Little Valley Cemetery, 18 July 2020 (Photo by author)

For more information, I highlighted four of Avery & Fanny’s sons in a recent blog post, which you may read here.

References

References
1 Sandra Vermilyea Todd, “The Vermilyea Family (Vermilya, Vermilye, Vermilyea, Vermilyer), Descendants of Johannas Vermelje, New York, 1662-1998,” p. 140, unpublished manuscript, report for Vermilyea Family Association, 1998; copy held by Steven Nelson Jonnes, Ashburn, Virginia, 2020.
2 1850 U.S. census, Tioga County, New York, population schedule, Owego town, p. 229A, dwelling 918, family 951, Avery Vermilyea; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 14 October 2020); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 604.
3 1865 Minnesota state census, Olmsted County, population schedule, Quincy Township, page 113, line 23 and 24, David and Abram Vermilye in household of Avery Vermilye; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 October 2020), citing MNSC roll 2.
4 Avery Vermilya, (Olmsted County) homestead file, application no. 321, final certificate no. 366, St. Peter, Minnesota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers, 1800-1908; digital image, Bureau of Land Management (https://glorecords.blm.gov/); citing Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
5 Ibid.
6 Warner & Foote, “Plat Book of Olmsted County, Minnesota,” 1878, Olmsted County Historical Society; digital image, Minnesota Reflections (reflections.mndigital.org/catalog/olms:913 : accessed 26 October 2020).
7 1870 U.S. census, Olmsted County, non-population (agriculture) schedule, Township of Quincy, p. 661-662, line 14, A. Vermilya; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 October 2020), citing NARA microfilm publication M593.
8 Agriculture schedules were performed by the federal government in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880; they were separate from the population schedules with which we are more familiar.
9 “Reporter’s Notes: Dexter,” obituary, Mower County Transcript (Austin, Minnesota), 20 October 1897, p. 8; digital image, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 22 October 2020), Newspaper Archives.
10 1880 U.S. census, Mower County, Minnesota, population schedule, Dexter Village, ED 165, p. 510A, dwelling 7, family 9, Avrey Vermilya; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 21 October 2020); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 626.
11 1885 Minnesota state census, Olmsted County, population schedule, Quincy Township, p. 6, line 39, family 44, Avery Vermilya; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 October 2020), citing MNSC roll 35.