Elisha Cole by descendant Robert Eager NSSAR# 179422

Elisha Cole was born on Cape Cod in Eastham, Massachusetts in 1719 where the Coles had lived for generations.  His great-grandfather, Daniel Cole, came to America in the 1630’s with two of his brothers.  Through his grandmother, Hannah Snow, Elisha was a descendant of Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins.

Sometime between the fall of 1746 and spring of 1747, Elisha and his young family moved from Cape Cod to Fredericksburg, New York in what was then Dutchess County.   The parents of his wife, Priscilla Smalley, had moved there several years before and probably sent back word of favorable conditions.   For Elisha, it was a land of opportunity.

Upon arriving, Elisha rented a parcel of land and built a log cabin near a stream that was the outlet for Barrett’s Pond.  Shortly after, he built a grist mill on that stream called Cole’s Mill, and it was operated by Elisha and his descendants for 140 years.  Finally, in 1888, the city of New York bought the water rights for a reservoir.   The mill site had been expanded by Elisha’s sons, Daniel and Elisha Jr.  It was on the Groton River about a mile south of the reservoir.  By then, the property consisted of a one-story house with attic, barn, carding mill, sawmill, and a grist mill.

The Coles were the first Baptists to settle in the area.   The Mount Carmel Baptist church was formed on November 16, 1751.   Elisha was an elder and one of the original nine members of the church board.   Before there was a meeting house, Elisha preached to large open-air gatherings in the summer.  In the winter, services were held in private homes.   Several of Elisha’s sons and their descendants followed his tradition as Baptist ministers.

During the Revolution, Elisha served as a member of the 7th Regiment, Dutchess County Militia, along with four of his sons and four of his sons-in-law.  One of his sons-in-law, James Townsend, later achieved the rank of General in the War of 1812.  In the early days of the conflict, according to family oral tradition, the area where the Coles lived was “between the lines,” and soon became infested with “cowboys,” who made raids upon the property of the Whigs.   In order to protect themselves, the inhabitants organized into what was called the “minute men,” subject to call at any moment.

The land the Cole family originally settled on belonged to Roger Morris, a colonel in the British Army.  Morris was married to Mary Philipse, middle daughter of Frederick Philipse, second Lord of the Philipsburg Manor.  Mary, sometimes mentioned as a possible love interest of George Washington, owned a one-third share of the Philipse Patent, a vast landed estate on the Hudson River which later became Putnam County.  In 1782, the Commissioners of Forfeiture confiscated the property.  Elisha then bought the parcel he had been renting along with some other tracts totaling 396 acres.

By 1801, Elisha had become partially paralyzed and was showing signs of dementia.  He died at age 81 and was buried in the small Cole Farm Cemetery in Mahopac, New York.  His wife was buried next to him in 1811.

References and Notes

Curtis, Joseph O., Descendants of Elisha Cole (New York, Tobias A. Wright, 1909), pp 26-32.

Roberts, James A., New York in the Revolution (Albany, NY, Weed-Parsons Printing Co.,1897), pp 149-150.

Pelletreau, William S., History of Putnam County, New York with Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men (Philadelphia, W. W. Preston & Co., 1886), pp 317, 677.

Roger Morris (British Army officer) from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, accessed October 9, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Morris_(British_Army_officer).

Find A Grave Memorial for Elisha Cole, Accessed October 9, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/59677024/elisha-cole.

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