Pvt. Jabez Berry, Sr. by Robert Eager NSSAR# 179422

Jabez Berry was born in Harwich, MA on Feb. 1, 1720. At the age of 24 he married Rebecca Gray on Aug 23, 1744. She was a resident of Harwich as well, and a descendant of some of the earliest Cape Cod families. Shortly afterward, they moved to the Fredericksburg Precinct in Dutchess County, NY. That area would later form much of today’s Putnam County.

Jabez settled on a farm about a mile north of Lake Mahopac near the present-day town of Carmel. There, he and Rebecca raised a family of six children. Other families from Cape Cod made the same move to Fredericksburg around the same time. One of those families, Elisha and Hannah Cole, arrived in 1746. Years later, their son, Joseph, would marry Jabez’s daughter, Rebecca and another son, Nathan would marry the Berry’s other daughter, Mehitable.

Standing five feet eleven inches, he was a strong and robust man who was known for his strength and endurance. Boxing was popular at the time, and Jabez was renowned for his skill. The following story was told in a Putnam County history nearly one hundred years later.

A celebrated boxer from Cape Cod, having heard of Jabez, came looking for him one day. After getting directions to the house, he arrived and knocked on the door saying, “Are you the man they call Jabez Berry ?” ” Yes sir-ee, and always have been,” was the reply.” Well, sir, “continued the bully, “I have come all the way from Cape Cod to flog you.” “Ah, indeed! If you’ve come all that distance to pluck a single berry from the bush, you are entitled to a few striking tokens of my regard as a reward for the pains you may suffer before you get back,” was the reply. Out they went into the door-yard, where he flogged his Cape Cod antagonist to his heart’s content.

While his strength was legendary, he was also known as a person of great character who never initiated a fight nor used his physical stature to domineer over the weak. The Putnam County history summarized his character this way.

“Jabez Berry possessed a well-balanced mind, which kept him from being disconcerted in any emergency. Possessing an amiable and cheerful disposition, he secured the esteem and approbation of all who knew him, while his integrity and uprightness of purpose secured him from the tongue of the slanderer. He advocated the cause of his country with a stout heart and a strong arm and enjoyed the proud satisfaction of seeing all of his sons follow his paternal and patriotic example.”

During the revolution, he served as a private in Colonel Henry Ludenton’s Dutchess County Militia. That unit’s role was primarily to respond to local alarms. When called up, members would serve for several days marching to nearby towns like Fishkill or Peekskill, and, in the language of the time, “protect against midnight depredations of the cow-boys, skinners, and tories.”

Jabez had four sons, and they all served during the war. Jabez Jr. and Samuel were also privates in the Dutchess County Militia. His son, John, was a Lieutenant in that unit. Another son, Asahel Berry, was an Ensign who worked for recruitment in the New York Fifth Regiment.

Jabez was recorded in Fredericksontown, Dutchess County , NY in the 1790 U. S. Federal Census. There were five members of the household: one male under 16, two males over 16, and two females. His son, Jabez Jr., was recorded in another household on the same page.

What happened after that has been lost to history. Even the authors of the Putnam County history, written in 1849, did not know where or when he died. Assumptions of his wife, Rebecca, having passed in 1760 are certainly incorrect and probably due to a cemetery record for a Rebecca Grey who died that year. In life, Jabez Berry was major figure in his community and made a strong impression on all who knew him. But, after he died, recollections of the details of his passing slipped away, and today we may never know what happened to him.

References and Notes

Blake, William J., History of Putnam County, New (New York, Baker& Scribner, 1849), pp 277-280.

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.

1790; Census Place: Fredericksontown, Dutchess, New York; Series: M637; Roll: 6; Page: 22; Image: 155; Family History Library Film: 0568146

NARA M246. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Muster rolls, New York 5th Regiment, 1777-80, Folder: 63, Nara Catalog Id: 602384, Asashel Berry.

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