From the overlook at Whitney Point, New York, a magnificent view is beheld. Apart from the beauty of the surrounding land and Whitney Point Lake, this particular place is dear to my heart. As a child, my mother always stopped at this exact spot to take a family picture. She may have understood that her ancestors lived in the hills and valleys laid out before us, but I hadn't given it a thought. To me, it was just a spectacular view and ideal place for a photo opportunity, but as I grew older and developed an increasing interest in family history, I was amazed to learn that many of my ancestors lived in these towns over the past couple hundred years. Here in these rugged lands, they cleared the forests, built roads, bridges, farms, homes, and businesses. They got married, raised families, died, and are buried in the cemeteries I've driven past numerous times without a clue. Their records testify in the town archives and many of their descendants remain in the surrounding counties of Cortland, Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Tompkins, and Cayuga, to this day.
From the overlook at Whitney Point, we stand at an elevation of 1,106 feet. To our left (southwest) we see Tioga County. There, in Newark Valley, my maternal great-grandmother, Mary (Harvey) Reese-Gaul was born in 1910. Looking straight across, we face Richford, where Mary's grandfather, Royal J. Shirley was born in 1851. Royal's father, John Shirley was born in 1822 on the opposite side of this lake, in the town of Lisle. John's father had come from Massachusetts before 1810 with his father, Job Shirley, who was a soldier of the American Revolution.
Beyond Newark Valley is Candor, where my paternal great-grandmother, Vena (Dykeman) Daniels-Slate was born in 1898. Her father, Arthur Dykeman, was born in Candor about 1872 and married there in 1897. Arthur's wife's father, John W. Jacobs, was also married there in 1819 and John's parents, Elizabeth (Jenks) and Thomas Jacobs, died and was buried there in 1884 at the age of 95. Thomas' father, Uriah Jacobs, was buried in nearby Spencer in 1841. He, too, was a soldier of the American Revolution. He was born in 1754 in Westchester County, New York.
Harford, Dryden and Virgil, the towns my maternal great-grandmother's family settled and lived in. They were the Harvey, Shirley, Stowell, Ensign, and other families. who came from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Looking to the right (northwest), we are looking toward Marathon, Lapeer, Virgil, and Cortland, where both my parents' families lived for the past 200 years. My ancestor, William McGinnis, came to this area from Ireland around 1850, during the Great Irish Famine, settling in Marathon. He is buried on the other side of this dam in Whitney Point. His daughter, a school teacher, married Jasper Hollenbeck of Willet. Jasper was the son of Nicholas Hollenbeck, whose wife (Lucy Ann Shevalier), was the granddaughter of Williams Huntley, Soldier of the American Revolution, who came to Marathon from Connecticut between 1800 and 1805 with his parents, John and Hannah Hollenbeck. Looking northward, we see the forests of Upper Lisle, Willet and Cincinnatus, where my ancestors lived and died.
The more I learn about my family's history, the more I cherish and value this land - the beautiful land of my ancestors for the past 220 years. Enjoy the view!