Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site

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by Ray LaFever, May 11, 1997

Note: My Scottish Border Ancestry is where I started my climb up my family tree. In 1978, I discovered that my paternal grandfather's grandmother and my paternal grandmother's mother had the same last name -- Miller. I wondered if my grandparents were related. I contacted Fletcher Davidson, the Bovina Town historian and Delaware County Historian. Over the years, his family had collected information on Bovina's families. Within a couple of days, he provided me the relevant parts of the Miller genealogy. I took the information, plugged it into a pedigree chart, and I was hooked. My grandparents are related, being third cousins, once removed. Mr. Davidson has since passed away, though late in life he was actively involved in putting his files on computer. His sons, Richard and Edwin Davidson, have continued this project. I am indebted to them both. - Ray LaFever

The Miller Family that settled in the Catskill Mountains of New York is of Scottish origin, as were many early settlers of that region. This branch of the family springs from Thomas Miller and his wife Agnes Laidlaw from Hawick, Scotland. They were married in Hawick in March 1791. They had five children, all born in Scotland: William, born 12 October 1791; David, born 11 September 1795; John, born 2 August 1797; Berry Shaw, born 2 June 1801; and Christina, born 8 July 1799. According to the baptismal records, William was born at Chapel Hill, while the rest of his siblings were born at Highchesters. Thomas served as Beadle of the Roberton Church in the 1820s.

Four of these five known children of Thomas and Agnes came to America. They settled within a few miles of each other in Delaware County. David came to America first. The Biographical Review says he was a carpenter in Scotland and came over because of the War of 1812. No other information has been located to confirm this war service. He settled in Bovina before 1819 and had a farm established by 1821. He filed a declaration of intent to become a citizen on February 28, 1821, with nine other men. On May 29, 1840, when he applied to take the citizenship oath, this original declaration of intent could not be found. David attested that he had applied in 1821 and produced two of the other men who filed declarations with him. This was accepted and he took the oath that day. (Interestingly, the original 1821 declaration does exist today.) He married twice, first in Bovina in 1819 to Agnes THOMSON, daughter of John Thomson and Nellie CHISHOLM, and, sometime after Agnes's death in 1829, to Isabella TURNBULL. David had five children by his first wife: Thomas (1820-1863), John Thomas (1822-1900), William (1824-1882), Helen (1826-1858) and David (1828-1912). By his second wife, he had two daughters, Isabella (1831-1905) and Jennie (1841-1901). David Miller died in 1883 and is buried in Bovina.

William started his family before coming to America. He was a tenant farmer at Muselee, according to the baptismal records for his children. He came to America with his second wife, Isabella Dickson, whom he married on 10 July 1825, and three children, Thomas (1826-1911), Michael (1828-1915), and William (1830-1912). His Declaration of Intent to become a citizen, filed in 1839, says he sailed from Liverpool in 1831, as does information from the Biographical Review. The story says William and his family "were on the Atlantic for seven weeks, and were travel-worn and weary when they arrived at New York City." William and Isabella had five more children: David (1832-1835), Walter Dickson (1835-1908), Berry Shaw (1837-1906), Janet (1838-1870), and Gilbert Dickson (1843-1931). William farmed in Bovina for many years, and quite successfully. He purchased land in the Town of Bovina, starting with 100 acres, and built a log cabin in 1833. As he prospered, the cabin was replaced with a stone structure. At his death, he left quite a substantial farm. William was active in the community, serving as a road commissioner for some time. He also was active in the United Presbyterian Church of Bovina and joined the Republican Party when it was founded in the 1850s. He died on January 29, 1870. His wife died on December 13, 1882, aged eighty years. Both are buried in Bovina. All of his children settled in Delaware county.

William's sister Christina (or Christain or Christaina -- the records vary) came to America at about the same as her brother (possibly traveling with William and his family). Christina was married in Bovina in 1832 to James FLETCHER. In his citizenship application, James says he sailed from Greenock in 1823 and was from Roxburghshire. In the 1850 census, Christina and James were farming in Andes. With them was their 12-year old daughter Nancy. It seems that the couple had several children but that this daughter is the only one who survived. Christina died in 1869, predeceasing her husband by ten years.

William's brother, Berry Shaw, was named for a Scots Borders minister, William Berry Shaw. The name has been used several times in the Miller family. Berry emigrated from Liverpool in 1828, according to his declaration of intent to become a citizen, filed in 1837. He became a citizen on February 26, 1840. Berry was married twice, both times in Scotland. His first wife was Jane BELL. They had a daughter, Mary, on 31 July 1821 in Roberton. Berry married his second wife, Mary CAIRNS, on 17 June 1823 in Roberton. Two daughters are documented as having been born in Roberton, Jane (1825-1894) and Agnes (1827-1901). The family continued to grow once in America, with the births of Margaret (1829-1894), Christina (1831-1859), Isabella (1833-1903), Thomas (1836-1920), and James (1841-1904). The family settled in Andes. Berry Shaw Miller died in 1865 and is buried in Andes.

Thomas's son John stayed in Scotland, from all the available evidence. He married Jane Aimers in 1822 and died in Traquair, Scotland in 1874. Their children were Jane (1824-1890), Thomas (1826-1882), Agnes (1828-1828), Robert (1831-1852), Agnes (1823-1879), John (1836-1871), and Mary (1839-1870).

The 1850 United States Census provides us a good picture of the produce from the farms of these four Miller immigrants. The one Fletcher farm and the three Miller farms averaged around 140 acres. Each farm had two horses. All of the farms included dairy cows. William's farm had the most cows with twenty-two. All the farms produced butter, ranging from 1300 to 2200 pounds in the census year. A few pigs also were kept. The farms produced such crops as rye, oats, peas, beans, Irish potatoes, and buckwheat. Berry was the only sibling who also had sheep in 1850. His farm produced 55 pounds of wool that year.

While the Miller family was fairly prolific in Delaware county and stayed in the area, subsequent generations began to travel away from New York, settling in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Ironically, the Miller name today is very scarce in my hometown, but the Scottish blood of the Millers still flows through some of the families that continue to call Bovina home.

If you want or have further information or corrections to the above, I would love to hear from you. My postal address is: 10 Fox Hollow Square, Cohoes, NY 12047 - Ray LaFever


Scottish Records Office, General Register House, Edinburgh: Parish registers, Roberton and Hawick Parishes (these also were used at the Border Regional Archives, Selkirk).

Delaware County (NY) Clerk's Office: Naturalization records, including Declarations of Intent to become a Citizen and Oaths of Naturalization; Federal Census Records for the Towns of Bovina and Andes - 1850, 1860, 1870; New York State Census Records for the Towns of Bovina and Andes - 1855, 1865, 1875.

Delaware County (NY) Surrogates Court: Will files for William, David, and Berry Shaw Miller and James Fletcher.

Town of Bovina (NY): Tax Assessment Rolls for a variety of years, starting in 1821; Cemetery Inscriptions.

Published sources: Biographical Review - The Leading Citizens of Delaware County, published 1895.

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