Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Hess Family

A history of the Hess family as put together in 1924 by Lois Ocelia Hess Kerr Pittenger, grandmother of Mrs. Robert (Ruth Pittenger) Davis who provided it. Thanks to Jerome "Jerry" Walrath who thoughtfully sent this genealogy for posting.

The grandfather of Johan Frederick - Revolutionary Ancestor of Ruth Pittenger Davis - was the first known ancestor - in the Hess line - to come to America viz: Johannes Hess He was born in Hesse Cassel, Germany, in 1692. His record, and that of his children, were taken from the records of the Stone Arabia Church, Stone Arabia, New York.

A large body of Germans, comprising 3 shiploads, came to America, in the year 1710-1723, from that part of Germany called the Palatinate, on the Rhine. Johannes Hess I is believed to have come with the third and last shipload. Quoting from "The Old New York Frontier", by Francis Whiting Halsey, published by Chas. Scribner's, Sons, "he was one of that large body of Palatines who left so deep an impression on the Mohawk and Schoharie Counties, they had originally left their homes on the Rhine in consequence of the devastation attending the wars of Louis XIV."

The first two shiploads of Palatines landed in New York in 1710, but according to the following quoted records, Johannes Hess came with the third shipload in 1722. According to Doc. His. Vol. 3 page 715, quoted in "Frontiersmen of New York" by Jeptha R. Simms, the third shipload of Palatines destined for New York, sailed in 1722, from Holland, where they had lived for some time, having fled from persecution (due to continued wars) in Germany, their homestead had been in that often fought-over region of the Alsace Lorraine. Among the names taken from the record of this third shipload of Palatines are "Augustines Hess and Johannes Hess", the latter our ancestor.

The passengers of this ship were granted land in the Mohawk Valley, called "The German Flats patent, 9186 acres, about 100 acres to each person to which they doubtless added by purchase from Indians, much adjoining land. Quoting from "The Historic Mohawk" by Mary Riggs Deifendorf, G.P. Putnam's Sons, on pages 65-67 "A similar patent to the above was given at Stone Arabia, Oct. 19, 1723, comprising 12,700 acres. This was granted to the heads of twenty seven Palatine families and "In the hunting-grounds of the Mohawks and amid their Indian castles, the Palatines planted their churches, their schools, and their homes."

Sanford H. Cobb in his "Story of the Palatines" published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, says "As to the permanent influence of this Palatine immigration, it goes without saying that it was impossible for such sturdiness of stock, such patient and firm persistence in the right, such capacity for endurance, and such buoyancy of hope, conjoined with such addiction to religion, to be absorbed into American life without a deep impress on the character of after generations."

This third shipload of Palatines, settled immediately on the Mohawk, must have escaped the delay and injustice of the "East and West Camps" where the first Palatines were detained.

Johannes Hess I married Catherine Lubosin, August 1711, presumably in Holland. Their oldest son, Augustine, served in the Revolution with five of his sons, from him was descended F. Judson Hess of Rochester, NY.

Johannes Hess II was the second son of Johannes and Catherine Lubosin Hess.

Our ancestor, he was born May 5, 1722 or 1723, at Palatine in the Mohawk Valley, NY. He married Anna Margaretta Young: The Record of Johannes Hess II and his children was obtained from an old Hess family Bible in Schenectady, NY by Mr. Henry M. LeRoy, whose wife was a Hess. The Johannes Hess home was used as a Fort during the Revolution, and known as "Fort Hess". Quoting from "The Historic Mohawk", by Mary Riggs Deifendorf, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons; "Quite a number of the more substantial private houses were made ready for defense (during the Rev.) among which might be named the old Van Alstyne building, and Forts Ehle, Failing, Wagner, Fox, Hess, Klock...", page 198. Also "Frontiersmen of New York", Vol.II, pages 382-383.

According to Captain O.W. Bell, who visited that region, the old Hess place was located about one mile from the old Palatine Church, and about two miles north of St. Johnsville, NY, afterward owned by Peter F. Nellis, later the house is said to have been razed by the New York Central R.R. as being on its "right of way".

Four sons of Johannes Hess II served in the Revolution, viz: his oldest son John was Lieut. in Colonel Jacob Klock's Reg. Tyron Co. Militia and three younger sons were in the same Regiment - Frederick (our ancestor), Dewalt David, and Daniel. Johannes Hess II was one of the original subscribers to the building of the Palatine Stone Church (Lutheran), which was built in 1770. This church is still standing in 1924, and was in use, said to be the oldest Protestant Church west of the Hudson River. A copy of the original subscription list obtained from Johannes Hess II, and furnished by Gen. Peter C. Fox is as follows:

"Peter Waggoner, pd. $100
Andrew Reber, pd. $100
William Nellis, Junior. pd. $60
Andrew Nellis, pd. $60
Henry Nellis, pd. $60
Christian Nellis, pd. $60
David Nellis, pd. $60
Johannes Hess, pd. $60"

(from "Frontiersman Of New York", pgs. 280 and 281, also "The Historic Mohawk", pgs. 107-108.)

Johannes Hess II was killed by Indians about 1768-1770. A sudden attack by marauding Indians forced him and his family to take refuge in the woods, taking with them what food they could hurriedly seize. After a few days, thinking the Indians had left, he ventured from their hiding place, but they were lying in wait, and captured him, scalping him and killing him, within hearing of his wife and children. The family remained secreted for some time longer, when two of the boys ventured to return to the house, which the Indians had burned. They were captured by the lurking Redskins, and dragged away. Daniel, aged 9, escaped the second day, but Frederick (our ancestor) aged 16 years was kept prisoner for 3 years.

Johannes Hess II left a will, which is recorded in "New York Historical Society", Wills, Vol. VIII, page 25, in which he directed the division of his property among his family, among them "my son Frederick" (our ancestor).

Frederick Hess (Johan Frederick) our ancestor who served in the Revolution, was born May 10, 1751 at Palatine, NY. He was married to Catherine Nellis daughter of Andrew Nellis of Palatine, NY. Catherine Nellis was closely related to Col. Jacob Klock (first cousins), in whose Regiment Frederick and his brothers served. Tyron County of Revolutionary times included present counties of Fulton, Montgomery, Ontario,

Herkimer, Ontego, Tioga, Hamilton, NY. The record of Frederick's service taken from the payroll, from the New York State Library at Albany reads as follows; "Cert. #38334, for $2, dated 26 October 1782, Issued to Fred' k. Hess for services as private in Captain Philip Helmers' Company of Colonel Jacob Klock's Reg. of Tyron County Militia (Palatine District)" "Cert. #38420, for $1-13s-9 1/2d., date burned, issued to Fred'k. Hess for services as private in Captain Peter Wagoner's Company of said Regiment."

As previously stated, Frederick Hess I and his younger brother were captured by Indians, shortly after his father Johannes was killed by them. Quoting from a paper written by a grandson - Daniel McDougal Hess in 1883 - "My grandfather was taken prisoner by the Indians, when a mere lad, he was made to travel for three days without giving him a morsel to eat, the reason they gave for doing so, was that they thought at the end of that time he would be willing to eat such food as they gave him. They kept him a prisoner for three years, but he gained their confidence, and they allowed him to hunt and fish when and where he pleased without anyone to accompany him. He secreted ammunition in small quantities at a time - to avoid suspicion, and also some provisions; when his arrangements were all made, he started one morning as usual to spend the day hunting and fishing, but he soon cast away his fishing-rod, and took the most direct course he could for home. He traveled only at night and lay secreted during the day, and knowing the great sagacity of the Indians in following their game, he took every precaution he could to escape them, whenever he found a fallen tree, he would walk the length of it and then jump as far as he could, and if he happened to bend down or break a weed, he would right it up or remove it, to obliterate all trace of his track. After traveling many miles through a dense wilderness, without a path or anything to guide him but the sun and stars, he arrived at home in safety."

Returning to the Record of Johannes Hess II, and his Will, recorded in New York Historical Society, Wills, Vol. VIII, page 25, he says: "I leave to my oldest son, Johannes Hess, that lot of land with the house and barn where I now dwell and everything belonging to it." Also, "I leave to my son Frederick Hess (referred to as Johan Frederick - or, as hereafter mentioned, as Frederick I) the lot of land near to Helmer, where Daniel Miller now dwells upon." This land was first acquired by Johannes Hess I, from Sir Wm. Johnson (according to tradition) and was a part of the so-called "Dreamland Tract", of which the following anecdote is related:

Sir Wm. Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, previous to the Revolution, received some suits of clothes from England, richly laced, when Hendrick, King of the five nations of Mohawk, was present, the Chief allowed them much, but did not say anything at the time. In a few days Hendrick called on Sir Wm., and told him that he had a dream. On Sir William inquiring what it was, Hendrick told him that he had dreamed that Sir William had given him one of those fine suits which he had received from over the great water. Sir Wm. took the hint, and immediately presented him with one of the richest suits. Hendrick, highly pleased with this generosity, retired. A short time after this Sir William happening to be in the company of Chief Hendrick, told him that he also had a dream. Hendrick, being solicitous to know what it was, Sir William informed him that he had dreamed that he (Hendrick) had made him a present of a particular tract of land (the most valuable on the Mohawk River) of about 5000 acres. Hendrick presented the land immediately, with this shrewd remark: "Now, Sir William, I will never dream with you again, you dream too hard for one." This tract became known as "The Dreamland Tract". However, a tradition exists in the Susquehanna Valley that the land referred to in the story was not in the Mohawk Valley, but in the Susquehanna, at the mouth of Otego Creek (where Frederick I afterward settled).

The site of the Hess homestead on the Mohawk rebuilt after having been burned by the Indians, as related, could still be ascertained by the Nellis families who still reside in that locality (1924). Miss K.M. Nellis, past regent of The Daughters of the American Revolution writes: "The original Hess house, of stone, was about one mile west of Palatine Stone Church, and about 3 miles east of St. Johnsville, about 200 ft. north of the main highway, and a short distance west of Fort Hess which stood on the brow of a hill. The house was torn down in 1839, as the New York Central Railroad tracks are said to run through the door-yard of the old house, but the location can still be found."

Fort Hess was the one in which the Hess family, the Johannes Bollinger family, and other neighbors, found refuge during the attack of the enemy in the Revolutionary War. This second son of Johannes Hess II viz: Frederick I, who by his father's will, inherited a portion of the "Dreamland Tract" married Catherine Nellis. The Nellis family owned tracts of land in the vicinity - in the Mohawk Valley, and much of this land is still occupied by their descendants.

A great granddaughter of Frederick Hess I (Lois Hess Kerr Pittenger) on her way east, through the Mohawk Valley, via the New York Central R.R., in 1923, had pointed to her these beautiful lands, still owned by the Nellis families, "rich dairy farmers". She also located the old "Palatine Stone Church" (Lutheran) erected in 1770, to which her great great grandfather Johannes Hess II, and heads of six Nellis families had contributed - as previously stated.

It is a matter of historical record that the two Nellis brothers who settled in the Mohawk Valley 1710-1723, with their families, became the ancestors of 57 Nellis soldiers in the War of the Revolution, from the years 1776-1783 (see New York State Archives - "The Revolution" Vol.1, pg. 435. The Hess families also contributed to the Revolution practically all their members from extreme youth to old age - one man Augustinis and his 5 sons having served in the war of Independence. The 4 sons of Johannes II, with other related families had a military record: viz: Fox, Klock (in Germany Von Kluck), Scramling, McDougall, Nellis. Frederick Hess I (John Frederick) and his wife Catherine Nellis lived in Palatine until about the year 1780 (the year in which Palatine was burned by Brant and his Tory Indians).

About this time - from 1780-1782 - probably on account of having been burned out, they moved to the Susquehanna Valley, going down the Susquehanna River, in company with the Scramling families, on rafts. The Hess and Scramling families settled near each other, on land at the mouth of Otego - or Mill - Creek, between the towns of Oneonta and Otego. The Frederick Hess I homestead is a very beautiful location overlooking the wide Susquehanna Valley and in sight of the Catskill Mountains.

In 1915, Frances Kerr Cook, daughter of Lois Hess Kerr-Pittenger received a letter from (Mrs.) Alice Ford, 86 Chesnut St., Onconta, NY (D.A.R. national No. 5188) who located the homestead of Frederick Hess I, she wrote "I wish you might see the farm where your ancestor located. It is one of the loveliest sights in this beautiful Susquehanna Valley - looking for miles up and down the river." This farm was afterward sold to a Mr. Hale, who rebuilt the house - using some of the material from the old Hess house. The place is since usually referred to as the "old Hale farm". This place was visited, 1923, by (Mrs.) Lois Hess Kerr-Pittenger and her son Edward Mills Pittenger, great granddaughter and great great grandson, respectively, of Frederick Hess I (John Frederick). (An account of their visit is given on another page.) A deed is on record at Cooperstown, NY in which Frederick Hess 1st conveys this farm to his oldest son - John - in the year 1801. Frederick's wife, Catherine Nellis Hess, died in 1799, and was buried in one of the cemeteries nearby - presumably at Otego.

Her grandson, Daniel McDougal Hess writes- in his memoirs -"My grandmother died at middle age leaving nine children, most of them lived to a great age two of them over ninety, my father - Frederick (2nd) died about 1806, and was at first buried on his own land, with a boulder of native stone for marker, in which was inscribed his name "F. Hess", but his oldest son John to whom he had willed the farm, and who had sold it to Mr. Hale, and himself moved to Oneida, NY, wrote to a member of the family, that in 1840 he visited Otego, and removed his father's body to "the cemetery" - no doubt by the side of his wife Catherine's grave. True to the traditions of his ancestors, this Frederick Hess (1st) had the religious and generous characteristics of his forebears. It is recorded by a member of his family that his last words to his son John, were "Never let a man go hungry from your house, what you cut off the top of the loaf, will grow on the bottom."

The 2nd son (4th child) of Frederick and Catherine Nellis Hess was Frederick (2nd) - our ancestor) - he was born at Otego, NY Nov. 29 - 1784. He was married to Mary (Polly) McDougall, in Palatine, NY - Sept. 2 - 1804. She was a grand daughter of Dominic Peter Nicholas Sommers and a daughter of Donald McDougall and Eva Sommers - through his marriage were united with the lines: Sommers, McDougall, and Hess. Frederick (2nd) and his wife Mary McDougall Hess lived at Otego - at the mouth of Otego or Mill Creek, when it flows into the Susquehanna River, till about 1822-'24, when they moved to Canada, buying a tract of land near the site of the present city of London. They were pioneers in a sparsely settled country, their home was surrounded by a dense forest of stately pine trees. This Frederick (2nd) had a log schoolhouse built on his land, in order that his own and his neighbors children might be taught, and his oldest son Daniel McD. taught in this school. Frederick 2nd and his wife Mary and visiting pioneer missionaries were active in teaching the Indian tribes, who lived in the vicinity, and many were converted to Christianity through their helpfulness. The Indians were especially fond of Frederick's wife, Mary, and called her "Mother" - in the Indian tongue.

It is related by the son Daniel McD. Hess, that when an Indian was converted to the Christian faith, he immediately endeavored to practice the habits of civilization, and as a preliminary came to "Mother" and asked for soap! Grandfather Frederick II in his old age, as his children recall, used often to repeat the formula: "Cleanliness is next to Godliness."

As this Frederick Hess II came to Canada so soon after the War of 1812, the animosities of the War were no doubt cherished by many. Some Canadian Officials had noticed when at one time they had visited the Hess home - the silver-mounted rifles which they had brought with them from New York, and one day when Frederick and his oldest son Daniel McD. then about 16 years of age, were hunting deer in the forest, the Canadians watched for their return and on some pretext seized Daniel and kept him in their Guard-house overnight, until protest from his father - Frederick - next morning, secured his release. The Canadian officials, however, had taken their prized silver-mounted rifles, and never returned them. As a result of this and similar incidents, Frederick, as soon as they could dispose of their property, left Canada, and moved his family to Michigan, U.S.A. about 1836 or '37.

One year later, about 1837-'39, moved to the West bank of the Mississippi River, to a settlement called Lyons, now incorporated with the site of Clinton, IN. This locality was at that time a part of the Territory of Wisconsin, then known as the Black Hawk Purchase, but was soon separated from Wisconsin, and in 1846 was admitted to U.S. as the State of Iowa. In this trip from Michigan to the Mississippi R. Frederick II and his family passed through Chicago, then a small settlement but recently incorporated, situated on land but little above swamp level, the son Daniel McD. has recalled to memory that his father "had enough money in his pocket to have bought much of the land then within the Chicago limits"! However this location made little appeal to Frederick as he wanted more land.

After locating at Lyons, Frederick and his sons built the first house in that place, and about one mile west of Lyons, Frederick II acquired a large tract of land, giving a farm to each of his four sons: Daniel McD., Frederick III, Charles, and David. Frederick and his wife Mary McDougall also had three daughters: Catherine, Eva Eliza, and Margaret, to whom property was given at their marriage. Frederick's family remained in Lyons for some time, engaged in various occupations - Daniel McDougall the oldest son was the first Postmaster at Lyons. In 1839 he received his commission from Postmaster General Niles. He held the office seven years when he resigned and moved soon thereafter to his farm.

Frederick Hess and his family brought their religion with them to this pioneer settlement. In 1840, one of the first churches in Iowa (Methodist Episcopal) was organized at Lyons under Rev. Barton H. Cartwright (a relative of Peter Cartwright of pioneer fame). The church was organized in the home of Frederick and Mary Hess, whose house was also used as a Post Office with Daniel Hess as first post master as before stated. The charter members of this church were Frederick and Mary McD. Hess, and their children - Daniel McD., Charles, Stephen and Eliza "Hess" Trip, and Margaret Hess. The Hess family were music-lovers, and had fine voices, it was said of them that "it was worth going a long way to hear those Hess boys sing." The church, with the community, grew rapidly, and in 1856 the first Church building (a large two-story brick) was erected. The Hess family - especial Daniel - being among the prominent supporters, this Church had many able pastors, among them - Rev. Host Kynett - later prominent as founder of "Church Extension Society".

Rev Kynett was a young man just starting in his work as a minister, and it is probably not too much to believe, that during his six years association with this evangelical Lyons Church he himself was being developed to take a large outlook. He became a leader in founding churches throughout the nation, especially in the pioneer south and west. Regarding the activity of this society (Church Extension) - in reply to a taunt of the famous agnostic lecturer Robert Ingersoll - there was composed and sung the popular song "We're building two a day" (a statistical fact).

Among other early pastors at Lyons Church were Dr. A.H. Ames, afterward head of missionary activities at Washington, D.C.., also Dr. S.N. Fellows, later professor at Iowa State University, and Dr. R.D. Parsons, eloquent and inspiring speaker and leader of young people. These pastors furnished a great educational training to the Hess families, most of whose children became members of this old Mother Church.

Daniel (McDougall) Hess - our ancestor - (oldest son of Frederick and Mary McDougall Hess) was married to Frances Kirk Wright (who was born in Union County near the eastern border of Indiana), on August 10th, 1843, at Pleasant Valley, a settlement on the Mississippi River north of Davenport, Iowa. They lived in Lyons till 1848, where Daniel M. Hess was Post Master when they moved onto their farm - about one mile from Clinton and Lyons, where they continued to reside till his death October 22-1885. Daniel (McD.) Hess was a man universally loved and respected - to an unusual degree, upright --kindly almost to a fault - a model "gentleman of the old school", always a leader and supporter of every good cause. An old pioneer friend of nearly fifty years standing - Mr. G.A. Griswold - in speaking at his funeral said: "Here, beneath these flowers, rests the perishable encasing - wherein for near 79 years was enshrined the well balanced mind that bore the name of Daniel Hess, coming into this county before it was organized in 1839, when men of his character were needed and appreciated in the forming of society here - from the rude elements almost in a state of nature which then existed - he stood at the head of that grand column which began an era of civilization in this land. He largely helped to change it from the land of savage - to that of the home of enlightened men and women. Whoever looked in his kindly face, or grasped his honest hand - will not forget him. Nature gifted him with a spirit full of chase enjoyment - with a mind fitted to enjoy the pleasures of affection, friendship, and patriotism, - his work, his advice, and his example will remain with us. "

On the formation of the "Pioneer Society" of Clinton Co., IN. Daniel Hess was for many years it first President. His wife - Frances - a devoted wife and mother and home-maker, survived him six years. Their home was always a center of hospitality, the common meeting place of a wide circle of friends and relatives. To that sincere, unpretentious, Christian home-life, many have paid a tribute - as an incentive to success in their own lives. They are buried in an old cemetery near Lyons and Clinton, Iowa.

Copyright 2000 Ruth Davis who owns the manuscript. Used with permission.

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