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David Ferguson

First Generation

Out of Scotland (the Auld Country)

Born Abt 1760  Died Abt 1845

Born: Highlands of Scotland

Died: Andes, Delaware County, New York USA

Married: Martha (Marsh) Duncan Abt 1793

Children: John D. Ferguson  (Duncan or David) born abt 1794/95 Albany NY.

               Jane Mabel Ferguson born abt 1797

Father and Mother: Unknown

        David Ferguson is believed to have been born about 1760 in the Highlands of Scotland and died at Andes, Delaware County. New York probably between 1840 and 1850. David Ferguson is the first generation out of Scotland of Claude Ferguson’s family line.
A ship leaves for the colonies
David came from Scotland.  This is marked in a census from his son John D Ferguson. It is also in another census of his great grandson, also named John D Ferguson, noting David came from Scotland. The Delaware County Historical Society has written a small article of John D Ferguson and noting that David Ferguson came from Scotland.  Ferguson, the name itself, is a Scottish name, with centuries old origins coming from Ireland.

It is unknown exactly what area of Scotland that David came from. Many who lived around Andes, the town that he last resided in Delaware County, New York, came from Perthshire, Scotland. Following family first name practices of the time also suggests it is possible he came from Perthshire which borders the Highlands. It is also unknown as to what year he came to Colonial America but it is believed to be prior to the American Revolution probably about 1774 or 1775. It is also unclear if he traveled by ship with family members but it is possible. His father’s name is believed to be either John or Duncan but that is not certain.

We first know of David Ferguson through an unflattering letter of Martha Duncan written by Hipolyte Penet dated October 1, 1794. The letter was originally written in French from Hipolyte to his brother Peter and sent from the Hermitage, near Albany New York.  In the letter, it notes that Martha Duncan who became a widow of John Duncan, marries a “servant”.  This servant would be David Ferguson. The letter notes struggles of Martha finding a man to remarry considering she already had borne many children to John Duncan. The letter notes that Martha Duncan went to several denominational churches until settling with the Methodist. The letter notes Martha Duncan struggled with other persons living in the Hermitage. The writer makes an assessment that John Duncan’s financial affairs are a mess and he was in debt. Hipolyte also seems to give praise to the “revolution” likely referring to the French Revolution of the 1790’s after the American Revolution was over. This letter is interesting considering Hypolytes Penet seemly dislikes Martha Duncan and David Ferguson or looks down on them. Hipolyte was actually married to John Duncan and Martha Duncans daughter Frances. Hipolyte is later seen as a neighbor in Andes with David and Martha in the 1820’s census along with John M Duncan. We can assume Hipolyte probably was a judgmental person.  An important reminder to the reader is that Andes was named Middletown prior to 1819. We could assume that David Ferguson was probably a “farm servant” but we are not sure if he was an indentured servant to John Duncan.

Martha and David Ferguson had 2 children that we know of after they married probably about 1793. The two children John D. Ferguson, born about 1794/95, and Jane Ferguson, born about 1797. Possibly, there may have been a 3rd who may have died in infancy.

From the Schenectady County NY Historical Society Deed Listing D 855 19 April 1800. An agreement between Martha Duncan and late John Duncan; to wit: she would accept two parts out of a twelfth of the residue of an estate. This was witnessed by: David Ferguson; Martha Ferguson. It names Richard Duncan (a former Caption and Loyalist, son of John Duncan) and other witnesses Joseph C. Yates and John Rante (?) .  This document has David Ferguson’s written signature, indicating that David Ferguson was probably literate.  Scotland had the earliest schools of Europe. Scotland organized and institutionalized learning began in the Middle Ages.  Martha on the other hand, writes an “X” for her signature indicating she probably didn’t know how to write.
There is an 1800 census that shows David Ferguson living in Watervliet, Albany Co., NY.  This is after they moved out of the Hermitage. The Hermitage had burned down probably by this time. Historians have 1790 the year that the Hermitage burnt down but this is incorrect as H. Penet’s letter of 1794 suggests the Hermitage is still there.
In 1817 there is a Martha (March) Duncan Fergusons deposition dated Sept 24 1817 at her home mentioned as the “House of David Ferguson” in Middletown, Delaware, New York (now Andes).  It speaks of her first being a maid servant to John Duncan, then married him, and had children from him. She was the 2nd wife to John Duncan and that she and John Duncan did indeed get married. It mentions Martha is 60 plus years indicating she may have been a few years older than David Ferguson. Martha (March) Duncan likely married David Ferguson probably since about 1793.

David Ferguson is on a census August 7, 1820 listed as 45 year or more. It also suggests that Martha is living with him being older than 45 as well. Included in the census is John David Ferguson in the beginnings of his own family. John M Duncan, and Hipolyte Penet as neighbors.
David Ferguson 1820 Census 
 David Ferguson 1820 Census Original

 A picture below ca 1820 shows what homesteading the new farm looked like. The winters were cold in the mountains, but there were plenty of firewood to heat the one room home.   
1820 Homestead Picture
A picture below from J.W. Wells, a well-known artist of the pioneer times, illustrates the labor involved in homesteading and clearing new land and farm.

Clearing land picture

The farm is located off a side of a large hill or mountain. There is plenty of forest in the surroundings. The Ferguson’s along with friends and fellow neighboring farmers likely cleared the land of trees to use for growing crops and creating a pasture for the livestock to graze on. They also had the laborious chore of clearing the land of large fieldstones.

The 1840 census shows that David Ferguson was likely living with John D Ferguson and having an age between 70 and 79. The census does not mention David Ferguson, but we can assume he was living with his son. There is no indication that Martha is still alive. If the census taker were correct, then it would mean that David Ferguson was born after 1760.

1840 Census

David Ferguson is believed to be buried at what is called "Ferguson Family Cemetery" on their farm that they resided on from about 1812 on the side of a mountain known to locals as Ferguson Hill, near Andes, Delaware County, New York. It is a ways above and behind the Andes Rural Cemetery following a dirt trail. What is left is thought to be of the homestead and barn foundations of the Ferguson farm. There are also 2 spring houses on the property.  Patricia Ward of Burnt Hills, NY located the cemetery in September of 1990. It is a small walled cemetery made of fieldstones with seven graves marked by unlettered fieldstones. The cemetery is about 16 ft by 20 ft. Several large trees are growing among the graves. Isaac Samuels acquired the land, where the cemetery and farm was in 1874, who also acquired adjacent land from Henry Field.

One can assume that the David Ferguson and family lived a very simple life, with little money. Based on the condition of using fieldstones for head stones comparable to other persons who lived in Andes who had decent head stones, the Ferguson’s seemed to live off the land. Their farm probably had dairy cows, oxen, chickens, sheep, and some crops, possibly potatoes much in the same manner as some farms in the area today have. Later census shows that they had a framed house, probably unpainted. One can assume they attended the Methodist Church in Andes after it was built.

Based on Patricia Ward’s 1990 description of the cemetery, Eric Ferguson went to rediscover the property in October 2012. Afterwards Eric Ferguson brought Steve Hall to the location in July 2013.
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