John Thomas Klumph, the first

From: Descendants, 1763-1966, of John Thomas Klumph (No. 1) 1729-1818: And Early Klumph History by Richard Amidon Klumph (Hardcover - 1967).


John, Thomas (Gustavus) Klumph, No.1, was our ancestral father. He was born in Germany in 1729. The first thirty years of his life would be a complete' blank to us were it not for the many Klumph legends handed down. Some of the legends are extremely contradictory to the others. Yet by testing each legend against known recorded colonial history and discarding parts' obviously impossible, a rather definite pattern emerges.

His father, this pattern indicates, was probably a German Palatine farmer driven from his home near the Rhine river by the French army. Instead of going to England and other countries his father elected to go with a fewer number to northern Germany. If he had chosen England as most of the Palatines did, it would have been possible for him to have been part of the three thousand that English Queen Anne sent to New York colony in 1710; thus in 1729 our ancestral father would have been born in this country instead of Germany.

In north Germany John learned farming and blacksmithing at an early age. In his middle or late teens he left home and moved to England. He arrived at an unfortunate time if he expected to find work there as none was then available to Germans. So he enlisted in the English army and was sent overseas. He was never a professional soldier in the usual sense of the word; he was one of the regiment's blacksmiths. It appears his regiment was stationed on Jamaica Island when the French and Indian war started.

After it had become obvious to Pitt, the English prime minister, that the Colonial forces might lose the war to the French, he sent many regiments of British regulars to America from England, Jamaica and elsewhere.

After it had become obvious to Pitt, the English prime minister, that the Colonial forces might lose the war to the French, he sent many regiments of British regulars to America from England, Jamaica and elsewhere.

John's regiment probably arrived in Albany in the early Spring of 1758 where it was joined by seven English and Highlander regiments and nine provincial regiments all under the command of English Gen. Abercomby who set out to take Fort Ticonderoga. He failed and after terrible losses returned to Albany with a shattered army and wintered there.

The next year, 1759, English Gen. Amherst took command and he was more successful and they wintered at Crown Point and other places on Lake Champlain. From there, in the spring of 1760, they continued to Montreal which fell. Quebec fell to other English forces and the war ended although the treaty was not signed until 1763.

Just how much actual fighting our ancestral father did during those three years is unknown because the life of regiment blacksmiths was not just shoeing horses, but included maintenance of all the regiment vehicles, boats and ordnance and many special duties behind the front lines. It is possible some of those duties of John included being interpreter for the English interrogation officers of German prisoners who had been pressed into the French armies and who deserted at the first opportunity to become prisoners of the English and Colonial forces. However being a regiment blacksmith could be extremely hazardous at times, such as in ·the 1758 battle of Ticonderoga when General Abercomby ordered all available blacksmiths to move ahead of his front line to pierce the French dense barricade. Most of them were killed in this futile attempt. No list of the names of the survivors was made.

It appears his enlistment expired during the campaign but he was not discharged until his regiment returned to Albany, NY., in the late Fall of 1760 after the fighting ended and when he was age 31.

It is unknown just what attracted him to Albany as a civilian nor when and how he met Peggy Davis nor his occupation, but it probably was blacksmithing. -The date of their marriage is unknown but it appears to have been early in 1762 when he was 33 and she 19. That same year he and his bride and four families set out to journey to the part at Albany County that is now Springfield Township, Otsego County. When they arrived at the head of Otsego- Lake (over sixty miles west of Albany) each picked where they wished to settle. Our .ancestral Klumph parents settled at the NW corner of the lake, the Jacob Tygart family north from the lake, and the John Kelly, Richard Ferguson and James Young families in the eastern part nearly four miles away. To settle so far apart was an extremely daring thing to do. It was Indian country; they had no legal right to the ground they claimed and there were no other white people in the area and for the next six years very few other families came to the area. Yet they had no serious trouble with the Indians until the Revolution.

Alone these families could not have coped with the more difficult parts of cabin and barn building, the most heavy work of clearing the dense forests for farming, nor "road" building, serious illness nor child birth. These five original pioneers or their wives often united to help each other. A round trip to a store in the Mohawk valley to the north required two full days. There was no doctor. To the east the tiny village of Cherry Valley was closer but as they too had to transport their goods from the Mohawk valley the prices would be higher. (Cherry Valley land patent was granted in 1738 and it was the first settlement in what is now Otsego County. Cooperstown bter at the south end of Otsego Lake did not exist when our ancestral father settled at the opposite end of the lake. Otsego Lake, the largest body of water in this region, is eight miles long north and south and about one mile wide. It is about 1,200 feet above sea level and is surrounded by hills that rise from 400 to 500 feet above its surface. It is the head waters of the great Susquehanna River. The lake was later made famous as the scene of James Fenimore Cooper's novels ''The Deerslayer,"' "The Pioneers" and others).

Some books for additional background reading are suggested on a preceding page.

In 1767 a newcomer arrived who settled at the north end of Otsego Lake. It was Captain Augustine Prevost, retired, who had served in the British army in Jamaica. It appears he and our ancestral father had known each other quite well before. It is possible that at one time Prevost had been his commanding officer. Anyway it appears John's second son, Augustine, who was born the next year was named after the captain who was the son-in-law of Colonel Croghan, then special Indian agent for the colonies of New York and Pennsylvania.

When the Fort Stanwix treaty was signed in 1768 between the Iroquois and the English, the King granted Colonel Croghan a huge land patent in now Otsego county and included all the land around most of Otsego Lake and the land settled by the original five pioneers. Surveyors were brought in to divide the grant into lots and the whole northern section was assigned to Captain Augustine Prevost to sell. The surveyors ignored the property lines of the original settlers who then had to buy from Prevost a lot containing the most valuable part of their farm. But at least for the first time they could obtain legal possession.

John Thomas Klumph bought lot number eight. It was oblong and ran NW to SE, the latter corner was on the west side of the lake less than a mile south of the extreme NW corner of the lake. The lot contained 100 acres more or less according to the deed. One might describe it as containing two plateaus, a high one in the rear, a lower one by the lake and hilly between the two. Not my idea of a farm but he did very well with it. The surveyors with this arrangement created twice as many lots having lake frontage. The deed was dated April 8, 1771 and was proved and recorded at the Cooperstown court house February 29, 1804. The clerk misspelled the name on his record as Thomas Clump. (This is understandable as our John Thomas Klumph did not like his first name and rarely used it and he pronounced Klumph as "clump" just as most of us do today. His wife apparently pronounced it as "clumf".)

John was able to supplement his farm income by work done in his small blacksmith shop on the farm and he became noted in the area for his craftsmanship. He occasionally was employed by Prevost who built himself another palatial home and the Prevost saw mill. John also did hauling in a strong wagon he had built to transport goods into the area from now Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley. His wife taught the children and Indians of the area to read and write.

Richard Smith arrived in the area May 1769 enroute to inspect land in a patent on the Susquehanna River. He carried with him a journal into which he recorded his trip day-by-day and the names of all the people he met. He found our ancestral father with several others together on a building project near Prevost's place. Smith got mixed up on first names and recorded our ancestral father as Gustavus Klumph. After the Revolution when the historian Hurd was gathering material for his History of Otsego county most of the records of the north part of the lake had been destroyed in the Springfield and Cherry Valley massacres whereas Smith's journal was intact in his home in New Jersey. The result was Hurd used Smith's "Gustavus" version and the later county histories likewise. None of the names of the children or wife of John appears in any Otsego county history book but they do appear in histories of Chautauqua county N.Y., Boone county Illinois and others and usually have their father's name correctly.

In the Revolution the Iroquois were allies of the British, but most of the action of the Indians were supplements to the Tories who raided and destroyed the frontier regions of the new nation. The area of our ancestral family was especially susceptible to these raids. Most of the newcomers left at once and never returned. Our ancestral father proved time and again the most important thing to him was his family. When friendly Indians warned him of pending raids in his immediate vicinity and to which fort was the best to go to at the time, he never hesitated. He gathered his family together and took them to that fort. The safest one was about twelve hours away. When those Indians believed it safe to return he did and usually found considerable damage had been done. He also found and buried the bodies of neighbors who had refused to go promptly. Often he had not completed the repair before a new raid warning came.

The most serious raid was the massacre of Cherry Valley and nearby Springfield in 1778. It seems he had taken his family to a fort in the Mohawk valley at the time. That year John was 49, his wife 35, Jacob 15, Augustine 10, Jeremiah 9, Mary 3 and Thomas a few months old. (The other two daughters were not born until 1780 and 1787).

Unlike most of the others, John never gave up returning to his homestead between raids and was sometimes able to plant or harvest a crop. Even so, his financial status became desperate and a year later George Clinton, first governor of the state of New York, sent him money to reimburse some of his losses. The massacre of Cherry Valley so aroused the people of the colonies that George Washington in 1779 sent the governor's brother General James Clinton with a strong well equipped force to take the offensive against the Indians and he was very successful. There were much fewer Indian-Tory raids in the Otsego Lake area after that.

In January 1781 John's son Jeremiah at only 12 enlisted and became a dispatch rider and a year later John himself enlisted at 53, but as usual as Thomas Klumph instead of John Thomas Klumph, according to the pay roll records of Hugh Hughes, deputy quartermaster for the state of New York for 1782. His rank, it says, was fatigueman and express which probably means blacksmith and transportation. There was little action that year as the British General Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown, Va., Oct. 19, 1781, but the peace treaty was not signed until 1783.

During John's absence from home his son Jacob 19 was the head of the family. (It is likely that Augustine and perhaps Jacob had served for short periods in the Army of the American revolution, but not the fourth son Thomas who was only five years old.) John and Jeremiah returned home about December 1782.

For the next twelve years our John was able to accomplish much on his homestead with the assistance of his sons and freedom from Indian raids. In 1787 when John was 58 and his wife 44 the last of their seven children was born; Catherine ("Lany"). In the first Federal Census, 1790, John was misrecorded as Thomas Clump. (The only other Clump in the country was really Klump and not related. There was no Klumph spelling).

John's second son Augustine at 27 was the first to marry (Jan. 31, 1795 to Sarah Simpson, 17) and it appears they remained with his father and their two children, Thomas S'. and Harriet S. were born there and It wasn't until fifteen years later (1810) the Augustine family moved to Chautauqua county N. Y. John had ample funds to enlarge the home on the homestead due to his previous financial interest in an 8,000 acre land promotion started in 1789. He and a group of partners purchased the land in the Susquehanna valley and hired promoters to sell it. (Recorded Thomas Clump)

The first to leave home was Jeremiah (3rd son) who at 28 married Amanda Norton 18 in 1797 and settled on a newly purchased 200 acre farm nearby. He had been a very junior partner in that land promotion. John's daughter Elizabeth at 19 married Leonard Vibbard 18 in 1799. Finally the oldest son Jacob at 40 married a girl 17, Catherine Bowhall, but remained at his father's home thirteen more years. John's daughter Catherine at 19 married Perry Hall 21 in 1806. Thomas J., the youngest son, married at 29 to Sarah Rice 18 in 1807 and moved far away to Chautauqua county N.Y., and later Jacob, Augustine and the married sisters followed him there.

This must have been a great disappointment to our John then 87. The big house must have seemed empty with only himself, his wife and daughter Mary who never married. But to him even though all of his helpers had gone, it was probably unthinkable to give up this homestead he had created with so much toil from the wilderness. His son Jeremiah finally came to his rescue by selling his own nearby farm which was better suited to farming than that of John and moved his family to his father's house. This was a sacrifice for Jeremiah who preferred to move with the others to Chautauqua County, but it brought happiness to his parents. In the fall of 1817 John's health began to fail and that winter several of his children and grandchildren made the long and difficult trip back to the old homestead for an extended visit. While there, Jeremiah's wife died and in January 1818 John, our ancestral father, died at the age of 89.

John Thomas (Gustavus) Klumph was survived by his wife Margaret 75 and all seven of his children, Jacob W. 55; Augustine C. 50; Jeremiah 49; Mary 43; Thomas J. 40; Elizabeth (Mrs. Leonard Vibbard) 38 and Catherine "Lany" (Mrs. Perry Hall, Sr.) 31. Also nineteen Klumph grandchildren, Margaret then age 19, Philip 16, Elon 13. Nelson 11, touise 8, Mary 6, Erastus 2, Amanda few months; Benson 14, Jerry 12, Augustine D. 9, Elizabeth 7, Alfred K. 2 (Amelia and Joseph not yet born); Thomas S. 22, Harriet 18; Alexis 8, Jacob 3, John Thomas No.2, 1 (Fayette, Doctor, Charity, Charlotte and Cornelius not yet born) .. He was also survived by then four Vibbard. and four Hall grandchildren. None of his grandchildren .had yet married, none had died. (Having been survived by nineteen living Klumph-name grandchildren established a record none of his male Klumph descendants have. even come close to matching. Even more remarkable is that his four sons who made this possible had lived through the Indian massacre days when whole families lost their lives).

His estate was not probated. Instead, his wife and children collectively sold the farm (lot 8) to Garret Wikoff February 26, 1818 for $2,000 which was probably equivalent to $25,000 in 1959 dollars. The division of the estate is unknown. Immediately thereafter Jeremiah, his fami1y, his mother and sister Mary moved to Chautauqua county N.Y., where all the others Klumphs lived.

A biography of our ancestral mother (nee Margaret "Peggy" Davis is not possible at this time and may never be. In old Albany County the name Davis outnumbered all others. Five unrelated groups by the name of Davis have genealogies but not our Margaret. Of the large remainder it is now impossible to determine who descended from whom. Legend says she was an Albany school teacher but there is no proof now, but there could have been before the state library and capitol fire in 1911. Albany had no public schools before the Revolution but they did have private schools for the rich children and "ma'am" schools for the others. I do not question the legend as she was definitely educated and qualified. She and her husband were among the original members of the First Presbyterian church of now Springfield township, Otsego county. That church never had a building. She probably was the motivation of her husband's adoption of the Klumph spelling, which previously was said to be Klumfe or Klumffee. No doubt she would be annoyed at our failure to recognize that "ph" the consonantal digraph is pronounced "f" but even her own husband pronounced his new name as "clump." Nevertheless, they did create a new name, a name different from all others, by which their descendants alone, even today could be immediately identified - Klumph - with the H on the end. She died in the home of her widower son Jeremiah in Portland Township, Chautauqua County N. Y. Altogether she must have had a trying yet rewarding life with all the dangers and hardships of the frontier with devoted children and a husband who was steady, strong, a hard worker, perhaps a little too stubborn and strict, perhaps sensitive about his accent and her higher book education, but he loved his family.

Up to the present (1966) he has had over 4610 known descendants and the living reside in 44 of the 50 States.

2nd generation; the children of John Thomas Klumph No.1, were: Jacob W. Kl., head of branch B; Augustine C. Kl., head of branch C; Jeremiah Kl., head of branch A; Mary D. Kl.; Thomas J. Kl., head of branch D; Elizabeth "Betsey" Kl., head of branch E; and Catherine "Laney" Klumph, head of branch F.