Pennsylvania Pioneer to New York State
In the years after the Revolutionary War there was a surge in the number of new settlements dotting the wilderness in what is now known as the Southern Tier of New York State. Many of the brave souls who pioneered this area had their roots in Pennsylvania and wanderlust for adventure in their hearts. Life was short in those days and was, at times, frequented all too often by the grim reaper. These settlers were of hardy stock, accepted their lot in life and did their very best to adapt to the various conditions they had to face daily. John Fridley was such a settler and the story of his short life begs to be told.
John Fridley was born 7 July 1776, in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, a son of Peter and Eva Hummel Friedle. His siblings were Jacob born 1773, Elizabeth born 1785 and Frederick born 1786. Circa 1799 John Fridley married Catherine Huey who also was born in Dauphin County. She was born 7 January 1778 and was a daughter of Abraham Huey and his wife Magdalene Gernand Huey of that county.
John and Catherine Huey Fridley were the parents of Sarah born 1800 in PA, John born 1803 in PA, George W. born 1805 in PA, Eliza born 1807 in either PA or NY and Benjamin Franklin born 1809 in NY. Listed as head of household on the 1810 New York Federal Census record for Tioga County, Township of Newtown (Elmira) was John Fridley. (Listed as living nearby were an Adam Huy/Huey, a John Huy/Huey, and a Michael Huy/Huey who may have been Catherine’s brothers.) This young pioneer couple, who had made the arduous trek from Pennsylvania to New York and had built a home for their growing family, was soon separated by the death of Catherine on 29 September 1810. A young son was buried that year and one can surmise Catherine died in childbirth.
The harsh reality of life dictated that this widower with five young children should soon marry in order to provide a mother for his family. Shortly thereafter, John Fridley married a widow named Catherine Heckart McCormick whose husband Abraham McCormick had died in early January 1810 in the Township of Painted Post, Steuben County, NY. It is not known if Catherine had any children with Abraham McCormick.
John Fridley and his second wife Catherine were the parents of Harriet born 1812, Luther born 1814, Abraham McCormick born 1 May 1817/21 May 1818 (both dates given by different references) and Henry born 1819. Sometime between Henry’s birth and the recording of the 1820 federal census, it is surmised that John Fridley died as his wife Catherine was listed as head of household with three young males and two young females. If John died in the Township of Painted Post, there is no record of his burial place.
In the Steuben County, NY Surrogate’s Office there is on record, guardianship papers issued to John Wormley, Jr., a prominent settler of Caton, NY, for Eliza Fridley, age 17, and Franklin Fridley, age 15, indicating they may have been orphans. The date of this guardianship was 22 March 1824. They were the children of John Fridley and his first wife Catherine Huey Fridley. Evidently, a guardian was appointed for them because their stepmother Catherine Heckart McCormick Fridley could not legally have guardianship for them. (In those early days a woman was not allowed custody of her own children if a male relative objected.) There is valid reason to assume the children were on good terms with their stepmother because their brother George W. Fridley maintained contact with Catherine well into the 1840s.
The Fridley children from John’s first marriage moved from the Chemung and Steuben County areas and little is known about Sarah, John and Eliza. George W. Fridley, born 1805, left the Fridley household by 1820 and was a tailor in Washington, D.C. in 1827. He married, on 13 February 1827, Sarah A. Sheppard who had been born in Washington, D.C. circa 1810 and they had eight children of whom the first four were born in Washington, D.C. and the last four in Painted Post, N.Y.: Jane born 1828, Catherine born 1830, George born 1831/2, Philip born 1834, William Henry Heckart born 1837, Mary born 1838, Frederick born 1842 and Benjamin F. born 1843. George W. died in 1891. His brother Benjamin Franklin Fridley, born 1809, walked to Philadelphia, PA to obtain some law books and he then went to reside in Kane County, Illinois by age 25. Benjamin Franklin Fridley was a lawyer, a sheriff, a judge and a state legislator. He may have been the role model for Abraham McCormick Fridley who followed a similar path to Minnesota.
The Fridley children from John’s second marriage remained in the Chemung and Steuben County areas until the mid-1850s. It is known that John’s son Abraham McCormick Fridley resided in or near Knoxville which is the present-day Northside of the City of Corning, NY. Abraham married Betsey_______. They buried three daughters in the Old Presbyterian Churchyard Cemetery on Pulteney Street in Corning. These daughters were Maini/Maria who died in 1840, Fannie E. who died in September 1841, and Mary J. who died 20 April 1861 at age 19 years.
Catherine Heckart McCormick Fridley left the Corning, NY area by 1854 when she and several children (sons Luther and Henry) followed her son Abraham’s move west to Minnesota. Her son Abraham McCormick Fridley had been a Steuben County Deputy Sheriff by age 21 and also was a toll collector for the canal in Corning, NY. By 1851 Abraham McCormick Fridley had been appointed as an agent for the Winnebago Indians by President Millard Fillmore. He was instrumental in founding the town of Fridley, Minnesota and he became a Minnesota legislator. Abraham McCormick Fridley died in 1888 leaving a widow and sons David, Frank and Henry.
Catherine’s daughter Harriet, born 1812, married Felix Fenner of Elmira. Felix was a veteran of the War of 1812 and had settled in Elmira by 1830. In 1840 Felix and Harriet Fenner resided in Tremont, Illinois. According to the 1860 Federal Census for Tremont, Felix and Harriet Fenner were the parents of Amanda born 1831, Ruth born 1833, Ellen born 1838, Mary Jane born 1843, Frances born 1844, Grace born 1848, and Ida born 1851.
Although John Fridley’s time on Earth was but a short 45 or so years, he left his mark with his indomitable pioneer spirit. He helped to tame a wilderness, and to raise a family that carried on his tradition of adventure as it moved to greener pastures.
This information was supplied to me by Charles A. Steidel who is the great-great-great-grandson of John Fridley. John Fridley’s son George W. Fridley was Mr. Steidel’s great-great-grandfather and his great-grandfather was William Henry Heckart Fridley. William Henry’s daughter Lilly Maud Fridley Archibald (born 1873 in Washington, D.C.) was Mr. Steidel’s maternal grandmother.
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