The Vanstones of Albion NY

compiled from notes by Ida Watt Lynch (great grand-daughter of John and Urssla).

John, the son of Richard Vanstone and Ann Gibbons, was baptised in Monk Okehampton in Devon in 1800.  He moved to the south of the county, working as a miller at Budshead and at Phoenix Mills in Horrabridge, and married Ursula White in 1824 in Plymouth.  They had a vast family – 13 children who survived childhood.
Some of their elder married children emigrated at an early date to America.  A son born to their second son John was born in 1850 on the St.Lawrence River and was named after it.
John and Ursula with their younger children made the six week voyage to America in 1854.  They landed at Montreal and travelled by boat to Lockport and thence along the Erie Canal to Albion, New York.
Only one child, John and Ursula’s married daughter Jane, remained in England.
John settled his family at 63 East State Street, separated by a mill pond on Sandy Creek from the mill where he worked.

Something happened to the family names when they arrived in America.  His wife is recorded in English registers as Ursula or Usila but in America she is recorded as Urssla.  Vanstone became Van Stone, possibly because there was an assumption, when they first emigrated, that it was a Dutch name.  This gave rise to a family legend:
“Many years ago, the son of a wealthy Dutch Burgher ran away from his father’s home in Holland.  In anger the father disinherited him.  Eventually the young man settled in Horrabridge in Devonshire, found work and married, raising a family, anglicizing his name to VanStone.  In his old age, his father, curious and less hostile, visited him there.  Approving of his way of life, his wife and family, he decided to change his will.  But he was killed on the moors on his way home, so the son never inherited and that is why all the Vanstones are poor.”
Alas, though most Vanstones were fairly poor, the rest of the story is myth.

John and Urssla’s children.

Their eldest daughter Ann married George Townsend who worked as a cooper, living on the corner of Clarendon and East Park Streets in Albion: the house was occupied by their family for nearly 100 years.

Son John was a miller like his father.
“The first mill stones were brought into this area from near Palmyra over the old Indian Trail, now Rte.98, for the stone hereabouts was considered too soft for such purpose.  One of these first mill stones lay for many years on the curb of the southwest corner of East State and Clarendon Streets.  When my Mother taught at the school on that corner, this same stone served as part of the floor of a tiny shop, not unlike a railway flagman’s shanty.  The same stone is now up-ended in the yard behind the house recently built there.  The square hole, where the shaft fitted for turning it, is visible to any passer-by.”
John married and had three children  before he died of injuries sustained when he was caught between the grinding millstones.

Daughter Elizabeth married a British soldier in the Royal Sappers and Miners.  Accompanying her husband on his imperial tours of duty, one of her children was born in the West Indies.  Elizabeth died and was buried in Bermuda.

Son James was a stone mason and owned land on the Ridge Road near Medina.  He is buried in the Bates Road Cemetery, which he helped to establish.

Son Edwin, known as Turkey Ed,  was a cooper and also Deputy Sheriff in Orleans County, in which role he arrested the only man to be publicly hanged in the county.  He lived on McKinstry Street.

Son Robert was another miller, operating the VanStone mill on Sandy Creek with his younger brother Richard, who was known as a great lover of flowers..

Daughter Amelia married Vincent Bowler, who farmed in Lockport.  She died young as a result of an unfortunate accident.  “It was the custom in those days to waste little and to be as self-sufficient as possible, so almost every household made its own soap.  Wood ashes were hoarded through the winter months and when leached with rainwater through straw, a caustic lye was produced.  Oil and grease drippings were saved to be rendered and clarified.  These two ingredients were mixed together, making a very serviceable soap
Few farms had running water piped into the home, so drinking water was usually kept in a pail on the sink shelf, with a small dipper hung nearby.  As the tragic tale was related to me, Amelia rose in the night for a drink of water, without striking a light, and mistakenly dipped water from the pail containing lye.  She died in great agony shortly after.

Son George was another cooper.

Daughter Urssla married Arthur Harris, a stone mason.  “Urssla and Arthur had a family of four daughters, two of whom rose to positions of much responsibility in their chosen profession, education.  At the time of her death, Ada was Director of Primary Practice in the Pittsburg Pa. Schools, and a member of the faculty of the University of Pittsburg.  When she retired, Alice Harris was Assistant Superintendent of the Worcester, Mass. Public Schools.”