Generation XI: Elijah Nearly Disappears from the Historic Record

Not much record survives of Elijah (1827-1879), George’s third son and the second to survive to adulthood. On Christmas Eve 1850 he married Susan Brown (1827-1891,) daughter of Rowland B. and Mary Clark Brown, of the town of Morris, just south of Pittsfield.

Elijah first appears in the census rolls in 1860, living in Morris with Susan and six children. All but eldest Charles (18) are listed as having attended school in the previous year. As head of household, he is listed as owning real estate worth $475 and having a personal estate valued at $100. His real estate seems to consist of a house, in the village of Morris, sold to his wife Susan by her parents on January 21, 1859. She is listed as paying them $325, but the deed came with a $150 mortgage, making the total value $475.  Ref  Perhaps they had learned from Elijah’s father’s example of the need to make sure mortgage information is included in the transaction.

The town of Morris, Otsego County, NY

The 1860 census lists Day Laborer Elijah Colburn, age 33, living in the town of Morris with his wife Susan and five children.

The Civil War

In 1863, Elijah spent less than a year in the 152nd Infantry Regiment of the Union army, company C (“recruited principally from Mohawk and Morris.”) According to a detailed 1912 military history:

The regiment left the State October 25, 1862. It served in the Provisional Brigade, Abercrombie’s Division, defenses of Washington, from October, 1862; in the District of Washington, 22d Corps, from February, 1863; in the 1st, Terry’s, Brigade, 1st, Corcoran’s, Division, 7th Corps, Department of Virginia, at Suffolk, from April 22, 1863... it was honorably discharged and mustered out July 13, 1865, near Washington, D. C.  Ref

Elijah does not seem to have been much of a soldier. Enlisting at age 35 in September 1862, he was immediately promoted to Corporal. He resigned this “warrant” two months later, becoming a private again the first of November. He served as a "teamster," which at the time meant someone who drove a team of animals pulling a wagon.

152nd Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry Flank Markers, 16 1/2” hoist x 20” fly

“Colonel Leonard Boyer received authority in August 1862 to recruit a regiment from the 20th Senatorial District. Organized at Mohawk, the 152nd Regiment mustered into service in October 1862 for three years. These faded silk markers feature the 2nd Division, 2nd Corps fabric badge pieced into the center. The number appears in reverse when hoist is positioned on the left. The 152nd served almost exclusively within the 2nd Division, 2nd Corps from October 1862 to July 1865.” Ref

Excerpt from “C” company “Descriptive Book” summarizing the brief military service of blue-eyed, brown-haired, 5’8” Elijah Colburn.
  Occupation: Teamster.
  Enlistment: Sept. 15, 1862
  Promoted corporal Sept. 10 (sic).
  Resigned Nov/62.
  Disch. May 28/63 at Washington, D.C.”

In March 1863 Elijah was back home in Morris on furlough. The “Monthly Company Muster Roll” for April lists him “absent sick at Morris NY.” In May he briefly returned to the army, quickly landing in a Washington, D.C. hospital, where a surgeon granted him a Certificate of Disability. "An incident wound of right knee - opening the patella and causing permanent stiffness of knee joint - States that the wound was accidentally self-inflicted while erecting barracks - Right hand paralysis, cause unknown. Disability - at present - two thirds."

It is perhaps fortunate for us his descendants that Elijah was so clumsy with camp construction tools, if that was really the problem. During the month in which he was discharged, his regiment took heavy casualties in the Battle of the Wilderness. It went on to more of the same at Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg, and several lesser-known conflicts. The armies of the time were also plagued with disease. Twice as many enlisted men of the 152nd died from disease and “other causes” than died on the battlefield.

1863 Certificate of Medical Discharge, finding Elijah Colburn “incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of: an incised wound of right knee - opening the patella and causing permanent stiffness of knee joint. States that the wound was accidentally self-inflicted while erecting barracks. Right hand paralyzed, cause unknown. Disability - at present, two thirds.”

A Farmer in Morris

By the time of the 1870 census, Elijah had become a farmer. Unlike other farmers in these records, no estimate of the value of his real estate appears. This likely meant he was renting his farm, although a substantial farmhouse he occupied remained the home of one son, then another, many years after his death. In the Occupation column the woman listed as "keep house" is named Sarah, not Susan. Likely an error, or she may have used both names.

Elijah Colburn family in the 1870 census.

Their eldest sons Charles and Scott are listed as “farm laborers.” Scott, 16, has attended school within the previous year, while Charles, 18, has not. Also living with him are Lee (14), Ross (13), Ida (11) and Starr (8) According to Eleanor Rider’s Colburn genealogy, brother Scott later "Went west; made & lost a fortune in mines; fell ill; Charles brought him home where he died soon after." Ross and Starr stayed in the area and had many children. Starr died from being gored by a bull. Lee moved elsewhere in the state, married, had one child and died a year later.

Farmhouse “off the West Laurens-Gilbertsville Road.” A note on the back seems to say that this was in turn the home of Elijah Colburn, his eldest son Charles and then his youngest son Starr.

On the back of the photograph, Lena Colburn (1878-1962), daughter of Elihah’s son Charles, wrote “where I was born.”

Elijah died in 1879, so at the time Lena’s parents Charles and Charlotte must still have been living with Elijah and Susan. Eleanor Rider tentatively identified the children on the porch as belonging to youngest brother Starr, so the image is probably from the late 1880s or 1890s.

In the 1980's Eleanor was able to point out the house, much changed but still there, off a road in Morris. The “West Laurens - Gilbertsville Road” is a local name for what appears on maps as segments of county route 8 and county route 10. The location of the house could not be positively identified in 2012. Some old farmhouses have been substantially modified over the years. Non-structural architectural flourishes such as tall white columns can be expensive to preserve.

Obverse of the farmhouse picture, with notes by Lena Colburn and Eleanor Rider.

The road between the village of Gilbertsville and the hamlet of West Laurens, along which the Elijah Colburn farm lay.

The village of Morris and Hillington Cemetery are at the top.

Hillington Cemetery, Morris

The Colburn plot in the Hillington Cemetery in Morris, New York features an obelisk with inscriptions on three of its four sides. Oddly, the side facing the footstones marking the graves of Mother (Susan) and Father (Elijah) remembers not them but a son, Lee, who died at age 27 in 1882. Son Scott, remembered in family lore as having gained and lost a fortune in California mines then returned a broken man, is briefly mentioned on a third side.

Elijah and Susan Colburn plot

Colburn plot, Hillington Cemetery. In the foreground, grave of daughter Ida and footstones reading "Mother" and "Father." The obelisk behind has inscriptions on three of four sides.

The three sons who survived into the 20th century started their own family plots elsewhere--Ross and Starr in a newer part of Hillington Cemetery, and Charles in Milford Cemetery.

All inscriptions refer to Elijah as “E. B. Colburn.” Perhaps he didn't like his first name, or went by his initials. The family may also have chosen to economize on payments to the inscriber. On stones where she is referenced as mother, Susan is “S. A.” She gets her full name inscribed on the obelisk.

For some reason, perhaps having to do with the direction of prevailing winds in the area, lichens and mold have attacked the sides of tombstones facing north and west much more than those facing south and east. The inscriptions on other sides of the obelisk remembering sons Lee and Scott are much easier to read.

Despite the brevity of Elijah’s military service, his tombstone proudly records it. A metal service marker marks his footstone. During the summer months, Otsego County volunteers affix a small American flag to each marker, and each Memorial Day decorate the graves of veterans with flowers - even graves of veterans of the Revolution in lonely old family plots scattered in the woods.

E. B. Colburn
A member of
Co.C.152 NYSI
Mar 7, 1879
Aged 52 years
Susan A.
His wife
Jan. 29 1827
Mar. 8. 1891

Grave of Ida Colburn

The oldest grave in the plot is that of a daughter who died at age 16. One side reads:

Only dau. of
E.B & S.A. Colburn
Sept. 23, 1876

The other features her name, and a quote from Matthew 5:8, only partly legible:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Two census entries, records of military service lasting less than a year, gravestones, and one photograph of his farmhouse taken sometime after he died. This research turned up less about Elijah than about any other Colburn ancestor since Nathaniel left England in the 1630's. Perhaps another of his many descendants has more information about Elijah Colburn, and his almost equally obscure father George. Fortunately, the story becomes more interesting with the arrival of Elijah's son Charles.

   born Mar 23, 1837, New Berlin, NY
   married Dec 24, 1850 Susan Rowland
       d/o Rowland B & Mary Clark Brown, Morris
       CHARLES 1852-1916
       Scott 1854-1899
       Lee 1857-1882
       Ross 1858-1920
       Ida 1859-1875
       Starr 1860-1928
   died Apr 7, 1879, Morris, NY