by Mable Grennell McMahon
Webmaster's note: Mable Grennell McMahon was a treasure. She, as GFA member #6, was involved in the very earliest days of this organization. She edited the newsletter (until she pawned it off on me), did research, and acted as something of a power broker, finding the right people to fill spots in the ranks of GFA officers and board members. We all mourned her passing, but thank goodness we still have many of her writings, which will be posted on this site as time permits.
In James S. Grinnell’s newsletter article of Winter 1994-95 he speaks of Grinnell pioneers in Iowa. Of course, when thinking of Grinnells in Iowa Josiah immediately comes to mind. Jim mentions other Grinnells who settled in Iowa, one being Henry Hudson Grinnell.
Henry Hudson and Josiah shared a common great grandfather, making them nice even second cousins. A few years back Burnice Greiman, the local historian in Chapin, Iowa, spent considerable time in research to unite Henry Hudson’s headstone with his grave. I was ready to tell her to forget it as Henry Hudson is buried in Milton, Saratoga, NY----on Grenell Road, no less! There is indeed a stone for H. H. in Milton stating that he died in Chapin, Iowa. It never occurred to me that he wasn’t necessarily buried in Milton.
But our Henry Hudson Grinnell was BORN in Milton. His father was Alvah who married Eliza Keeler, both born in Milton. According to the Grinnell genealogy Alvah was a banker, a merchant and a farmer. He was said to have added the e to his surname, a spelling which Henry apparently didn’t retain. Shirley Brown, a DAR friend of mine and well versed concerning Grenells (Grenelles) in Saratoga County, researched the line of Pat Williams, GFA #496, for DAR membership---Pat being a Henry Hudson Grinnell descendant. Shirley acquainted me with the little cemetery on Grenell Road which has several Grenells and Keelers, including Alvah and Eliza. Evidence is strong that it was Alvah and Eliza who erected the stone for their son---the Grenelle spelling being a good clue. Alvah died in 1885 (the 1855 date in the newsletter is a typo) outliving H. H. by some 12 years.
Directly across the road from the cemetery is the old Keeler house. It is now out of the Keeler family, owned by the Harrington family, and tradition has it that the old Keeler spinning wheel has stayed with the house. It is the Harrington family who maintain the cemetery.
To go back another generation, Alvah’s parents were Benjamin and Phoebe (Denison). They had a very significant presence in Milton/Middle Grove (I have a hard time differentiating between those two locations). According to “The Gristmill” a quarterly journal of the Saratoga County Museum Vol. XVIII, in an article by Margaret Coffin, Benjamin left Salisbury, CT, his birthplace, when he was 23 to settle in a section of Greenfield called Jamesville, known today as Middle Grove. This is where Benjamin had a residence and general store. Benjamin and Phoebe lived and operated their business in a small structure on the main street in Middle Grove. The building has had many little modifications over the years but remains a private home and very small. Margaret Coffin’s article states that the house originally had two rooms, part of it being a home and part of it being Benjamin’s store. There are five ledgers in existence (stored at Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa) which were kept by Benjamin Grenell. They are bound in heavy leather with LEDGER OF B. GRENELL & CO. burned into the leather. The contents are a treasure of information concerning the services and provisions provided by the store. Benjamin sold everything from coffinscrews to silver “sleeve links” to furniture, seeds, spirits, all kinds of tin wear and, of course, food items which couldn’t be made or grown at home. One wonders how his small quarters could accommodate such a business. He also provided services for the town. To name a few, he surveyed neighborhood properties, provided legal services and penned letters for the illiterate.
Benjamin’s parents were Daniel and Ann (Chapman). They were born in Saybrook, CT and moved to Salisbury, CT before migrating to NY apparently in 1787. Their gravestones are in a little isolated iron fence enclosure in a woodsy setting far out in a field of private land behind the house in Middle Grove (the current homeowner wasn’t aware of the cemetery). Also within the enclosure are Benjamin and his wife and two Phoebes, quite obviously the two little daughters of Benjamin and Phoebe. I personally have not visited the site but Shirley Brown sought it out and took pictures when doing her research for Pat Williams. One can’t but wonder if Daniel and Ann lived in that tiny house with Benjamin and Phoebe.
To side track a ramble a bit----as a resident of Saratoga County I’m told that Grenells were quite prevalent around here. They weren’t “my people”----but almost. Daniel’s cousin Peabody married Charity Chapman, sister to Ann, who were my ancestors, and died in Salisbury. Did the two couples communicate? Benjamin’s brother Reuben (Josiah’s grandfather) moved to Vermont. Did those brothers maintain some contact? Quite obviously Henry Hudson and his New York State relatives had some contact. According to Jim’s article Alvah even made a trip to Iowa. And imagine your relatives back east remembering you at death by erecting a monument! But all this is a somewhat later time period. I’m interested in how much, if any, communication took place when people migrated in the EARLY days.
Webmaster's note: This article originally appeared in the Winter/Spring 2000 GFA newsletter, and was authored by our beloved Mable Grennell McMahon (GFA #6). For so many years, Mable was the glue that held the GFA together, along with her husband, Donald Howland McMahon. Mable passed away a few years ago, and hardly a day goes by that I don't think of her and husband Don.