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Archiver > DENBOW > 1999-09 > 0938383516


From: Denbow, Carl< >
Subject: Re: James DENBO and Nancy WOODFILL
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 18:05:16 -0400


Linda,

I have a fair amount about the Denbo(w) family in this area of Pennsylvania.
We've had two articles in recent editions of the Denbow Diaspora Newsletter
that I'm the co-editor of on this topic. I've pasted the text below.
There's an interesting story from a history of the California, Pa, area that
tells about Nancy Woodfill (Woodfield) marrying a James Denbow (son of a Tom
Denbow). I hope this is of interest to you.

Carl

==================================
Here's an article by James Denbow of Texas that appeared in the May 1998
issue:

A few days ago a friend gave me a computer program called "StreetsPlus"
that came with a new computer he had just bought. Of course, what should I
do to try it out but type in the Denbow name to see what comes up. I
expected to find quite a few places in New Hampshire and Maine named after
Denbows, but there was only one -- in Durham, N.H.near where the original
Salathiel Denbow settled in the 1660s. There were also a few Denbow roads
and lanes in Arkansas and Missouri, all near places where I had received
letters from Denbow relatives and distant cousins over the past few years.
So these I could also connect with local and more recent histories in my
mind.
The puzzle came when the map brought up two different spellings of the
Denbow name - Denbo and Denbeau Heights - within two miles of one another on
the banks of the Monongahela River in southwestern Pennsylvania. These place
names are in Washington County south of Pittsburgh - a region where I had
earlier discovered a brief reference to two Denbows, Solomon and Robert, in
the Militia there in 1778-80. In looking back over our very first issue of
the Denbow Diaspora I found that I had mentioned these two people when I
noted that "several New Hampshire records indicate that a Solomon of about
the right age was born to Elijah Denbow in about 1760. This Solomon had no
brothers named Robert that I can find, however."
I don't know of any Denbows presently in Pennsylvania who claim this
small area overlooking the Monongahela River as their family home, so
perhaps these place names relate to this early period just after the
Revolutionary war when soldiers were promised free land in the west. The
fact that these two places (I believe they are both hills or hilltops) are
only about half a mile off the Old National Pike road lends some credence to
the possibility that they were occupied and given their names during this
period. Unfortunately, in 1993, my cousin Florence Denbow wrote to me about
these two men and this general area, saying "I have been to the Washington
Co. Penn. courthouse looking for land records in the Denbow name. I find
nothing helpful. My search hasn't gone past that much. I believe Robert
and Solomon were brothers, sons of perhaps a John of Philadelphia. And
there might be the tie to Maryland."
But here to me is the puzzle. Why in both the printed records of the
Pennsylvania Militia, and in the place names for two adjacent locations, do
we find two such distinctive spellings of the Denbow name preserved? The
Pennsylvania archives list both Solomon Denbow and Robert Denbo in the same
Washington Co. Militia Company under Lt. Everhart Hoop. Solomon served as a
sergeant while Robert is listed as "Pvt., 4th class." The company these men
served in was small, so why does there seem to have been care taken to spell
the name differently if the two men were related? The same thing for the
map puzzle: why should two such distinct spellings be preserved for places
less than two miles apart unless there was some desire to emphasize the
difference in origins or ancestry of these two men who seem to have spent
considerable time together in the military and who appear to have moved
westward together into Kentucky a decade later.
If the different spellings were intentional rather than accidental,
then it may also be significant that Solomon Denbeau is listed once on a
Shelby Co. Kentucky tax list for 8/25/1800. Could Denbeau Heights in
Pennsylvania be named for Solomon, while the nearby Denbo road and Denbo
Hill are named for Robert? And could the choices of these different name
spellings have been intentional indexes of separate family origins for these
two men? If Solomon and Robert were not related by blood, then who was
Solomon?
The French spelling of the name as Denbeau is particularly intriguing.
It is also very rare. The fact that it appears, probably for the same man,
Solomon, in both Pennsylvania and Kentucky suggests that this spelling may
actually form part of the family history itself. Could Solomon have married
someone of French or French-Canadian ancestry? Or could someone in the
family have learned to spell the name from a French or French-Canadian
source?
The only other record of a Solomon Denbow I have come across was a child of
Elijah Denbow of New Hampshire born about 1760. This would have made him
the right age to be the Solomon of Pennsylvania and Kentucky who had
daughters of marriageable age in the 1790s. Would anyone of this branch
have been in a position to have been influenced by French-Canadian spellings
of the name? Astonishingly, the answer is Yes!
In 1757, just before Solomon was born, an Elijah Denbow was taken
captive at Fort William Henry and carried to Mont Royal in Canada "where he
was about three weeks & from thence was carried by the Indians into the
Indian Country where they kept him about a fortnight & then he made his
Escape from them & Returned to Mont Royal from whence he was Immediately
transported down to Quebeck where he was Tweny on Months . . . " Twenty
months in a prison in Quebec is certainly enough time to learn to spell ones
name, and to learn to spell in it French orthography as well.
So the "story" suggested by the place name puzzle is that two Denbows
from separate family origins find themselves in the same militia company and
area after the Revolutionary War. They become friends and eventually travel
together to Kentucky. But they both know they come from different Denbow
stock (remember this is only 3 to 4 generations from the original Denbow
founders: John and Salathiel), so one of these men experiments for a time
with spellings such as Denbow and Denbeau, while the other uses Denbo, in
recognition of their different origins. In support of this hypothesis, we
have one other instance where the unusual Denbeau spelling is associated
with Solomon's name in Kentucky, and a possible historical connection
between a Solomon Denbow and French Canada through the New Hampshire Elijah
Denbow's two-year captivity there.
This, of course, is all speculation brought about by the chance
preservation of two very distinct spellings of the Denbow name within a few
miles of one another. But it is well known that place names often preserve
bits of interesting history, and the contradiction between these two
spellings could just be one of those cases. Maybe someone who lives nearer
this area could go to Denbeau Heights and the nearby Denbo to have a look
and ask questions about local history. The map suggests that the intrepid
traveler might at the very least be rewarded with a pleasant view over the
Monongahela valley from this spot. They might also be lucky enough to
unravel two of the biggest mysteries of the Denbow name: what was the
relationship between the Denbows of Kentucky and the Denbos of Indiana in
the early 1800s? And from which branch of the family - New Hampshire or
Maryland - do the Iowa Denbows come? Good luck!
===================================

Here's an article that I wrote after we made a "field trip" to Denbo, Pa.,
during one of our reunion weekends:

On Sunday morning, Aug. 2, 1998, several "hard core" Denbow
genealogists set out from the banks of the Tuscawaras in Dover, Ohio, for
the exotic destination of Denbo, Pa., on the banks of the historic
Monongahela. We wondered, as James Denbow had speculated in the last
edition of The Denbow Diaspora, could this little hamlet hold the key to
unraveling the connections between the Denbo, Denbow and Denbeau(x) name.
To be succinct, the answer we discovered is a definite maybe.
Denbo is a quaint little settlement in the coal fields of Western
Pennsylvania. It is located a few miles from California, Pa., the home of
California University of Pennsylvania, in what the U.S. Geological Survey
calls the "California Quadrangle." Our first stop was in California, where
we set out for the university library to try to find out what its holdings
would tell us about local history. One interesting entry was in a Master's
thesis entitled, Why is your town called that? An Onomastical Study of
Washington County, Pennsylvania, by Kimberly Jo Shorts. The entry under
Denbo reads thusly:
"Denbo (Denbeau) (West Pike Run, 3) -- In approximately 1760, James
Denbo married Nancy Woodfield and made their home in an area to which
Indians still claimed. A year later, Nancy's brother, Joseph Woodfield,
built a cabin nearby. After returning from a hunting trip, Joseph
instructed Nancy to cook some of the best game while he went to invite
Joseph. Upon returning home they found the house was filled with savages
while Mrs. Denbo did her best to serve them perpared food. The Indians took
everything that they cared to and left. The savages repaid them by sending
them venison and other foods, and they continued to raid the farmhouse with
more frequency. After eight years or so, Mr. and Mrs. Denbo had three
children, and one day James went on a hunting expedition. He returned to
find his house robbed, and his wife and two children dead in the ashes of
their home. The oldest girl, who was about eight years old, had been taken
by the Indians. James wandered off and was never seen again, and his eldest
daughter grew to marry one of the most powerful chiefs in (what is now)
Ohio. The community was named for this family that was associated with the
area."
This is all very interesting, but these new facts seem to just compound

the mystery rather than help solve it. Who in the world is this James
Denbo? In the last issue (Vol 5. No. 1) Co-editor James Denbow speculated
that Denbo, Pa., might be named for a Robert Denbo who served out of
Washington County (where Denbo is located) in the Pennsylvania Militia with
a Solomon Denbow (who may have later appeared in a 1800 Kentucky tax record
as Solomon Denbeau), for whom our latter-day James speculated that nearby
Denbeau Heights might have been named. Now consider this: Solomon Denbow
was born about 1760. One would assume that Robert would be about the same
age, or perhaps younger since Solomon was a sergeant in the militia and
Robert a private. This would mean that this new-found James, who was
marrying Miss Woodfield in about 1760, could have been the father, or uncle
of Robert and/or Solomon. Confused? If not, you certainly should be!
The question now is, "Where do we go from here?" It would be useful,
I'd suggest, to see if any pension records exist for either of these
Pennsylvania militia boys. Would they have served in the War of 1812?
Solomon would presumably have been in his 50s at that time, and, as I said,
Robert may have been somewhat younger. If so, there's a chance that some
record might be available that would shed light on these gentlemen and their
life stories. Bonnie Denbow Miller was able to retrieve War of 1812 records
on her g3grandfather Bazeleel Denbow (1794-1857) which contained such
interesting information as his wife's name, and some documents related to
"bounty land" he claimed as a result of War of 1812 service. Could we be so
lucky on Solomon or Robert? Maybe Bonnie will lend us a hand on checking
for these records? Giving assignments to Denbow researchers is part of my
job, isn't it?
Our search in the university library in California was hindered by the
fact that the library had only recently decentralized their local history
collection and placed these materials in the general stacks rather than in
local history room, as had been the case previously. Some of books and
other documents did not seem to have yet found their way to their new home.
We did, however, uncover one additional bit of information on Robert
Denbo. He is listed as having been a Frontier Ranger who participated in
the Indian Wars from the time of the Revolution until 1783, when hostilities
ceased. He served under Colonel Williamson in the tragic massacre of the
Moravian Christian Indians in the Ohio Territory at Gnadenhutten in 1782.
According to the introduction of the Alphabetical List of Rangers of
Washington County, Pennsylvania, the populace in Western Pennsylvania
believed that these Indians had aided the Pennsylvanian Indians in making
war on them. The specific incident that led to the massacre was the
aduction of a Mrs. Robert Wallace and her children from Washington County.
The massacre was touched off, according to the document, when the "lifeless
naked body [of Mrs. Wallace] was found impaled on a sapling along the trail
to Gnadenhutten. Colonel Williamson's party summarily massacred 96 of the
christian Indians with hatchets." Well, I never promised you that all
Denbow genealogy would be pretty. Facts are facts and the Denbow Diaspora
is committed to reporting them, "warts and all"!
As you will note from the accompanying pictures, we had a good time in
Denbo. We talked to a number of people, none of whom really knew much about
local history. One lawyer, who we were told was the local history expert,
was away on vacation. We left a message on his doorstep but have heard
nothing in reply to questions we ask in our note. I have since misplaced
the slip of paper on which I wrote his name and address. If any of the
other intrepid Denbows on this trip still have that information, perhaps a
nice letter to remind him that we are still interested in corresponding with
him on these issues, would be in order.
As one can readily see from this short article, much research on our
family history remains to be done in Western Pennsylvania.

==============================



----- Original Message -----
From: Linda Gudgel Finnell <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 1999 10:40 PM
Subject: James DENBO and Nancy WOODFILL


> I am searching for information on James DENBO who marrried Nancy WOODFILL,
> d/o Joseph WOODFILL, Sr.
>
> I have seen reference to a book called From Wales to Indiana by Elfrieda
> Lang, published by Indiana Univ. Press in 1978. Also some info. from
> Chester BRENTON of Spokane, WA about the WOODFILL Family.
>
> My main line of research is the GUDGEL(L)/GUDSHALL family who married into
> the WOODFILL family. It has been told the GUDSHALL's asked James DENBO
to
> accompany them on a trip from Philadelphia to Southweatern, PA, prior to
> March, 1768. This GUDSHALL/GUDGEL family settled in Fayette Co., PA near
> Brownsville aft the conclusion of the trip.
>
> Any help appreciated.
> Linda GUDGEL FINNELL
> Woodford Co., KY
>
>
>

----- Original Message -----
From: Linda Gudgel Finnell <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 1999 10:40 PM
Subject: James DENBO and Nancy WOODFILL


> I am searching for information on James DENBO who marrried Nancy WOODFILL,
> d/o Joseph WOODFILL, Sr.
>
> I have seen reference to a book called From Wales to Indiana by Elfrieda
> Lang, published by Indiana Univ. Press in 1978. Also some info. from
> Chester BRENTON of Spokane, WA about the WOODFILL Family.
>
> My main line of research is the GUDGEL(L)/GUDSHALL family who married into
> the WOODFILL family. It has been told the GUDSHALL's asked James DENBO
to
> accompany them on a trip from Philadelphia to Southweatern, PA, prior to
> March, 1768. This GUDSHALL/GUDGEL family settled in Fayette Co., PA near
> Brownsville aft the conclusion of the trip.
>
> Any help appreciated.
> Linda GUDGEL FINNELL
> Woodford Co., KY
>
>
>

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