Sunday, August 3, 2008

Harvey Jesse Lake of Natural Bridge NY

Harvey Jesse was born December 7, 1863 to Joesph J. Lake and Christie Ann Calder Lake, he was the eldest of three and the only son. He was born in De Kalb, St. Lawrence Co., New York, in what can be considered the seat of this branch of the Lake Family from the War of 1812 until relatively modern times.

A short history is in order to place Joseph and Harvey in historical perspective. The first of this Lake Family line known to be in the colonies was John Lake of Gravesend, NY. Some accounts have him traveling to the Gravesend Colony with Lady Deborah Moody, a religious dissenter of the time. No historical evidence is currently available to prove that he travelled to the Gravesend Colony with the original party, but it is clear that he was a member in the years very shortly after it was founded. John married the daughter of one of the original party and established his family, the majority of which stayed in or around that area of New York and New Jersey until the American Revolutionary war. John’ son, John, was the next in our family line; he was born and died in Gravesend, NY. They were all farmers, or at least that is what history can tell us so far. It appears that the elder John went from being a relatively poor farmer to a man of some means before his death, based on his will.

Nicholas, the third generation, was also born in Gravesend, but moved to New Jersey to raise his family and died in Somerset in 1773. His son Thomas was born in New Jersey but did not stay in that area, information has him in the Upstate New York in an area of what is now Washington County. When the American Revolutionary War began he was a Loyalist who served in a Loyalist Militia and at the Battle of Bennington he was captured, his nephew, Nicholas Lake was killed. An interesting side note: Thomas' son Henry was also at the Battle fighting in a Patriot Militia unit, which must have made for interesting family reunion conversation.

After the war Thomas and most of his family fled to Canada as all of their farm land was confiscated and it was extremely difficult for any loyalist to live in the new Republic. Thomas’ son James was the first to return to the United States but he moved back and forth across the border several times. His son Jesse Lake, during the War of 1812, was conscripted by the British to fight against the American Army in an upcoming attack across the St Lawrence River; Jesse escaped the British, and when crossing the river, he notified the American Garrison of the British intentions. Jesse never returned to Canada and after this, his father refused to sign a loyalty oath to the British Crown and was forced to leave Canada for good. It was at this point they settled in Gouverneur, St Lawrence Co., New York. Several generations, and Lake family lines can trace their roots to this place.

Jesse Lake was, as many of his ancestors, a farmer. He married Lavinia Cook in 1816 and began their family; they had 10 children, one of which was Joesph J. Lake, the father of the subject of our article.

Harvey J. Lake worked as a laborer on farms, mines and the railroad. It was while he was working in a Railroad engine for the New York Lime Co. on June 19, 1906 that he was critically injured, losing an eye when the boiler valve exploded in his face. The article (above) from "Watertown Daily Times June 20, 1906" tells the story of what happened.

This story (left side) from the "Carthage Republican July 11, 1906" demonstrates just how serious the injury was and it talks about his return from the hospital some 20 days later. The photograph of Harvey (above) was taken about 1930, twenty four years after the accident.

He lived through defining moments in this US and World History. Looking at the times of my Great Grandfather's life, he was born in the middle of the American Civil War, he was 35 years old during the Spanish American War. The SS Titanic was lost in 1912, the Russian Revolution of 1914, the Abdication of King Edward VII of England in 1938, and the "Roaring Twenties." I would imagine that many of these important historical dates meant very little to him. The important dates to him would have been when his youngest son Robert was coming home after serving in the Navy during World War I, the loss of his wife, and nearly his son in law to the flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression.

His birthday in 1941 marked a point in history that will forever be remember in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as "A day that will live in infamy;" the beginning of World War II for the United States.

He lived during the terms of 16 of our Presidents, one serving two different times so 17 administrations in all. Presidents Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Authur, Cleveland, Harrison, Cleveland (again) McKinley, T. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt.

Harvey Jesse Lake died April 3, 1942 in his home in Natural Bridge NY, without fan fair or parade with only his family to mark his passing. The times he lived in were some of the greatest and worst in our history but they passed by for this simple working person who raised his family in New York, probably never realizing just how important a time he lived in and how much history he was witness to. Wouldn't it have been nice to talk to him!