Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Kentucky Montforts

I thought I'd start writing about my familys arrival in Kentucky. The Montforts were part of the Low Dutch Colony and closely connected to the leader of the colony, Hendrick Banta 3rd. Francis Montfort Sr [1746-1825] married the youngest daughter of Hendrick Banta and his first wife, Rachel Brower before 1768 when their first child was born. Geertje Banta Montfort was more well known by the name Charity. There are several variations on the spelling of her Dutch name but I choose Geertje as it seems to be the one most used by sources I trust. Charity was born the third of November 1749 in Hackensack, New Jersey. Shortly after her birth her mother died, more than likely from complications of giving birth to her sixth and last child.

Francis Sr was the son of Jan Monfoort and his wife, Kniertje Marston Monfoort and named for his maternal grandfather Frans Marston. The family goes back to the arrival in 1624 of the first ship of settlers sent by the Dutch West Indies Company to the new world. Most likely this first family, Jan and Jacqueline Moreau Monfoort, went up the Hudson River to Fort Orange for a time before moving back to the tip of Manhattan Island at the Nieuw Amsterdam settlement. They were one of only two families documented by name on the EENDRACHT when it set sail from Amsterdam in late January of 1624, arriving in late March of that same year. By the time Francis was born, he was the sixth generation of this family in America.

The Monfoort family farm in the Conewago Colony in York County, PA belonging to Francis was called Walnut Bottom which makes you think the farm must have been abundant with walnut trees. His father in law, Hendrick Banta 3rd called his farm Loss and Gain and you can only imagine why he chose that name.

When Hendrick Banta 3rd made the decision to move westward it was probably due to infringement of other ethnic groups around them in PA. that threatened the Dutch need to maintain their religion, culture, education, farming methods and language. Even though the Revolutionary War was still waging and land in Kentucky was still under threat of Indian attack, it still drew Banta to seek out land for a Dutch settlement where their culture could be preserved and where their children would not be tempted to leave their inherited beliefs.

In 1780 from Fort Pitt, Banta led a group down the Ohio River to what is now Jefferson County/Louisville, Kentucky. His brother in law took another group of Low Dutch from what is now West Virginia through the Cumberland Gap and northward to Mercer County, KY. The two groups planned to join forces there. The Indians had other ideas and many obstacles were placed in their way until the joint venture failed and each set up a Low Dutch Colony where they were...one in Mercer County and the other straddling the county lines of Shelby and Henry Counties in Kentucky.

Francis and Charity were not in this first group but probably came in the spring of 1785 or early 1786. A son, Francis Jr was born in 1784 and records show he was born in York County, PA. The next child, a son Jacob, is recorded as having been born in Mercer County, KY in Feb 1787. On the journey they brought with them their young children, Rachel, Catherine, Henry, Marya, Charity, John Calvin, and Francis Jr. It is not clear whether this family ventured down the Ohio River or took the route through the Cumberland Gap. I favor the route coming through the Cumberland Gap since the youngest children were born in Mercer County. Arriving in Jefferson County and along the Ohio River route was hazardous for moving back and forth from the Louisville area to Mercer County at the time, especially with very young children. In addition to Jacob being born in Mercer County, Kentucky, another daughter arrived in 1789 and was also born in Mercer County.

It is not clear when Francis decided to move to the Low Dutch Colony in Shelby/Henry County but most likely chose to move there because it was near Charity's father and stepmother. The Montfort family made the move to Pleasureville by 1792 when Francis starts appearing in the minutes of the Low Dutch Company Minute Book[now found in the archives of the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, KY].

I've had the good fortune to hold in my hands the minute book held by my 4th and 5th great grandfathers over 200 years ago. The feeling of touching something they held in their hands is emotional and satisfying...a chance to touch a part of your family.

I'll stop here and continue with the Shakers coming to Kentucky and how that involved so many of my direct ancestors.

Barbara Whiteside
10 June 2008

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