The Potter Family

The early Potter history in America is recorded in at least three references. These include "Genealogies of the Potter Families and their Descendants in America" edited by Charles Edward Potter (Boston, 1888), "The New England Historical and Genealogical Register" Vol. 54 p. 20-26 (Boston 1900), and the New Haven Genealogical Magazine Vol VI No. 3, January 1930. The Potter book includes outstanding family trees for the early Potter generations in America, and includes excerpts from the wills of the various Potters. The second reference includes the will information as well as a list of Potter births, marriages, and deaths in New Haven, Connecticut. The last reference contains an outline of births, deaths, children, and marriages.

The brothers John and William Potter were born in England in 1607 and 1608. Both signed the Plantation Covenant in New Haven, Connecticut on June 4, 1639, just nineteen years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth, Massachusetts. John and William appeared in New Haven along with their mother, Hannah Potter Beecher (remarried). Her first husband, Potter, died in England. John married Elizabeth Wood in Chesham Co., Bucks, England on April 14, 1630. Together they had sons John Jr. (b. 1636) and Samuel, both of which were baptized in New Haven in 1641. John Sr. died as early as 1643 with an estate of 25 English pounds.

John Potter Jr. married Hannah Cooper in 1661. He purchased a homestead in East Haven in 1662. He was at least partly employed as a blacksmith. John and Hannah had nine children, at least six of which died as infants or in early childhood. The three that became adults include Hannah (b. 1665), John the 3rd (Sergeant) (b. 1667), and Samuel (b. 1675). Hannah died in 1675, and John Jr. remarried Mary Hitchcock Russel. John and Mary had a daughter, Abigail in 1680. John Jr. died on December 24, 1706.

Sergeant John Potter the third (1667-1712) married Elizabeth Holt in 1691-2. Together they had seven children, including Joseph (b. 1691), John (b. 1695), Elizabeth (b. 1697), Gideon (b. 1700), Daniel (1701-2), Enos (b. 1706), and Samuel (b. 1708). Upon the death of John and Elizabeth their land was divided among the children.

Daniel Potter (1701-2 to 1747) married Hannah Holbrook (or Hollock) in 1728. They had a family including Nathan (b. 1729), Eunice (b. 1731), Phineas (b. 1733), Hosea (b. 1735), Lois (b. 1737), and Elam (b. 1742).

Phineas (1733 - ?) married a woman who's name is not recorded in the Potter history. This family lived in Woodbury, Connecticut, about twenty-five miles northwest of New Haven, and later in Winchester, Connecticut. The children included Sheldon, Daniel (b. 1759), Salem or Salmon (b. 1774), and Freedom (b. 1776).

 

Daniel Potter

"Deacon" Daniel Potter (1760-1828) was born in Woodbury, Connecticut, the second child of Phineas Potter. Daniel Potter enlisted at Woodbury, Connecticut on May 23, 1776 as a private in Captain Granger's Company, Colonel Webb's 2nd regiment of Connecticut. Later he became a corporal in Captain Higbee's Company, Colonel Samuel P. Webb's regiment, and remained in service in the revolutionary army until the end of the war. He was honorably discharged at West Point, N.Y. in June 1783. Daniel married Naomi Crissey (b. 1759) in 1785. Together they had eight children including Daniel Jr. (b. 1786), Abijah (b. 1788), Joseph Crissey (b. 1790), Alvan (b. Nov. 1791), Philo (b. 1793), Chester (b. 1795), Harvey (b. 1797), and Naomi (b. 1800).

At some point after Alvan's birth in 1791 Daniel moved to New York State. Naomi died in 1803 and Daniel remarried a widow, Martha Saunders on February 28, 1804 in Hartwick, (Otsego County) N.Y. Martha had a son Samuel Saunders by her previous marriage. Together Daniel and Martha had one son, George Whitfield born in 1806). Daniel applied for a pension from Hartwick, Otsego County, N.Y. and was pensioned as a pensioner from Connecticut. Daniel died on June 16, 1818. Part of his will is on file at the Daughters of the American Revolution library in Washington, D.C. It states that he is to be buried in a plain pine coffin "under the cold clods of the earth by the side of Naomi, the wife of my youth."

Daniel's second wife Martha applied for Revolutionary War pension benefits in Otsego County from 1851-1853. Various testimony is on record trying to prove her marriage to Daniel, however she stated that the only record of their marriage was burnt when the family records were destroyed when a fire destroyed the Potter home in 1822. Martha did appear to receive a pension and even some land. She died in 1856.

Microfilmed records at the National Archives includes the documents of this pension and a variety of letters by various relatives asking for information about their relation to Daniel Potter. A letter from a James H. Potter (1931) states he is a grandson of Daniel Potter (1858 - 1842) born in Plymouth, Connecticut, with a brother named Robert. This is probably a different Daniel Potter. How James or a number of other later Potters are related to Daniel is unknown, but considering that Daniel had eight children by his first marriage and one by the second, the number of descendants was probably considerable.

 

Alvan Potter

Alvan Potter (1791-1863), the forth child of Daniel Potter and Naomi Crissey, married twice. The Charles Potter book (1888) describes his marriage to Mary Randall in 1811. Together they had three children including Justus, Maria (b. 1825), and L.B. Mary Randall died in 1829. Alvan then married Mary Barker (1803-1869) in 1830. They had at least three children, Leland Barker (b. 1833), Alvan S. (b. 1838), and Harriet A. (b. 1841) (birth dates from the 1850 census). There is conflicting evidence as to whether Leland B. (L.B.) was the child of Mary Randall or Mary Barker. The 1850 and 1860 census ages for Leland suggest Mary Randall died at least four years before his birth, and that he was the child of Mary Barker. In 1850 the family was living in Otsego township, Otsego County, New York state. It is probable that Leland had older brothers and sisters that do not show up on the census since they had left the Alvan Potter family home by 1850. Alvan is listed as a "tinner" or tin smith for his occupation.

Leland B. Potter was the oldest child of Alvan Potter and Mary Barker. When Leland was seventeen he was a clerk living with the Stillman family in Otsego County, N.Y. Leland moved to Scranton sometime between 1850 and 1855. He married Helen Caroline Finch, in 1856. Helen C. Finch was the daughter of Asahael P. Finch and Sarah Tuthill Finch, who had moved to Scranton in 1855.

Leland and Helen had several children including Harriet Finch Potter (Hattie) b. 1857, Walter (may have died as a child), and Helen. Leland carried on the profession of his father Alvan, being a tinner or tin smith. The 1860 census shows his occupation, and that he had a young man, William Blaue (?) age 18, from Scotland, who has also a tinner, living with the family. Leland eventually started the L.B. Potter Mine Supply Company, a wholesale business dealing in mine, mill, railroad supply and safety equipment. He operated this business until his death in 1896. Helen was one of the best known women of the city. She was active in the Washburn St. Presbyterian Church, and a social worker.

In 1861 Leland and Helen built a solid brick 13 room home in the Italianate style in the borough of Hyde Park (153 Main Avenue). The Hyde Park borough predates the city of Scranton. The home had sixteen inch thick interior walls, ten foot ceilings, oak flooring throughout, and real operable shutters. It was quite a substantial house for its time. The Potter house is still standing with various colonial modifications, and is currently owned by Richard Leonori, an architect in Scranton.

Leland and Helen Potter's daughter Hattie married Eugene Fowler Marsh in January 1885. Every few weeks Helen Caroline Finch Potter would hitch up the horse and buggy and ride from Hyde Park to Columbia St. in the Green Ridge section to see Hattie. She usually brought cod fish for lunch and she showed her daughter the correct way to cream it, always using an egg in the cream sauce. This recipe was also passed down to Hattie's daughter-in-law, Helen Hagen Marsh.

 

Helen Potter and Robert J. Williams

Leland and Helen's daughter Helen married Robert J. Williams on July 18, 1894. After Leland and Helen's death, Helen and Robert Williams lived in the Potter house, and the house stayed in the Williams family until around 1940 when they both died. Helen taught school for twenty years. She was a member of the Washburn Presbyterian Church, and the first president of the women's auxiliary to the west side hospital. She was at one time the president of the board of managers of the Home For the Friendless, and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Robert J. Williams worked with his brother in the J.D. Williams and Brothers Co. They were in the sporting goods, and ran a toy store. They later entered the restaurant business, and getting into the bread, ice cream and candy business. The Williams family is credited with bringing ice cream to the city of Scranton.

Robert and Helen had one son Gerard R. Williams. Gerard operated the Williams family operated a bakery in Scranton for 115 years. Gerard married Ruth Evans, and had four children including Gerard Jr., Margaret Ann, Wayne, and Lawrence Williams.