Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
When I first read Dennis Smith’s story “My Loveable but Unrestrainable Grandfather, Stanley D. Smith” the ancestry of Stanley D. Smith seemed entirely incidental to our James heritage. Except for his wife, Stanley’s ancestry easily could have been dismissed. After all, Stanley’s wife Geneva Josephine Curry relates more evidently to our James through her Harper ancestry at Nantura Farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. Nantura is adjacent to the Black Horse Inn, where Frank and Jesse James’ mother Zerelda Elizabeth Cole was born. Had I ignored Stanley’s antecedents out of habit and not looked more closely into Stanley’s origins out of instinct, I might not have uncovered the delightful odyssey of surprise that lay hidden.
Stanley’s hidden ancestry proved to be as unrestrainable as Stanley’s character. To my surprise, out of Stanley’s past appeared a variety of multiple spontaneous relationships. These surprises would have been unrecognizable before. Now, they assembled progressively to attach Stanley as a New Found Line relation of our James. At my odyssey’s end, Stanley D. Smith’s unrestrained ancestry links Stanley to another New Found Line of our James family that was first discovered almost twenty years ago. What a surprise to learn that our James family was in the past of Stanley’s wife, and Stanley, too!
THE DEMAREST SURPRISE
Not even Dennis Smith expected this new surprise. The genealogy Dennis provided to Stray Leaves for Stanley did not reach farther back than Stanley’s grandparents. When I spotted the surprisingly familiar “Thiebaud” surname of Stanley’s grandmother, my curiosity was piqued. I had to dig back further into Stanley D. Smith’s past.
The first surprise sprang up when I discovered Stanley’s ancestors reached back from Stanley’s grandmother, Emily Jane Thiebaud 1842-1919, to David Demarest 1620-1693. This immigrant Huguenot family of the Demarest came to America from the Picardy region of France through Baden-Wurtemburgh, Germany. Their “des Marest” family name was transformed in America to DeMarest or sometimes to Demaree. David’s brother Jean Demarest was the founder of the French patent that settled the northern part of New Jersey. Today this region is called Bergen County.
The DeMarest name is very familiar to me. When growing up in Chicago, I often spent my summers living with my aunt and uncle in Cresskill, a small town in north Bergen County. I wrote about this in a photo album I posted on Facebook, titled “My Summer Mother.” Six doors away from my aunt and uncle’s home at 425 Piermont Road was the borderline between Cresskill and the borough of Demarest. This town was named after the Jean Demarest family. Ralph E. Demarest built the small railroad that ran behind my aunt and uncle’s home, linking the developing small towns of Tenafly, Closter, and Demarest. Below Tenafly, the railroad line of Ralph E. Demarest linked to a connecting line in north Hudson County. From there, passengers rode the connector down to the ferry at Weehawken that crossed the Hudson River from New Jersey into New York City.
THE RANDOLPH SURPRISE
Here in Danville, Kentucky, where I live now, I formerly owned an historic Italianate home built by Rev. James C. Randolph. He was a Presbyterian minister who came to Kentucky from New Jersey’s Bergen County.
When I bought the home and began to research its history, I learned that in the early 1830’s a large exodus of veterans from the Revolutionary War departed upper New Jersey to claim lands in Kentucky for their military service.
I was especially surprised to learn that the home’s original owner and builder, James C. Randolph, came from Bergen County to teach at Centre College in Danville. Presbyterians were not the only group to come to Kentucky from New Jersey. Dutch families came, too. They settled in Harrodsburg and Mercer County, just north of and adjacent to Danville.
THE COLE SURPRISE
I also learned that a Cole family resided in northern New Jersey. To my surprise, a couple of these Cole turn up in the genealogy of the DeMarest family.
This New Jersey family of the Cole originated in Connecticut. They had a different immigrant progenitor than our Cole family in Kentucky, belonging to Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, Frank and Jesse James’ mother. The progenitor of the Cole family of Frank and Jesse James was John Cole. He came from England to Culpeper County in Virginia. From there, this Cole line migrated through the Dutch region of Pennsylvania into Kentucky.
Since the Connecticut-New Jersey Cole line appeared to me not to have any overt connection to the Cole ancestry of Jesse and Frank James, I never investigated this Connecticut Cole line any further. After the surprise I found now by looking more closely into Stanely’s past, I am beginning to think that maybe I should research more deeply into both of these Cole families, focusing precisely on the timeline prior to their arrival in America. The probability of these two Cole families being one now appears to be significantly increased.
THE POOR SURPRISE
During the American Revolution, Brigadier General Enoch Poor also was active in this region around the settlement patent of the Demarest family.
As the son of Thomas Poor growing up in Andover, Massachusettes, young Enoch enlisted to fight in the French and Indian War. Enoch’s family were supporters of the separatists against the Stamp Act of King George. In his mid-teens, Enoch entered the campaign to invade Canada against the British.
Later Enoch became a general in George Washington’s Continental Army, spending a winter at Valley Forge. Afterward, Gen. Enoch Poor was assigned to protect the Marquis de Lafayette. Some history says Enoch Poor died when he was shot in a duel. He is buried in the yard of the Dutch Reformed Church in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Although not yet proven, there is a very high probability that Enoch Poor, born and raised in Andover, Massachusettes, shared a kinship with Frank & Jesse James’ second great-grandfather Abraham Poor also of Andover, Essex County, Massachusettes. Both Enoch and Abraham Poor have progenitors named Thomas Poor.
While too old for military service himself, Abraham Poor was a supplier to Gen. Washington in the Revolution. Enoch Poor was specifically found at Valley Forge. So, too, was John M. James who married Abraham’s granddaughter Mary “Polly” Poor, born of Robert Poor a Coronet in the Revolution and Elizabeth Woodson Mimms. Also at Valley Forge with Poor and James was Joshua Logan Younger, another supplier to Washington’s army who became the great-grandfather of the brothers of the Younger gang.
The evident synergy shared by these two families of Enoch and Abraham Poor significantly increases the likelihood that, like the two Cole lines, these two lines of the Poor family also are directly related.
THE VAN ARSDALL SURPRISE
Returning to the irrepressible ancestry of Stanley D. Smith, I reached back through the ancestry of Stanley’s mother Della Belle Malcomson. There I discovered Stanley’s third great-grandfather to be Capt. Simon Van Arsdall 1750-1820 of Somerset County in New Jersey.
Simon’s Van Arsdall family was long established in its day among the Dutch of New Amsterdam (New York City), and from northern New Jersey through central New Jersey and down to Pennsylvania. During the Revolution, some Van Arsdall joined the Conewago settlement in Pennsylvania. Three generations of Simon Van Arsdall’s family reached back to their immigrant Sijmon Jansz van Arsdalen. Leaving the Netherlands, he came to the New Amsterdam of New York City. Like the Demarest, the Van Arsdalen surname transformed itself over time to Van Arsdale and Van Arsdale, and on occasion VanOsdol.
In Pennsylvania’s York County, Capt. Simon lead a militia group consisting of Dutchman. The militia included Abraham Banta, an uncle of Rachel Banta who was born in Bergen County. Surprisingly, Rachel Banta is a granddaughter of David Demarest. When Rachel’s first husband died, she married Capt. Simon.
Following the Revolution, Capt. Simon and Rachel Banta Van Arsdall joined a large group of “low Dutch,” many of them from Capt. Simon’s militia. Following the lead of another migrant from Pennsylvania, Col. James Harrod in 1775, they migrated in 1779 down the Ohio River and overland to Fort Harrod in Kentucky, later to become the town of Harrodsburg.
I was well acquainted with the Banta family in Harrodsburg. In 2012, I was visited by Warren Bonta who came to Kentucky in search of his Banta ancestry. Warren was a former right-hand man for civil rights leader Ceasar Chavez in California. Warren’s son Rob Bonta is a California State Representative. Warren and I traveled all over Harrodsburg, visiting Banta cemeteries and sites.
Some of these Banta and Van Arsdall who did not remain in Harrodsburg moved on to Switzerland County in Indiana, where Stanley D. Smith was born.
THE FINAL JAMES SURPRISE
My odyssey of surprise findings, seemingly circuitous and disconnected, finally pulled together. My litany of families – the Demarest, Cole, Poor, Banta and Van Arsdall – altogether brought me to a final surprise destination. Stanley D. Smith is, in fact, linked to the James family. The final connection between the James and Stanley’s Van Arsdall families occurred in Harrodsburg, Kentucky when Margaret Lightfoot James married Dwight Van Arsdall on October 27, of 1880.
Around 1999, Stacy Lynn Foster-Bennett contacted me. She had discovered our Stray Leaves website. Stacy is a fourth great-granddaughter of John LIghtfoot James and Margaret T. Brown, progenitors of the James family line in Harrodsburg. Stacy arranged a reunion of her line of James descendants. She provided historic photos and family bible documents with personal introductions to living descendants. Through Stacy’s generous contributions, the New Found Lines of
Stacy arranged a reunion of her line of James descendants. She provided historic photos and family bible documents with personal introductions to living descendants. Through Stacy’s generous contributions, the New Found Lines of John Lightfoot James and of Henry Field James then were published on Stray Leaves.
Since then, research has continued to advance. New lines of other related family have been found. In another stunner, four generations of men descend from Dwight Van Arsdall and Margaret Lightfoot James. All four generations carry the name of Clyde James Van Arsdall. Their middle name of James honors their James ancestry. They also wear some genetic physical characteristics of the James. See this FREE DOWNLOAD of their ancestry.
As if this long journey of research and findings did not produce enough stunning surprises, additional bonus surprises can be added to the mix. Besides his kinship with the James family, Dwight Van Arsdall has two other significant kinships.
Because Dwight Van Arsdall is a half-third cousin of President Thomas Jefferson, Dwight and his descendants also inherit kinship with all of the descendants of President Jefferson and Sally Hemmings who carry the Woodson surname.
Furthermore, because of Dwight’s marriage with Margaret Lightfoot James, Dwight Van Arsdall inherits Margie’s kinship with Cole, Dick, and Jim Younger of the Younger Gang. Not to mention, he also inherits half-cousins in the Dalton Gang. See FREE DOWNLOAD.
Finally, within a short distance from the burial sites of Dwight and Margaret Lightfoot James-VanArsdall reside the burial plots of John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn. Frank James and Chinn were wartime cohorts and close peacetime friends for the rest of their days.
Still riding through Kentucky with Quantrill at the end of the Civil War, they were confronted in the winter of 1864 by Maj. James H. Bridgewater, a Unionist but also a Pence family relation. Bridgewater’s bloody assault occurred at the farmhouse of Sallie Van Arsdall, east of Harrodsburg. Four members of Quantrill’s band were killed. When Springhill Cemetery was founded as a memorial to fallen Confederate dead, Frank James and Chinn disinterred their fallen friends and reinterred them at Springhill.
THANK YOU, STANLEY
Would any of these surprise findings be made if the story of Stanley D. Smith remained untold and restrained? No one can tell.
The James family owes some debt of gratitude to Stanley and to his grandson, biographer Dennis Smith, for teaching us about Stanley’s unrestrainable character, and for their ancestry that also appears to be just as unrestrainable.