Hill: The Ferry Keeper's Family, Luke Hill and Mary Hout


And Fourteen Generations of Their Known and Possible Descendants

This book tells the story of a yeoman farmer and ferry keeper and his wife from the time of their marriage in 1651 in Windsor, Connecticut, until they died in Simsbury, a town which they helped to found. It also tells of their eight children and their spouses, and it continues to follow this family down to the present.

The author tells of the rare occupation of the right of ferriage—how it was compensated, and what was expected of the ferry keeper. The duties of the ferry keeper were well known at one time, even legendary. It was Charon who operated the one-way ferry over the River Styx between Earth and Hades. He was paid by a coin, obolos, placed in the dead person’s mouth. This was the same river that Achilles was dipped in as a baby by his mother (held, to his misfortune, by his heel), who hoped he would thus be invincible. Except when the river was frozen, the ferry keeper was a waterman who was on-call night and day. At the peril of his own life, and the lives of his passengers, he had to decide when and how it was safe for humans, their goods, and their livestock to travel. The ferry keeper has now all but disappeared from America, along with the telegraph operator and Pony Express rider.

This story involves more than 4000 descendants of the ferry keeper and his wife, about whom much is known in some instances. Many are known only by name; and in recent generations, because of privacy concerns, many are anonymous. The ferry keeper’s four sons and four daughters and their children receive special attention, and their lives are carefully reconstructed from the historical records. The choices they faced for survival, and the decisions they made, were by and large successful. But not all were equal. Luck apparently favored some. All married well, but some married better than others. Typical among early Colonial American families, the youngest son of the founder of this family inherited the father’s estate with the proviso that he would care for his aged parents until they died. The father had already accumulated a large amount of land, and the youngest son made good use of this property. His two marriages were to the daughters of leaders of the town, and he died a wealthy man.

This book is family history, based on genealogy and enriched with biography. Some of the characters are notable, such as Roger Enos, a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary War, who later became a Major General. Enos’ son-in-law, General Ira Allen, was a founder of Vermont. He was the brother of Ethan Allen, famous leader of the Green Mountain Boys. In a later generation, Lucius Barnes Barbour, who created the Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records, was one of the ferry keeper’s descendants. There are many others whose reconstructed lives are interesting, and who are exemplars of their times, though they have since been forgotten. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, most were sturdy farmers and farm wives, who occasionally had another profession such as blacksmith, teacher, or doctor. Some of the men were in all of the American wars except, probably, the War with Spain. They were in the French and Indian Wars, the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Typical of the descendants of a Connecticut Yankee, most were in the Union Army, and only a few fought for the South. Only one was known to be a slave-holder, and probably only one fought in the war with Mexico. Multiple marriages were seen in many branches of the family, usually because a husband died, or a wife, but at least two husbands deserted and their wives remarried. Several joined the Mormons, and the men had overlapping wives and families. In the late twentieth century, the records of marriage and divorce, and of child-bearing without marriage, show a family that is very different from the past. While continuing for the most part to be white and Protestant, this family is now becoming as diverse as a large American family can be. Numerous photographs, illustrations, and maps, as well as a full-name index augment the text.

George J. Hill, M.D., M.A., D.Litt.

2011, 8½x11, paper, 600 pp.

ISBN: 9780788453670