What you see here is a rough draft prepared by Audrey Shields Hancock in 1999. The heroine of the story, Mary "Polly" Mills, is Audrey's ancestral aunt. Audrey is revising the contents of this page and it may eventually become a part of her web site.1
I, too, have ancestors from New Jersey whose surnames were Mills, Stites and Woodruff, although I'm not quite sure how they're related to the people in this story.
In the seven years since I created the original version of Polly's page, it attracted little attention. But then, another visitor to this Carey family album, Tom Fleischmann, wrote to supply information about Polly's daughter Mary, and Mary's husband, Philip Price, the clockmaker, and to ask still more questions. Tom graciously permitted me to add his research to this page.
I welcome the comments of any visitors to this page who might have further information on the events and people described.
Mary "Polly" MILLS, daughter of William (I) and Amy (???) MILLS of Westfield Twp., Essex Co., NJ, was probably born ca 1770 in or near Westfield, Essex/Union Co.,2 NJ, where the family was living during the Revolutionary War. Mary entered apparently unknowingly into a bigamistic/illegal marriage with Benjamin STITES II, aka Capt. &/or Major Benjamin STITES Jr./II.
Benjamin STITES II, son of Benjamin (I) STITES, was born 1746/8 in Scotch Plains, Essex/Union Co., NJ according to some records. His gravestone reads born "1734", but this would be erroneous since his father Maj. Benjamin STITES I was said to be born in 1724.
Benjamin STITES II married 22 Sep 1768 in NJ to #1 Rachel (said to have been a WALDEN), whose sister was an Anna MILLS, probably her sister's married name. (Who is the MILLS that Anna married?) Benjamin and Rachel had children, namely:
From family records of Benjamin and Rachel Stites we learn that they went to the Ten Mile Country, on Ten Mile Creek (now Morgan Twp., Greene Co.) then Washington Co., PA about 1769, where Benjamin's and Rachel's five children were born. He was a tax collector for Morgan Twp., Greene Co., PA in 1784 (then Washington Co., PA). It is said that in 1786 Benjamin STITES left his wife and family at Redstone (now Brownsville, Washington Co., PA) on the Ten Mile River and reached the OH valley. We learn from the following accounting and the record book of the Goshen Baptist Church, Green Co., PA hints of marital problems between Benjamin & Rachel STITES. Greene Co. & Washington Co., PA are located in the south-western corner of PA on the border with WV.
Aug Term 1791
Wm. Goforth, Judge
Wm. Wells, Judge
Wm. McMillan, Judge
"Benjamin Stites, Esq. presented to court an agreement of separation between him & his wife, Rachel STITES, dated 14 Apr 1786, Washington County, Pennsylvania under the seal of signature of the parties fully set out on record and also an affadavit of John Corbly & Wm. Crawford to prove said Rachel STITES guilty of the act of adultery which were both by orders of court: The affadavit is dated Washington County, PA, 30th Sep 1785 and at the same time said Stites obtained leave of court to have recorded evidence that his second wife, Mary Stites, voluntarily left his bed & board. Benjamin Stites, Jr., was the witness sworn in court."3
From The Tenmile Country and Its Pioneers on pp. 459-460 we can read about Benjamin:
CAPTAIN BENJAMIN STITES - Benjamin Stites was among the first of the New Jersey immigrants to settle in what is now Morgan Township. He was a descendant of a New England Family that removed first to Hempstead, Long Island, and then to Cape May, New Jersey. He first settled at the site of the old Pollock's Mill, where he was living at the time of the Revolution, and where he served as a captain at the First Battalion, Washington County, Pennsylvania, Militia. Later he sold this land to Jacob Rush, who made an assignment to George Newland of the mill site. Then Benjamin Stites bought land on Bates Fork of Tenmile, where he was living when he served as tax collector for Morgan Township in 1784. He later went back to New Jersey and interested Judge Symmes in a land proposition and together they got many thousands of acres of land on the Miami River of Ohio. He was to become the founder of the city of Cincinnati. A hint of his marital trouble is in the Church Book of Goshen Baptist Church, of which he and his wife, Rachel, were members, for on December 29, 1792, it notes that he was cut off from the fellowship of the church for "having married another wife, while the former wife is yet alive". His former wife, Rachel, was living alone on Tenmile when the Census for 1790 was taken, he having already gone to Limestone, Kentucky, where he made up his Miami Party. From Ohio comes more information about his family troubles and much other information. We learn that he was born at Scotch Plains, New Jersey, about 1740, and married Rachel ______ on September 22, 1768. Within a year he removed to Tenmile, where at least four children were born, and possibly five, before he and Rachel parted in 1786. Ten years later Rachel went to Cincinnati and began suing for a divorce, with Benjamin counter suing in his answer. She accused him of ill treatment, and spending the money that came into her from her family. She also stated that he had bigamously married Mary (Mills?) and after tiring of her had again married illegally, Hannah Waring, with whom he was then living. The testimony in this case reminds one of a Hollywood trial, and continues after the death of Benjamin Stites in 1804, when Green County land, patented to John Stites, came up for distribution. From it we learn the line of descent from Benjamin and Rachel Stites.
- John Stites, born 1770, on Tenmile Creek, died in Ohio in 1794.
- Benjamin Stites, Jr., born February 1772, question of his legitimacy in Ohio Court records, but established by competent witnesses.
- Phoebe Stites, born 1774, married James Miranda.
- Richard Stites, born 1776.
- Rachel Stites, born 1783, married _____ Kibby.
Benjamin STITES II, being impressed with the rich, fertile soil of southwest OH, returned to the East, and went to NY to try to influence the Continental Congress in land speculation in OH. Here he drew the attention of John Cleves SYMMES, a Revolutionary War veteran and the member of Congress from NJ. This interest caused SYMMES to personally travel to the area. SYMMES' dreams of amassing a fortune led him to advertise these OH lands and in 1788 he was appointed a judge for the Northwest Territory. Judge SYMMES bought one million acres of land between the Great and Little Miami Rivers, but eventually died penniless in his harried chase for wealth and ambition due to sloppy surveying and record keeping. He had sold about 10,000 acres near the Little Miami to Benjamin STITES who led a party of settlers in November 1788 to a tract owned by Matthias DENMAN across the mouth of KY's Licking River, thus establishing the second settlement in the Northwest Territory.
Benjamin STITES II then bigamously and illegally married #2 Mary "Polly" MILLS, daughter of William I & Amy MILLS of Westfield, NJ, circa June 1788, probably at Westfield, Essex/Union Co., NJ. Marriage records have not been found by this researcher. It is said in a NJ newspaper accounting that Benjamin STITES presented her with forged divorce papers from VA. Mary (MILLS) STITES apparently did not learn the divorce papers were a forgery until later. Since the MILLS family was of the Baptist faith and attended the Scotch Plains Baptist Church near Westfield, NJ, it is believed that Mary did marry Benjamin in good faith, believing her marriage to be legal. They may have been married by Rev. John GANO, who own son, John GANO, is said by researchers to have come to Columbia in 1788 with Benjamin STITES. John GANO is not listed among the names of those landing in 1788 at Columbia. Possibly John GANO landed with Benjamin STITES in KY. This marriage of Benjamin STITES and Mary MILLS is confirmed in the story above from The Tenmile Country and Its Pioneer Families.
Mary (MILLS) STITES accompanied her assumed husband from NJ in June of 1788, arriving at Redstone, PA in July 1788. From there they went on separate boats down the OH River into KY arriving there during the same month (July 1788). They lived at or near Washington Twp., KY for a time and in November went into "the Miami" river valley arriving at Columbia of the Northwest Territory, now OH. Historical records indicate he founded the town, Columbia, at the mouth of the Little Miami River and North Bend, OH near the mouth of the Great Miami River. He landed there 28 Nov 1788 with his wife and son, Benjamin III according to historical data. His wife at this time would have been Mary (MILLS) STITES and his son would have been Benjamin III, son of Benjamin and his first wife, Rachel. It is here at Columbia that it is said Benjamin's & Mary's son, John Gano STITES, was the first white baby born in Nov or Dec 1788. (Some researchers say he was born in Dec 1789 and/or in KY., but U.S. Federal Census of 1850, Spencer Co., IN give John Gano STITES as being 62 yrs. and born OH.)
According to Family Records or Genealogies of the First Settlers of Passaic Valley (and vicinity) above Chatham by John LITTELL, 1852, page 409, we read: "The wife of Benjamin Stites, Jun. was said to be the first white woman that ever landed in Cincinnati." From this we might assume that the wife they are referring to is Mary (MILLS) STITES, since Benjamin had left Rachel and his first family at Redstone, PA.
In regard to the Columbia colony, we read in the The Reporter, published by the Allen Co. Historical Society, Memorial Hall, Lima, OH, July 1953:
The little colony was made up largely of New Jersey people; many were Essex Co. born; the men, energetic and enterprising, had fought together at Monmouth, Trenton and Yorktown; and a half dozen families were Baptist. Eight bore the name of Stites, Major Benjamin, his wife and three children,- Jonathan, Hezekiah and Elijah. Thus the group had ties at birth, religion, and military service, a uniting factor which may have been responsible for the early establishment of a church. On Jan. 20th, 1790 a Baptist Church was constituted at Columbia, - The first church in the Northwest Territory, - and on that day, Elijah and Roda Stites joined with ten others in chartering the first organization for Christian workship.
Mary evidently discovered the bigamy of her husband, Benjamin, and by 5 Apr 1790 had left Benjamin to return to the home of her parents in Westfield, Essex/Union Co., NJ with her son, John Gano STITES. The rift and animosity between Benjamin & Mary is evidenced by the following newspaper articles.
From the New Jersey Journal of Elizabethtown, NJ, of 4 August 1790 and extracted in Notices from New Jersey Newspapers 1781-1790, Records of New Jersey, Vol. I, by Thomas B. WILSON on page 294:
Benjamin Stites, at Columbia, Hamilton County, in the Northwestern Territory, adv. under date of 5 April 1790 that his wife Mary has departed his house and forewarns the public from trusting on his account.
In response on pages 295-296 from the New Jersey Journal of Elizabethtown, NJ, of 4 August 1790 and extracted in Notices from New Jersey Newspapers 1781-1790, Records of New Jersey, Vol. I, by Thomas B. WILSON:
Mary Stites, Westfield, in a lengthy letter to the Editor tells of the baseness of her husband who has advertised that she departed his house on the Miami. [See the notice of Benjamin Stites in the issue of August 4th.] Before her marriage he had seduced a young girl who he deserted leaving her to provide for his child. He was known, although improperly, as Major Stites. He was previously married and had a number of children at Redstone, but he produced a bill of divorcement from the State of Virginia. On our way to the Ohio country when we were at Fort Pitt he put me on board a boat to go down the Ohio while he took passage on another, for the sole purpose of having the company of another woman, and after difficulties and dangers innumerable, I arrived at the Miami. When on the Miami, his former wife set upon him for the injustice he had done her at which time it was found that his bill of divorce was a forgery. She, the writer, then took her child, only one year old, to return to her parents which he permitted not from a principle of obliging her, but from the great probability of her being killed by the Indians thus sparing him the necessity of forging another bill of divorce. In the event she arrived safely at Fort Pitt and came from there to her parents. Some months since Mr. Stites called to see her and among other things presented her with a nutmeg which nearly poisoned herself and her mother...
Benjamin Stites [residence not stated] in a letter to the Editor writes that the piece in issue of the 8th instant signed Mary Stites may lead the public, if nothing should be said to the contrary, to entertain a very contemptible opinion of his character. He requests the Editor to print the following depositions.
From the New Jersey Journal of Elizabethtown, NJ, of 22 September 1790 and extracted in Notices from New Jersey Newspapers 1781-1790, Records of New Jersey, Vol. I, by Thomas B. WILSON on pages 296-297:
Mr. Joseph Halsey jun. in a deposition taken 15 September 1790 before Jedidiah Swan, J.P., of Essex County, stated that he travelled with Mr. Benjamin Stites and his wife from New Jersey to Redstone in June 1788 and that he saw no unkind treatment of Mrs. Stites. As Mr. Stites was unavoidably detained there to procure provision, she chose to continue with the company she had travelled with from New Jersey together with Benjamin Stites' brother Hezekiah who had there prepared boats for going down the river. When Benjamin Stites' business was accomplished, he went down the river in another boat with his brother Elijah and his wife, who was the only woman on board. After they both had arrived at Kentucky, he, the deponent, was frequently at their house and saw not the least disrespect shown Mrs. Stites by her husband...
Captain Joseph Meeker of Springfield, Essex Co, NJ in a deposition taken 16 September 1790 before Jeremiah Ballard, J.P. of Essex County, stated that in the summer of 1788 that he resided in the township of Washington in Kentucky and that Mrs. Mary Stites arrived there with a party from New Jersey in July of that year and Major Benjamin Stites soon after. He lived a near neighbor to them until December following when the party moved down to Miami, and he, the deponent, in a few days joined them and lived there until the June following. He was on friendly terms with Mr. and Mrs. Stites, being at their house nearly every day, and they appeared to live happily together. The family of Mr. Stites was well and plentifully provided for and no family there appeared to live better...
Joel Williams in a deposition taken 20 September 1790 before Isaac Woodruff Esq., one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Essex County, stated that in July 1788 he was at Redstone old fort preparing boats to go down the river in company with Hezekiah Stites at which time Mr. Benjamin Stites and his wife arrived. As Mr. Stites was busily employed in getting flour and other necessary articles, his wife chose to go with the deponent and Hezekiah Stites. He was at Limestone when Mr. Benjamin Stites arrived, and, being frequently at Mr. Stites' house, he never saw anything but friendly conduct between him and his wife, Mary...
William Sayrs, "of the Farms", Essex County, in a deposition taken 20 September 1790 before Robert Wade, J.P. of said County, stated that in July 1788 he resided in the settlement of Redstone when Benjamin and Mary Stites arrived there. Mrs. Stites went down the river in company with Hezekiah Stites while Benjamin remained to thresh his grain, in which this deponent helped him. When Benjamin had got his flour ready and his business done, this deponent went down the river with him along with Benjamin's brother Elijah Stites whose wife was the only woman on board...
Mr. John R. Mills (residence not stated) in a deposition taken 21 September 1790 in the Borough of Elizabeth before Jeremiah Ballard one of the Justices of said Borough, stated that he travelled the greater part of the way to Redstone with Benjamin and Mary Stites and went down the Ohio River in the same boat with Mary Stites...He spent several months in the neighbourhood of the Stites' at Miami, on one occasion residing four days with them, and found that Mr. Stites treated his wife with kindness and civility...
Sometime after her return home Mary (MILLS) STITES gave birth to a daughter, Mary "Polly" R. STITES in NJ. Her birthdate in Ohio court records is given as Oct 1791. However, if the above newpaper account of 5 Apr 1790 stating that Mary had left Benjamin is true, then it becomes apparent that Mary was possibly with child when she left Benjamin in OH to return to NJ. This would then lead to the conclusion that possibly Mary R. STITES was born in Oct 1790 instead of 1791, unless there was some attempt at a reconciliation after Mary (MILLS) STITES return home.
Benjamin STITES II then married bigamously #3 Hannah WARING in 1792. He and Hannah had the following children:
Mrs. Hannah STITES was married 13 Nov 1811 to Daniel C. CARTER by Edward MEEKS according to the Western Spy newspaper dated 23 Nov 1811 as per Marjorie Byrnside BURRESS, Early Rosters of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Ohio, 1984, p. 177.
Rachel, Benjamin's first wife, left the Ten Mile Creek area in 1796 and went to Deerfield, Hamilton Co., OH (now in Warren Co., OH). Benjamin sued her for divorce and she counter sued in March of 1796. A divorce between Benjamin STITES and his first wife, Rachel, was not legally filed until "the third Tuesday of March 1796 in Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., OH" being registered and finalized in 1798. A notice of divorce of Benjamin STITES from Rachel STITES appeared in the Freeman's Journal on 17 Jun 1796 and 8 Oct 1796 according to Marjorie Byrnside BURRESS, Early Rosters of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Ohio, 1984, p. 201.
Benjamin STITES died intestate 30 Aug 1804 in Columbia, Hamilton Co., OH. Benjamin STITES, Jr. (III), James MIRANDA, and Ephraim KIBBEY, were appointed administrators of his estate. Evidently the children from the later marriages were declared illegitimate, for the children of his first marriage with Rachel became the only legal heirs.
Rachel married 14 Apr 1805 in Lebanon, Warren Co., OH, to Joseph WARD.4
Children of Benjamin (II) & Rachel ( ) STITES. This is the only legal family of Benjamin STITES (II):
Mary "Polly" (MILLS) STITES had evidently remarried by 15 Dec 1797 to a Mr. WOODRUFF, for she is called "Polly WOODRUFF" in the will of her mother, Amy MILLS. She may have gone with her husband to Warren Co., OH where her children were living.
Children of Benjamin II & #2 Mary "Polly" (MILLS) STITES:
John Gano STITES, illegitimate son of Benjamin II & #2 Mary "Polly" (MILLS) STITES, was said to have been the first white baby born in Columbia, Northwest Territory (OH) in Nov/Dec 1788. Some say he was born in KY and others say he was born in early 1789. However, U.S. Federal Census of 1850, Spencer Co., IN give John Gano STITES as being 62 yrs. and born OH.
John was mentioned as an alternative legatee in the will (dated 15 Dec 1797) of his maternal grandmother, Amy MILLS, of Essex Co., NJ in the event of the death of his sister, Mary "Polly" STITES before age 18.
John Gano STITES married 16 Oct 1808 in Springfield, NJ #1 Martha CORY (30 Jul 1786-1 Aug 1830 OH). After Martha's death, John Gano STITES married 12 Jun 1831 in OH #2 Lucinda HARINGTON who was born 20 Apr 1806 in VA. John Gano STITES died Jun 1853 in either OH or IN.
Children of John Gano & #1 Martha (CORY) STITES:
Children of John Gano & #2 Lucinda (HARINGTON) STITES
Mary R. STITES, illegitimate daughter of Benjamin II & #2 Mary "Polly" (MILLS) STITES, was born in Oct 1790/1791 in NJ. She was mentioned in the will (dated 15 Dec 1797) of her maternal grandmother, Amy MILLS, of Essex Co., NJ, where she is called "Polly STITES". It reads: "granddaughter, Polly Stites (daughter of daughter Polly Woodruff), 1/3 of estate; should she die under 18 without issue, the same to her brother, John."
Mary R. STITES married 6 Oct 1824 in Lebanon, Warren Co., OH to Phillip P. PRICE, a clockmaker. Phillip was a captain in the War of 1812. Philip P. PRICE died c1835, because he is found in the 1830 Federal Census of Hamilton Co., OH living in Cincinnati, OH Ward 2 (#030), but not the 1840 Federal Census. Among the numerous "Mary PRICE" names listed in Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., OH 1840 Federal Census, it is believed that she is the one enumerated #181.
In 1850 Federal Census, Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., OH in Ward 7, #857, is found Mary Price, female, widow, 58 yrs., born NJ and Richard BROWN, a 40 yrs. male roomer born in NY.
According to the Minute Book of the Pioneer Assn. of Cincinnati, Vol. 1, p. 331, Mary R. STITES PRICE joined the association on 25 Mar 1865, paying her dollar membership. She was 74 years old and stated her father was "Benjamin STITES" and that her mother was "Mary MILLS". She further stated she was born October 1791 in NJ, three weeks before the defeat of St. Clair. She said she was married 6 Oct 1824 at Lebanon, Ohio to Philip PRICE, a clockmaker, who died in 1825 (sic c1835). At that time Mary R. (STITES) PRICE was living "11 miles west of Cincinnati", Hamilton Co., OH.
It appears that Phillip P. & Mary R. (STITES) PRICE had no issue.
According to litigation court records Mary R. (STITES) PRICE filed to obtain a part of the estate of her father, Benjamin STITES. Because the 2nd and 3rd marriages of Benjamin STITES were found to be illegal and therefore the children illegitimate, John Gano, Mary R. STITES, and the children of Hannah (WARING) STITES were not recognized as legatees in their father's estate. The children of Rachel, his first wife, became the only legal heirs of Benjamin STITES.
There has been widespread genealogical fallacy concerning the second wife of Benjamin STITES. She has in D.A.R. records been called Mary PRICE. This is not true. The second wife of Benjamin was Mary (MILLS) STITES WOODRUFF, not Mary PRICE. Their daughter Mary R. STITES married a Phillip P. PRICE, and therefore; it is she who is the Mary PRICE. Generations have been confused in these records. There is some speculation that the first wife of Benjamin STITES II was even Rachel MILLS, but this has not been proven, and other call her Rachel WALDEN.
The message below was received from another researcher who was searching for information about a clock:
13 Feb 2011
I am interested in any information that you may have concerning Philip P. Price, the clockmaker who married Mary R. Stites.
In an attempt to make a long story short, we obtained a tall case clock with the inscription on the face:
"Philip PriceThe clock was obtained by my wife's mother from the family of Helen Price in Johnstown, Pa, about 1956. Along with the clock was a handwritten note which stated that the original owner of the clock was Philip Price who was born in 1764 and died in West Chester, Pa, in 1834. The note continued stating who posessed the clock up to Helen Price.
Additionally, we had the clock repaired this past year. The people who repaired the clock noted that it was a handmade clock and believed it was made about 1790. The only indication of who made the clock was on the face -- Philip Price.
In Brian Loomes' Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World, Vol. 2, there is a list of watch and clockmakers. The list shows the following:
In Chris Bailey's Two Hundred Years of American Clock & Watches, in speaking about clockmakers in Cincinnati he states: "In 1806, Philip Price advertised in local newspapers that he had dissolved a partnership with Harmon Long and would continue his jewelry and clock and watchmaking business."
- Price ---
- . . .
- Philip, Chester Co., Pa. USA mar. (married) 1791
- Philip, jun. Philadelphia, USA. 1813-26 C.
- Philip P. From Philadelphia to Cincinnati 1815, then to Lebanon, O. 1823.
Because: the normal practice at that time was for the clockmaker to note his name on the face of the clock, Chester County is next to Philadelphia, East Bradford is in Chester County and the times being such, I assumed the Philip Prices listed in Loomes' book were one and the same person. And thus based upon Bailey's book, I assumed that Philip Price, the original owner, was a clockmaker who left Philadelphia went to Cincinnati, then to Lebanon Ohio and then returned the Philadelphia area where he died in 1834.
Then, in doing additional research, I came across your very interesting web site about Polly Mills...
Then I found from the History of Cambria County, Pennsylvania, by Henry Wilson Storery, there was a Philip Price who in lived in East Bradford, PA, for a short period of time approx. (1810-1818) In reading about this Philip Price, there is no mention of him being a clockmaker. This Philip Price was actually quite the farmer being one of the first to institute crop rotation, systematic course of manuring and other agricultural advances. Philip Price and his wife Eachel (Kirk) had eleven children, none of whom were named Philip P. Price. (Interestingly, the tenth child was named Philip M. Price.) Further, Eachel Kirk Price was born in 1763. There is no mention of the date of marriage between Philip and Eachel but their first child was born in 1785. Given the religious background of Philip and Eachel, as noted by Storery, my guess is that they were married before the birth of their first child. [Recall, Loomes notes a Philip Price being married in 1791.] Also of note is that Storery's book traces the linage up to Helen Price in Johnstown Pa. Given the fact the clock was handmade, it really would be amazing that in addition to being at the forefront of agricultural advances this Philip Price also was a clockmaker.
So the bottom line is I am trying to figure out who was the clockmaker. Could it have been Philip P Price? Or could it have been someone else who merely was directed to place on the face:
"Philip PriceIf there were two Philip Prices, were they related or could they have known one another? Who was the Philip Price who was married in Chester County in 1791? Was this Philip Price the same person who married Mary Stites in 1824?.... One could go on and on. So any information you have about Philip P. Price would be greatly appreciated.
Research goes on! This story would have intrigued our dear friend Bob Keenan. Bob went to school with my parents and collected old clocks of all kinds, repaired them, studied them, and sometimes sold them or gave them away. His home was full of clocks! If Bob were alive, he would undoubtedly tell us a lot about Philip Price and his clocks.