I knew that Henry Hait lived his early life in Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, and that he ended up in the village of Coram, Suffolk County, New York. His headstone in Coram reads as much. Yet his headstone does not reveal much else about his journey from Stamford to Coram.
Enter the American County Histories Collection.
Searching for “Henry Hait,” I discovered that he appears in the History of Sullivan County, Embracing an account of its geology, climate, aborigines, early settlement, organization; the formation of its towns, with biographical sketches of prominent residents, Etc., Etc., by James Eldridge Quinlan (W.T. Morgans & Co., 1873).
Family traditions remembered that Henry was a Baptist minister, and the Sullivan County history affirmed this:
Elder Henry Hait came from Stamford, Connecticut, in 1825, and located in the North Settlement. He was of the Baptist Church, which had a considerable foothold in the town in his day; but lost its influence from various causes.
The author continued, in a memorable passage,
On the 9th of February, 1833, Elder Henry Hait became the third and last pastor. Although he was a good man, the society gradually lost ground, and in the end virtually ceased to exist.
These became my first clues of Henry’s life in Thompson in Sullivan County. Yet county histories do far more than recount small pieces of our ancestors’ lives. Instead they describe, often in great detail, the worlds in which our ancestors lived. This history of Sullivan County had much to say about the Baptist community of which Henry found himself a part, from its origins in 1811 until its demise shortly after Henry became its leader. The book also, of course, contains more details about the history of the town of Thompson, and Sullivan County in general.
Understanding our ancestors’ lives is not often easy, especially when we rely solely on the often dry details relayed by most government records. With county histories, however, we are able to view their lives in the context of their world. Even when our ancestors are not central to the tale being recounted, understanding the world around them allows us to truly understand the lives our ancestors lived.
©2012 Michael Hait
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