Breaking down genealogical brick walls | News


EAST FISHKILL, NY – General Garret Storm, who fought in the French and Indian War, granted slave Primus Storms his freedom for military service.

This is the story passed down to his descendant, Chief of the Nipmuc Nation and Chief of Council of Elders Cheryll Toney Holley of Worcester, Mass.

His great-great-grandmother, Orphia Mason of Elizabethtown, married Jonathan Robert Storms, was the son of Primus Jr. and Anna Ayres.


His wife, Pemelia, was enslaved by Platt Rogers, a great-grandson of Zephaniah Platt, founder of Plattsburgh.

From Fishkill, Primus followed Pemelia to Plattsburgh and Basin Harbor, Vt. and worked for Rogers.

This is all mind-blowing information for Rick Soedler, director of the Brinckerhoff House Historic Site, which is operated and owned by the East Fishkill Historical Society.

“If you’re referring to General Storm, you’re referring to Garret Storm,” he said.

“Have you seen the local Garret Storm story online? Where the Tories broke into his house, and he was hanged in the attic and one of his enslaved women came up and shot him and saved his life.

“This name Epye Schouten is the only name I know. Any information about enslaved people in this region or any region is very, very limited. I don’t know if the files were destroyed or just got lost over time. But that you speak to me of these two other names is enormous. It’s huge for me.


The fascinating lineage of the Storm family is chronicled in “Old Dirk’s Book: A Brief Account of the Life and Times of Dirck Storm of Holland, His Antecedents, and the Family He Founded in America in 1662” published by Raymond William Storm in 1949.

“The name has been spelled in different ways over the years,” Soedler said.

“There are a lot of them who took the o out and used the au, so that would be Sturm, but they are all from the same family. It’s just that they changed it slightly. It is interesting to note that these people were enslaved, most of them took the surname of their slavers. It makes perfect sense to me. Storms. Wow!”


The Old Storm Farm, part of the 88,000 acre Francis Rombout patent granted by King James II in 1685, has a buried cemetery with slaves dating back to Storm’s arrival in 1739 in Dutchess County.

“I believe that after slavery was completely abolished in New York, it was still used by the African-American community in the area,” Soedler said.

Betty Johnson is the only standing headstone in the cemetery.

“I don’t know the connection with her and the Storms,” ​​he said.

“In 2010, along Dutchess County, the Fishkill Historical Society worked with landowners who purchased what was left of the Storm Farm that stood there.”

The farm is now a development, where many houses have been built.

“They preserved the cemetery,” Soedler said.

“We knew what was there and its importance. They built a beautiful stone wall around it and a fence. There is a historical marker that we put there.

Unmarked fieldstones marked the graves in the cemetery.

Johnson’s vandalized headstone was found on an embankment in the creek.

“They don’t know exactly where she was buried, so they found a central location and they put her in there,” he said.

“Elizabeth Moon’s stone has just disappeared. The last documentation I have of this was in my teens when Dutchess County Historian wrote a wonderful book about cemeteries, “Dutchess County Burial Places”.

Ground-penetrating radar revealed that there were hundreds of black people, enslaved by storms and other families from the area, buried in the cemetery.

“I had a lot of local people interested in helping maintain it,” Soedler said.


Primus and Pemelia Storms most likely have relatives buried in the cemetery.

Now the East Fishkill Historical Society knows about them, the ones that got away.

“It happens all the time,” Soedler said.

“All it would take is a little bit of information to connect you to something else. It can take forever for that to happen.

Email Robin Caudell:

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Twitter: @RobinCaudell


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