Actress and Son
In the northeast corner of New York State, on the western banks of Lake Champlain, lies the formidable town of Plattsburgh. On September 11, 1814, the Battle of Plattsburgh proved a crucial victory for the United States in the War of 1812. The fledgling U.S. Navy, under the command of Brig. Gen. Alexander Macomb, fought back an invasion from England, which, after defeating Napoleon, had turned its attention to retaking the northern states and possessing all navigation rights over Lake Champlain. The defeat of the British against overwhelming odds boosted national morale and was a chief catalyst in ending the war.
The town, named after the Continental Congress member Zephaniah Platt, was incorporated in 1815. The indigenous Iroquois had been driven from the area by Quebecers and other Canadians who journeyed south to settle there during the booming days of the fur trade. In the nineteenth century, the town welcomed a new breed of citizenry in the form of families from England, Ireland, and Scotland. Robert Barclay of Stirling, Scotland, settled in nearby New Hampshire with his wife, Rhoda Way, when they started a family in the late 1700s. By that time, Robert had adopted a new and similar-sounding surname, Berkeley, an Americanization perhaps of a family name dating back to the 1600s. He and Rhoda welcomed a son, Robert, on September 1, 1798. When Robert was in his twenties, he married a New Hampshire girl, Susan Woodbury, and together they had seven children. On December 5, 1848, their second-oldest child, Arthur Tysdale Berkeley (b. 1823) married Mary Jane Hooey of New York and moved to Black Brook, New York, in Clinton County, thirty miles southwest of Plattsburgh.
Over the course of twenty-four years, Arthur and Mary raised a brood of twelve, corresponding, almost exactly, to one newborn every two years. There was Susan Elizabeth (1850), George (1852), Edgar Eugene (1854), Susan Ella (1856), Alpheretta (1858), Billie May (1860),