September 25, 2011

Willis Ordway Was Warned

One of Aaron’s sons, Willis Johnson Ordway, must have found himself in a predicament in August 1817, in Pomfret, Vermont.

 In early New England, many towns abided by “warning out” laws.  Vermont abandoned those laws in 1787, but revived them from 1801 – 1818.  Warning Out laws gave the town authorities the power to ask folks who might not be able to support themselves or who might be troublemakers or transients to leave town.  When a newcomer moved into town, he was given one year to establish himself and meet the criteria set up by each town.  If a person could last a year without being warned out, time was up and the town had to accept him.  Warrants were required to be served within the first year the person was there. 

In Alden M. Rollins’ book, Vermont Warnings Out, Volume 2, Southern Vermont (Picton Press, Camden, Maine), Willis J. Ordway appears as having been served a warning out in the town of Pomfret, Vermont on August 12, 1817.  Willis Johnson Ordway was the second son of Aaron and Susannah Johnson Ordway, born  4 September 1794 in Strafford, Vermont.  He would have been 23 when this warrant was served, probably by the local constable.  The constable’s task was to serve the warrant within a particular time frame (usually about a week) by delivering it in person or by leaving it at the dwelling place of the person.  The town clerk would record the warrant in the town books and because of that, many records still exist for genealogists.  I would need to order the microfilm of those records to find out if any additional information was recorded about Willis’s situation.

According to Rollins, few people were actually expelled from towns in Vermont.  As long as the person settled in there and earned his keep or held a public office, which were hard to fill otherwise, he would be allowed to stay.  Even if he did go on the poor rolls of the town, that town had the right to send him back to the place from which he came, making the town of origin responsible for the person’s keep.
S = Strafford, P = Pomfret, N =Northfield

Looking ahead in the census, Willis made his way up to Northfield, northwest of Strafford by 1820 and by 1830, he was back in his hometown of Strafford, Vermont, living with his family. After 1840 sometime,he moved down with his father and brothers to Elk Township, Pennsylvania.

 So was he causing trouble in Pomfret or did they just think he was lazy and not contributing to his own keep?  Wish I knew.

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