Moses Ordway was born in Newberry, Massachusetts on 12 Feb 1738. He married Susanna Bly, born 15 September 1813 in New Hampshire, and sometime around 1775 – 1776, he and his family moved to Tunbridge, Vermont.
The Vermont Historical Gazeteer of 1871 states in its chapter on Tunbridge:
“ The first permanent settlements in town were commenced about the year 1776, by James Lyon, Moses Ordway, Elias Curtis and the Hutchinson brothers…I think these early settlers did not bring their families with them at first, but commenced preparing for themselves a future home. Some small patches of land were cleared and a few rude huts, made of logs, erected in the southern part of town, were soon occupied by happy wives and playful littles ones.” (1115)
In Vermont, the word town refers to what we would call a township, but there is also the village of Tunbridge. Another source (“On the Beginnings of Tunbridge” by Robert O’Brien) states: “There is a record of a vote at the first meeting of Tunbridge proprietors allowing Moses Ordway to pitch 200 acres where he has done his work, providing he purchase from proper owner."
So my sixth great grandfather arrived in Vermont just before the end of the Revolutionary War. At that time, the settlement of Royalton was already there with about twenty families and Strafford had a few settlers, as well, but in the terms of the time, Vermont was the untamed wilderness.
Families were very poor. Another history of Tunbridge noted that shoes were so scarce that sometimes only one pair would be available for the children to share, hence only one boy could go out to get wood at a time. The Ordway homestead was on a small hill just above the village itself.
The big historical event of the town took place in 1780.As the story goes, Peter Button, an early settler had just finished his first harvest of grain and was taking it to the mill, when he saw a group of Indians coming. On October 16, 1780, approximately three hundred Native Americans under the command of a British officer, invaded Tunbridge, bent on destroying it and taking over the region for the British. They set the houses and barns on fire. Peter Button was speared and scalped, as were some of the other men of the town. About thirty were taken prisoners by the Indians and marched to Montreal where they were turned over to the British command for $8.00 a head. There they were imprisoned, although many escaped and returned to Tunbridge.
Where were the Ordways? Well, since they lived up above the valley where the attack was taking place, they heard the noise and smelled the burning.
The Vermont Historical Gazeteer described it this way:“Moses Ordway and family, who lived on the hill to the south, smelled the burning feathers, heard the general stampede, and the whole family hid themselves for days in the woods. Their youngest was scarce three weeks old. They killed a favorite dog, lest his barking would lead the enemy to their hiding place – and all escaped. (1118)
After the attack, there were few resources left in the area for the people to help them survive. Fields and homes had been burned. Some left the town, but the Ordways stayed and raised their family of twenty-two children…still the record for number of children in a family of Tunbridge! It is said that eighteen of those children survived and married, making the population grow quite quickly in the era before 1820. Although large families seemed to be the norm in Tunbridge, “…Moses Ordway’s wife excelled them all in bearing burdens and became the mother of at least twenty children.” (1121) I have not found all of them, but one was my direct descendant, Aaron. I’m sure some died in childbirth or in childhood, and perhaps some of those births were not recorded.
Moses and Susannah Bly Ordway are buried in the Gilley or Ordway Cemetery in Tunbridge, a place that was once part of the Ordway homestead. Both died in 1813, Susannah first on 11 February , and then Moses on 15 September. A very worn stone still marks their burial place and is still somewhat readable.