Jason Damon was the son of Edmond Damon and Esther Hubbard. In the small world of colonial Massachusetts, both his parent were related to famed American author Ralph Waldo Emerson. Edmond was a third cousin twice removed, and Esther was a first cousin twice removed.
Jason Damon served as a private in the forces of Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War and then went on to become an early settler in upstate New York. There is another page for Jason for this cemetery which includes a photograph of his headstone, but this additional page is included to provide his biography.
Marriage: Lucy Owen 21 Feb. 1793, Grafton, Rensselaer County, New York (daughter of Anna and Abel Owen).
- Polly Damon (married Hugh Lackey Briggs, see link below);
- Clark R. Damon (b. ca. 1800, Paris, NY);
- Ephraim Damon (b. 1803, Bridgeport, NY);
- Norton Jason (b. ca. 1807, Bridgeport);
- Edmund H. Damon (b. 16 June 1809, Bridgeport);
- William Riley Damon (b. 1811 Bridgeport);
- Alpheus Damon (b. ca. 1813 Bridgeport).
Jason was the son of Edmond Damon and Esther Hubbard of Brookfield and Western townships, Mass. His siblings included Joseph (19 Oct. 1766), Solomon (b. by 1770).
Little is know of Edmond. There seems to be no record of service in the Revolution, but when Jason wanted to enlist at age 15, Edmund gave his approval (according to Jason's pension application in 1833). One might imagine Edmund's thoughts as he allowed the first born to go off to war at such a tender age (15 was one year shy of the minimum enlistment age). Perhaps Jason's ardor to join the war was such that Edmond could not hold the boy back, and thus he let him go willingly rather than have him sneak off one night. Whatever the case was, Jason named one of his son's Edmund, so it appears he was honoring his father with this choice.
The first record for Jason is his service in the Revolutionary War. His pension application in 1833 explained his service which began when he was still under age and joined the Captain Bert's company of the Hampton County Regiment under Col. Joshua Porter then at New London, Connecticut in early July 1779. He states he served for a month "in fatigues" helping to construct a fort. The Massachusetts government could later find no record of this month's service, and one wonders if the unit carried him off the books since he was just below minimum age but his youthful energy was helpful in building the fort. Perhaps he lied when he enlisted, and later his commanders discovered the truth. It is likely that when they no longer needed him, they sent him home to grow a few more months. Records show that Col. Porter was indeed commanding at New London just for about this month and that a fort was built there (the blockhouse from this period can be found at Fort Trumbull State Park). Given the truthfulness of Jason's other service data and the fact that Col. Porter's presence at New London had a very narrow window which Jason was unlikely to have know 54 years later except for his own memory, it seems Jason did serve at this time.
Whatever the case about his actions in 1779, Jason did officially enlist in 1780 at Springfield, Mass. near his hometown of Ludlow, and this time he was at the acceptable age of 16. He became a private in the company of Captain John Carpenter which was tasked with guarding the Continental Army arsenal at Springfield, and his service dates run for eight months, 6 May 1780 to 6 Feb. 1781.
In 1777 General George Washington had selected Springfield as the site of an arsenal for its geographic advantages. The small town had grown up on a crossroads for major highways and along the bank of the navigable Connecticut River. The river could provide water power for mills, the population of western Massachusetts and Connecticut the skilled labor, and the countryside the materials. General Henry Knox, Washington's Chief of Artillery, concluded, "…the plain just above Springfield is perhaps one of the most proper spots on every account" for an arsenal. The establishment was created to manufacture cartridges and gun carriages, but it also became a depot for storing muskets, cannon, other weapons, clothing, and shoes. Barracks, shops, storehouses, and a powder magazine were built to supply the troops in the war. In 1778 major general Horatio Gates had established the militia guard company to protect the arsenal, and Captain Carpenter commanded the company there from 23 March 1779 to 31 March 1783.
Jason notes in his pension application that he sometimes helped in the arsenal and also drove a wagon of military stores across the river ice. This fete must have been significant for him to include it in the document, and perhaps it was done at a time in winter when supplies were needed from the arsenal but the river ice was treacherous. Communications from General Washington to the arsenal exist which show the need for shipments in winter, and one such is dated 2 Oct. 1778 at the Army HQ at Fishkill, NY to the Director of Clothing at Hartford and Springfield:
"Sir: The situation of the army with respect to blankets, stockings and shoes is so distressing that I am to desire you will forward on those articles from Springfield and Hartford with all possible dispatch; particularly the shoes, for want of which a great part of the men would be incapable of marching any distance, should it become ever so necessary. You will therefore send on the shoes in the first instance and let the blankets and stockings follow them as speedily as they can. The route they are to take is to Fredericks (Fredricksburg, NY) by way of Litchfield (Connecticut). The business demands your utmost activity. I am etc (Your Obedient Servant)."
The supplies and arms at Springfield were essential for the war effort as noted in numerous orders from General Washington. One communication of 10 March 1780 cautioned General Robert Howe about his priorities commanding the troops in Connecticut, and the commander in chief spelled out his orders:
"The object of your going there (Danbury, Connecticut) is to afford the best cover to the part of the Country Eastward of Norwalk on the (Long Island) sound, as the troops at West Point will attend more immediately to the Enemy's lines and the protection of the people in that quarter of the state of NYork. As there is no telling the designs or knowing the objects of the enemy you will endeavor to give opposition to them and afford every assistance in your power to the State you will be in, in case any part of it is invaded, and will in an especial manner in case of such an event attend to the case of our Stores at Litchfield and Springfield. In every other respect you will consider yourself under the orders and directions of Maj. Genl. Heath or Officer commanding at West point if your superior in Rank. "
Another order sent to Major William Perkins on 10 April 1780 orders him to transport all the brass cannon and Continental stores he oversaw in Rhode Island to the armory in Springfield. It seems the continued threat of British seaborne raids like the one into Connecticut in July 1779 led to fears of the loss of these weapons needed for the army. Perkins was to leave behind the heavier iron cannon and those weapons belonging to the state of Rhode Island.
A search of Massachusetts records by the pension department did confirm Jason was on the company muster list/pay roll for this period although they got his name wrong twice, as Justin Damon and as Jason Demmon (this latter spelling was a common variant). Jason's post at the arsenal did not allow him to see any battles, and by the time his enlistment was finished, the glory of war might have subsided in him, and he did not reenlist. He was still just 17 and had seen service in two military units. But it should be noted that his patriotism was not lost on his daughter Polly who would talk to her children about her father's service, about the heroes of the Revolution and her contempt for traitors, particularly Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr.
Although his military service was behind him, Jason's taste for adventure was not dulled, and despite his youth, he seems to have soon headed off west either with his father or perhaps ahead of him on his own to the new frontier, which in this period meant upstate New York across the border from Massachusetts.
Within five years it seems Edmond led his family to the area of the present day Grafton, NY in the sparsely populated region that would become Rensselaer County. Edmond is noted on the 1790 census just a few names away from the family of Abel Owen whose daughter would later marry Jason.
This was an untamed place belonging to the large Rensselaer Manor land grant, and according to later observers who saw the town that had been built there, "Its surface contains more small lakes and ponds than any other town in the county, and these are the headwaters of many streams flowing in every direction.... said to be the centre of the watershed of Rensselaer County.... Grafton possesses the most uneven surface of any town in the county. It is located within the limits of the Petersburgh range of mountains and the principal peaks in the town reach an altitude from a thousand to twelve hundred feet above the level of the sea. A small portion of the land only is cultivable, but the hillsides afford excellent grazing."
In Chapter XXXIII "Town of Grafton" in the history text "Landmarks of Rensselaer County" by George Baker Anderson (Madison & Co. Publishers, Syracuse, NY, 1897), the author notes that Abel Owen, a Revolutionary War veteran originally from Connecticut was the first settler in this wilderness before Rensselaer County was established, and among the few other pioneers that soon joined him by 1786 was one by the name "Demmon." Since Jason married Abel Owen's daughter Lucy Owen, it is clear this pioneer settler family included Edmund and his son was Jason. The town of Grafton did not yet exist, and the closest community was Hoosick which Jason gives as his location at this time in his pension records. This file also notes the marriage to Lucy in the area that would later become Grafton and which was performed by the Rev. Elijah Brown in 1793. Another text, "A History of Rensselaer Co.", notes that Abel Owen eventually sold his land about 1796 and moved with his family further west to Onondaga County and then Cortland County. The Damons headed west as well, but Jason retained some of his property in Grafton as noted by a 7 year lease he made for some of his land to Solomon Smith, Jr. on 1 Dec 1808.
Searching for new opportunities, Jason first stopped in Oneida County where Polly and Clark were born in Paris Township, and then the family continued on briefly to Vernon. Eventually they made their way to the hamlet of Bridgeport on Chittenango Creek which runs into Lake Oneida. The area was part of the Sullivan Township in Madison County, and the creek formed the western boundary with Onondaga County. Part of the community actually extended across the county line into Onondaga and the Township of Cicero, and thus there is a minor confusion in some of Jason's records since both counties appear.
Several records connect Jason with this area. The "Chittenango-Bridgeport Times" of July 30, 1975 ran an article about cleanup of the Pioneer Cemetery for the upcoming bicentennial, and Jason's headstone is named when he is identified as Bridgeport's first settler. His son Ephraim is mentioned as well beside his three wives who died at 18, 27, and 56 (pg 8). The same newspaper ran another story about the cemetery for the bicentennial which states that Jason's stone is quite old but quite legible, and he should receive a flag as a Revolutionary War soldier who served in Capt. carpenter's Mass. Line Company in 1779, 1780, and 1781 (Sept. 8, 1976, p. 5). In "Names and Sketches of the Pioneer Settlers of Madison County NY," author William H. Tuttle reports that "(Damon) lived on the shore of Oneida Lake as an early settler of Bridgeport. He was a Rev. War Vet in Mass. Line and pension for service in 1832. Buried in Old Bridgeport Cemetery" (page 71).
There is also the 1810 census in which the Damon family is listed a few homes away from the Briggs family ; this was how Jason's daughter Polly met Hugh Briggs who would become her husband. The connection between the families evidently became strong since Jason names several of his daughter's Briggs relatives as character witnesses in his pension application, and these included her father-in-law Joshua Briggs (also a Rev. War veteran), brother-in-law Rev. Austin Briggs, and Abel White, the husband of Hugh's sister Sally.
Jason lived the rest of his life in Bridgeport where his family and children flourished. In 1833 he applied for the military pension which provides much about his life. He could have applied earlier than age 69, but evidently chose not to request it until he actually needed it in his old age. He received it for two years until he passed in 1835.
Of other family members in the area, his grandson Loren Norton Damon (1855-1938, son of Mary Jane Hogan and Norton Jason Damon) became a famed boat builder for Lake Oneida as described in a "History of Bridgeport":
"For many years our boat factory was owned and operated by Loren Damon. Mr. Damon, one of our earlier settlers, built literally hundreds of boats in his time, before the business was taken over by his sons upon his retirement. The Damon boats were 16 and 18 foot boats and were framed from New York State Oak. There has never been a drowning caused or occurring from a Damon boat." Leon Damon, the son of Loren, owned the farm near the shore of Lake Oneida, and in the same town history he is noted for having found many artifacts of the earlier Indian occupation of the land including a burial ground.
Others of the family had some of the same pioneer spirit of their father Jason and headed further west when land opened up. Edmund H. bought 240 acres for a farm in Olive Township, Iowa and then retired in Calamus, Iowa. His sons Myron, Ammon, and Riley (a lawyer) all served in the 18th Iowa Infantry regiment in the Civil War. Norton and Alpheus Owen Damon became merchants in Oregon, and Albert Nelson returned to New York where he became a Methodist Minister.
William Riley took up land in Vernon, Wisconsin, close to the family of his sister Polly (Damon) Briggs in nearby Rock County, and their widowed mother Lucy (Owen) Damon came to live with him in the mid 1840s. His son Milo Norton Damon was lost in the Civil War while serving as a corporal in Company A, 66th Regiment Illinois Inf. This unit was originally organized by General John C. Fremont and called the "Western Sharpshooters" because it drew men from Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota. Later this designation changed several times from "Birge's Western Sharpshooters" to the 14th Missouri Infantry and finally became the 66th Illinois on 20 Nov. 1862. He enlisted in Wisconsin 18 Oct, 1861, joined the regiment 5 Dec. 1861, and saw action at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and Corinth, Mississippi. Following his two year enlistment on 25 December 1863, he reenlisted with "veteran" status and marched in Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. The Sixty-sixth had the role of opening the campaign by driving Wheeler's cavalry and a brigade of Rebel infantry through Snake Creek Gap, and holding until night the high hills of Resaca. In the weeks that followed the unit was under fire 120 days including the bloody Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864. Milo died 22 July 1864 in the Battle for Atlanta. In this campaign the 66th lost 225 men killed and wounded.
Like his grandson who gave his life for the Union, Jason is also remembered as a patriot. He is listed in "The Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots" Vol. 1, and also "Revolutionary Soldiers Resident or Dying in Onondaga County, N.Y." by Franklin Henry Chase (1913), and both place his grave in the Old Cemetery at Bridgeport at Cicero, Onondaga, NY on the north road near the Methodist Church. The latter work provides a reading of his tombstone:
In memory of
who died May
aged 71 years
& 10 months
Others of the Damon family are buried there as well including Clark (died Mar. 15, 1867, age 66), Susan (wife of Clark, died Feb. 10, 1883, age 86 yr. 5 mo.), Ephraim H. (died Aug. 10, 1887, age 84 yr. 1 mo. 13 da.), Jane, (wife of Ephraim, died May 24, 1833, age 18 yr. 5 mo.). Erepta (wife of Ephra M. Damon, died Feb. 8, 1845, age 27 yr. 6 mo.), Mary, wife of Ephraim (died Mar. 16, 1862, age 56 yr. 2 mo.), and Tryphenia (wife of Norton, died Nov. 16, 1848, age 27 yr.).
In the nearby New Bridgeport Cemetery a half mile from the village on the Bridgeport-Collamer Road are other Damon family members: Norton J. (died Oct. 6, 1881, age 74 yr.), Mary Jane J. (Norton's wife, 1833 – 1901), Elmer (son of N.J. and M.J. Damon, died Dec. 12, 1864, age 1 yr. 1 mo. 27 da.), Melissa (daughter of N.J. and M.J. Damon, died Feb. 22, 1871, age 14 yr., 12 da.), Marion J. (1842 – 1911), Purlie J. (1849 - ???) and Vern (1908).
The Damon name still can be found in the population of Madison County, and there is also Damon Road. It runs from NYS Route 13 through The Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area, some 3,605 acres of wilderness for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and trapping. So Jason's name is still tied to the old wilderness he encountered as he looked for ever greener pastures.
Lucy Owen Damon