Samuel and Nancy LaPorte

There are stories about Bartholomew LaPorte of Azilum that suggest he had a brother named John, who may have left descendents in Pennsylvania. According to J. W. Ingham, “Bartholomew LaPorte had a brother who was a sailor, and who visited him at Asylum, although there were no railroads or stage lines to bring him from New York.” 1  Louise Welles Murray, who was a great-granddaughter of Bartholomew and who had access to family records (now lost), added, “He was visited at Asylum by his brother John, a sailor, who has been sometimes confounded with him.” 2

Is there any other evidence for John? According to a letter written in 1956 to Murray, the founders of our branch of the LaPorte family were John LaPorte and Nancy Norville. 3 The letter was written by Elizabeth LaPorte Hutchinson, the youngest child of Hunter and Elizabeth LaPorte, and a great-granddaughter of John and Nancy. 4 She was about 68 years old when she wrote the letter. We don’t know whether her parents passed on accurate information to her about her great-grandparents, a level where many people have trouble keeping track.

There were other LaPortes in central Pennsylvania besides Bartholomew. 5 In particular there was a group in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, about 80 miles southwest of Azilum. In 1827 and 1828 Nancy “Layport” petitioned the Orphans Court of Lycoming County on behalf of her two sons, John and Charles, and William Turner was appointed their guardian.6 In 1837 a guardian was similarly appointed for “Lewis M. Layporte”.

If Nancy was the mother of John and Charles, who was their father? The only LaPorte in Lycoming County in the 1810 census was Samuel LaPorte, with two children. In 1820 he was still there, with four children (two sons and two daughters).7 The sons were both under ten; one daughter was under ten; the other was ten to sixteen. Samuel must have been born about 1785. He died before 1830, since he was not shown in the census then.

The evidence is suggestive that Samuel was the husband of Nancy and the father of the three boys. What happened to Nancy after Samuel died? It appears that she married Ellis Martin and had a daughter Mercy. Ellis, born in 1769, was one of four Martin brothers who moved from Northumberland County to Jersey Shore. Shown in the 1830 census with a wife and three children, he died about 1837.8 Nancy appears as Mrs. Martin in Jersey Shore in the 1840 with a young daughter. Nancy was probably born around 1783, according to her age in the 1850 census, so she would have been about 46 when Mercy was born, on the high end but not impossible. By 1850 Mercy was married to Christopher Nolty and Nancy Martin, age 67, was living with them. She was listed as insane then and again in the 1860 census, still living with them. The insanity of Nancy Martin is evidence in favor of her being the mother of John LaPorte of Huntingdon County, since there was later court testimony that his mother was insane.9 They were four households away from Isaac Britton and his wife Mary Ann, who was probably another daughter of Nancy’s. Nancy probably died between 1860 and 1870.10

From the available evidence we can suggest a pair of parents and group of children. Nancy is linked to her sons John, Charles and Lewis through the guardianship applications. The death certificate of Lewis listed his father as Samuel, born in France. The obituary of John listed Lewis as his brother, along with two sisters Caroline Nolty and Elizabeth Harliman. Mary Ann’s maiden name was Laporte, as shown on the death certificates of her daughters Eunice and Elizabeth, and Mary Ann named a son Samuel. We know that John, Charles and Lewis were all born in Jersey Shore. The ages and locations are a good fit. These people make a convincing group to be the family of the Samuel Laporte shown in the census of 1810 and 1820. We must assume that the name of her great-grandfather was passed on incorrectly to Elizabeth LaPorte Hutchinson. Was Samuel a nephew of Bartholomew LaPorte? There is no way to tell.

Children of Samuel and Nancy:

There must have also been two children born before 1810. They probably died young.

John, b. November 22, 1811, d. April 10, 1899, m. 1832 Mary Ann Jones, lived in Spruce Creek, Huntingdon County, a wagon-maker and a judge. They named their second son Samuel.

Mary Ann, b. 1814, d. 1901, m. 1840 Isaac Britton, lived in Lycoming County, had children James, Samuel, Eunice, Elizabeth. In 1860 they lived in Porter Township near Jersey Shore. Isaac was listed as a tailor, much poorer than his neighbors. He must have prospered, because in the 1900 census he was listed as a gentleman. Isaac died in 1905; he and Mary Ann are buried at Jersey Shore Cemetery. Note that Mary Ann is not named in John’s 1899 obituary, although she was alive then.

Charles M, b. 1818, d. 1896, m. ab. 1843 a woman named Elizabeth, lived in Lycoming County, left no known surviving children. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841, was a town burgess in 1844, bought 400 acres of land in 1845. His two sons died young around 1850.11 He was a veteran of the Civil War, Co. B, 14th Regiment, in 1862. In the 1870 census as a lumberman,  in the same year he built a steam-powered saw mill on Harris’ Run. It operated for a few years then was moved to Upper Pine Bottom Run where timber was more plentiful. It burned down in October 1875.12 He is buried in Jersey Shore.13

Lewis, b. April 1820, d. 1909, m. about 1847 Penina Ammerman, lived in Clearfield County. They had children Laura, Lewis, Helen, Frances (a dau), Rosey, Augustine, Charles. His death certificate listed his father as Samuel, born in France, and his mother as unknown.14 He was a carriage builder, born in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, died in Curwensville, Clearfield County. He was listed as a brother in John’s 1899 obituary. Lewis appears in the census through 1880.15

Elizabeth, b. ab. 1824, m. ab. 1845, Abraham Harleman, lived in Mill Hall, Clinton County. He was a blacksmith. Had two daughters before Abraham died in 1855. In the 1850 census in Bald Eagle Township, Clinton County, living next to an older Abraham Harleman. In 1860 she was just “Mrs. Harleman” with a daughter Emma, age 10. In 1870 she was still in Bald Eagle Township, living alone, age 46. Gone in 1880. In the 1899 obituary of John LaPorte as living in Mill Hall. But the family may have been mistaken, since there is no known record of her after the 1870 census.

Child of Ellis Martin and Nancy Norville:

Caroline [Mercy?], b. Jan 27, 1829, d. 1908 in Porter Twp, Lycoming County, m. Christopher Nolty, r. Jersey Shore, Lycoming County. She married Nolty before 1850, when they were living in Jersey Shore. He was a boat builder. Nancy Martin, age 67, insane, was living with them. In 1860 they were in Porter Township with five children. Nancy, age 75, was still there. They had several children, including a son Ellis. Mercy died in 1908 in Porter Township, a widow. Her parents were listed as Ellis Martin and Nancy Neville. Mercy is probably the “Caroline Nulty” listed in the 1899 obituary of her half-brother John LaPorte; either she used Caroline as a nickname or the family in Huntingdon County got the name wrong.

  1. J.W. Ingham, A short history of Asylum, Pennsylvania, 1916, p. 35.
  2. Murray, Louise Welles.  The story of some French refugees and their ‘Azilum’, 1917 p. 127. She was descended from Bartholomew through his daughter Elizabeth, who married Charles F. Welles in 1843.
  3. Research by Mimi Dittenhafer, personal communication.
  4. Hutchinson was born in Warriors Mark and later lived in Logan Township, Blair County. Her husband was Arthur O. Hutchinson, and the name on the letter was Mrs. A. O. Hutchinson.
  5. A John LaPorte lived in Wyoming Township, Northumberland County from 1785 through 1810, dying there in 1811. He was a weaver. Letters of administration for his estate were granted to his son-in-law Matthew Rhone. John was probably the John LaPorte who married Naomi Day near Morristown, New Jersey in 1764. Mimi Dittenhafer, who has studied the LaPorte family and who is a descendant of Matthew and Naomi, believes that John was related to the other LaPortes discussed here. But there is no evidence connecting him to the family of Lycoming County, or to the family of Bartholomew.
  6. Orphan’s Court Docket, Lycoming County, Book B. Her name was shown as Nancy Leeport. Turner was not a relative; he was an acting justice of the peace and conducted much business. (History of Lycoming County)
  7. 1810 census, Mifflin Township, Image 2, and 1820 census, Image 3 (part of Mifflin township listed on Ancestry under Dunstable.) In addition to the man and woman between 26 and 45 (presumably Samuel and his wife), there was another man over 45.
  8. Egle, Notes and Queries, which series?, p. 238. (from CD)
  9. Testimony at the murder trial of Jack LaPorte in 1885.
  10. An Ancestry tree gives Nancy’s date of death as March 12, 1861 (but it also gives her marriage to Samuel as 1828, which is impossible.)
  11. Census Mortality Schedule, 1850.
  12. Meginnes, History of Lycoming County, online.
  13. The date of birth is from his veteran’s burial card (on Ancestry). Meginnes, History of Lycoming County, has the record of admittance to the bar. It is interesting that both he and John were both jurists. The land grant is from Lycoming County Land Warrantees, vol. 25.
  14. For the death certificate, he is indexed on Ancestry as Laforte, with birthplace Tervey Shore and death place Carversville, Bucks County. The informant was Gus LaPorte (the son Augustine, born about 1861).
  15. In the 1870 census he was listed as Laport. In 1880 it was Laponte. I browsed through the Curwensville census for 1900  (districts 0069 and 094) but could not find him.

3 thoughts on “Samuel and Nancy LaPorte”

  1. Hello,
    My sister and I have been doing family research.
    We became aware of a book written by Marian Dittenhafer about the La Porte family.
    Through we have discovered that we descend from Matthias and Naomi’s branch of the family as Mariam does.
    Is there away to contact her or buy a copy of her book?
    We greatly appreciate your help and hope to hear from you soon.

    Thank you,
    Marlane and Adelene Santillo

    1. Hello Marlane,
      I’m sorry I can’t help. I was in touch with Marian Diffenhafer years ago, but have not heard from since.
      She sent me a copy of her book, which I studied and then donated to the Huntingdon County Historical Society.
      Perhaps they can help you.

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