Mathew Courter (1772 - 1814)

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Birthplace: Red Banks, New Jersey, United States
Death: Died in Spencer, Indiana, United States
Managed by: Sherry Kennedy
Last Updated:

About Mathew Courter

Courter Family

Added by warrendora2 on 10 Aug 2008

THE COURTER FAMILY

Louis W. Jackman (Genealogist)

of Southern Illinois and Indiana and Elsewhere

   These people are of French descent through many generations but are not of the original Gallic blood.  When Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, he found that the Germanic races to the Northeast of Gaul, were inclined to make his new subjects much trouble and, to better protect his conquests, he moved, into the provinces on the Northeast, a strange people from some other part of his domain and settled them as a barrier between his new subjects and their enemies.  These new people were warlike and dependable and proved a profitable barrier on an exposed frontier.  They were a strange people, had strange customs and spoke a strange language that none of the people thereabout understood and so, by common consent, they were called "Walloons", which only means strangers.
   They refused to intermarry with either the French, Dutch or Germans and so retained their strangeness and their old language and customs.  Later many French words and phrases were accepted by them and so they spoke a French patois with their original language enriched with many Roman words and phrases of the period of the first Caesar.  They were given a rich agricultural province where their nearest neighbors, the Flemings, were making a good living at agriculture and stock raising.  This did not tempt the strangers to follow their lead as they preferred to stick to their old callings as artisans, tradesmen and the learned professions, architecture, sculpture, painting and music.  Many of the most noted men of France in these callings have borne Walloon names, some in their simplicity, others changed by the French so as to be hard to recognize.  Charles the Great (Charlemagne) himself was said to be a full blooded Walloon.
   When these people were settled in this location, they brought their own religion, a rather primitive form of the Christian religion, which they kept in its purity without any of the influences of the Roman Catholic religion, until the beginning of the French Reformation when the reformers found in this people a fertile soil for their doctrines.  So they embraced the new religion with their usual avicity.  They not only brought their own religion but their trades and manufacturing.  At that period they were leading the world in the manufacture of felt and beaver hats, fine glassware, high grade woolen, silk and linen cloth, the making of fine laces and the finest of gloves.  To this we must add that they brought their knowledge of letters and writing and the cultivation of these gave them the privilege of reading and studying their own Bibles, a privilege that was frequently beyond the King and the most noble of this retainers.
   The French reformation began about 1534 with the preaching of John Calvin and his helpers and, so rapidly did the new doctrine spread that it soon became the religion of the King and his court.  Soon after, the fear of his Catholic courtiers urged on by the Catholic Church, caused the King to lose faith in them and he dismissed them and surrounded himself with Walloon Christians in their stead.  Many of these people had names hard for the French to speak and considered by them as uncouth so, many of these people were called courtiers only and soon accepted this as their names.  The present Courter family in its genesis was one of these.  later the French King under the influence of his wife and her church embraced the Roman religion and the persecution of the Protestants began.
   The Courter family with many others took refuge in Holland and their fidelity, good citizenship soon won them the respect and love of those with whom they came in contact.  They took up and spoke the Dutch language and became to all intents and purposes Dutchmen.  When they became refugees, some of them retained their new names of Courter while others changed it to Courteen, Courtin, Courtney and probably several other variations while the Dutch spelled it Korter.  Jacob Courter's name will be found so spelled in the roster of troops serving under William Henry Harrison in his campaign against Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet.
   The Family had lived so many years in Holland that they began to count themselves as Dutchmen.  When the Dutch West India C. called for volunteers to help hold their colonies in New York, New jersey and Delaware, among the others who offered their services was the Courter family known as William the emigrant.  He moved his family down to the colony at Redbanks, New Jersey, where he found a prosperous colony of Holland Dutchmen.  Here the family grew up and the father made them a good living as a cabinet workman.  He and his wife, Catherine Van Dusen, had a large family, most of them girls.  William Jr., the oldest, followed by Catherine, so named for her mother, and among the younger was John who was not grown when the Revolutionary war broke out and, having lost his trigger finger in his childhood, he took employment as hostler for a British Hessian officer which put him in bad grace with his family but British gold looked much better to him than did the Continental currency.
   In due time William Jr. married Catherine Van Rome and their children will appear in the proper place in the genealogy.  When George Washington forced Sir Henry Clinton to evacuate Boston with his British troops and he left by sea starting down the coast, it was decided that his destination was either New York City or Philadelphia.  William rushed off to New York and enlisted in the malitia of that city to help defend it against the British.  His name will be found in the roster of those troops where it is set forth that he was a resident of Redbanks, N. J.  Later when the British decided to march across New Jersey and attach Philadelphia, he again enlisted, this time from Bergen, N. J. and no doubt helped General Washington to convince the British that their experience at the battle of Monmouth was only a foretaste of what they might expect if they persisted in their attempt to march across New Jersey.  They took the hint and decided to make their attack by way of the sea and the Delaware Bay.  So far as we have been able to discover this closed the military career of William Courter, Jr.
   After the close of the war, William Courter, Jr., who had been raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, heard the doctrine preached by those who were organizing the New Light Christian Church at that time and joined that congregation at Redbanks.  A little later he was ordained by the congregation as a minister by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands of the Elders and was commended to the work of organization in the west.  Soon after his ordination he started with all of his family, except the oldest daughter who had married and settled down at the old home, to his new field of endeavor.  Philadelphia was at that time the principal city for outfitting those who were starting for the territory west of the mountains and on that account many caravans were formed here for the great undertaking.
   The families of William Courter and William Tyndal were two of the families who were making the trip at this time and what hardships they had to endure to sickness, hunger, deprivation and death would make a sad chapter in the histories of our pioneer families.  My grandmother, Sindrilla Courter Jackman, was a woman of understanding and had a wonderful mind and memory.  She seemed to have cultivated a great love for history and family traditions and where she could get a sympathetic listener she loved to retell the stories of her people of the pioneer days.  One of these was the sickness and deaths along the trail as they worked their way Westward through forest and mountains.  It might be well to call your attention to the fact that there were no highways at this time crossing the mountains and that the only resemblance of a road was the one cut by Braddocks army on their memorable expedition against the French and Indians at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, now Pittsburg.  It had been cut out so long before that at places all traces of the road had been lost and overgrown by shrubbery.  This compelled them to have a committee of road builders, a number of scouts to watch for sign of Indians, and a detail of hunters to supply game for their subsistence.  All of these tended to make the progress slow but safe.
   Several of the older people had succumbed to disease and the rigors of the trail and were buried by the side of it.  When, however, the child of William Tindal sickened and gradually grew worse the sympathies of all were with the parents and friends.  Soon the moans of the child as the wagon jolted over sticks and stones touched the hearts of the hearers and Matthew Courter offered his mare to Mary Tindal on which to carry the child and he lead her carefully so that she might not stumble and jar and hurt the child.  He and Mary continued to work together until it was seen that the child could not live and then the caravan stopped and all administered to its comforts until it passed away.  I wish that it were possible for me to give you the touching scene of this burial on the Western trail.  As she described it the story became a classic, second only to the death of Little Nell so beautifully portrayed by Charles Dickens in the story of the "Old Curiosity Shop."    
   The labors that Mary and Matthew had together drew their hearts into a love and sympathy that only ended in death.  William Courter joined them in wedlock before they reached their destination.  It would probably be well for us to pause here and make the reader acquainted with William Tyndal as he was a Revolutionary War Soldier and furnishes one of the lines upon which our families have a right to become D.A.R. and S.A.R.
   At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, William Tyndal was living in the vicinity of Philadelphia.  Though he was raised a Quaker, when the call was made for volunteers to protect Philadelphia he offered his services.  The Pennsylvania Archives records the fact that he served from Dec 3rd, 1776 to Jan. 30th, 1777, in Thomas Fitsimmons Co., 3rd battalion of Philadelphia malitia commanded by Colonel J. Nixon.  For these services he received a grant of land in Western Pennsylvania by a vote of the General Assembly of that state during the 1777 session.  Pennsylvania archives records the fact that William Tyndal received a grant of 180 acres of land in Westmoreland Co. Pa. which at that time comprised all of the Southwestern part of that state.  By tracing the County Organizations, it will be found that this same land is now located in Beaver Co. Pa. near the village of Georgetown.
   He must have remained in Eastern Pennsylvania until after the close of the war for we find where he entered another service beginning Aug. 21st, 1785 in Plunstead Tp. Buck Co., malitia under Captain William    
    McCalla.  He must not have moved out to the lands that had been surveyed for him before Nov 8th, 1784, as they were assessed to him at that time but he was not assessed for personal property until 1791.  At that time he was living in Elizabeth Tp. Allegheny Co., Pa., and volume #1 of the Archives shows that to have been the proper description of the lands surveyed for him and that Beaver Co., Pa., was cut off from Allegheny Co. several years later.
   He married Catherine Henkins in Eastern Pennsylvania but we have not been able to find the exact date as the state depended upon the courts and preachers who did the marrying to keep the proper records but in many cases these have become lost or mislaid and cannot be found at the present time.  They were English Quakers but we have no doubt but that they became ardent "New Lights" under the ministry of William Courter.  The first assessment against the lands of William Tyndal was on Dec 1st, 1784.
   Going back to the Courter Family we are lead to believe that they spent several years in the vicinity of Georgetown and we have no doubt that the missionary planted several churches in this vicinity.  Grandmother never mentioned as to just why they moved from that vicinity when they did except that he had a large family and that they were practically landless.  The next date that we have with a location is the birth of Sarah, daughter of Matthew and Mary Courter, was Sept. 24th 1806, and from grandmother we know that at that time they were on the Bigbone Lick Creek in Kentucky.  This creek carried the waters from the number of salt springs that were well known as the Bigbone Lick and the Indians and settlers had been making salt here for many years.  The place was so called because of the numbers of large bones found around the lick.  It seemed that wild animals had been coming there to lick salt through the centuries and had fought and preyed upon each other and had left their bones as a silent testimony of their great numbers and large size.  It was said that there were many sections of the spinal column so large that the children used them as stools around the campfires, and the rib and leg bones were too heavy for a small child to lift or carry.
   When the family found it expedient to change their location, they bought or built an ark, a flat bottomed boat arranged to be used as a residence.  Of his family only Nelly remained behind.  She had married and as her husband had land, there was no occasion for them to move.  All the others went with the father.  How long they were on their journey and at what places they stopped to preach, we have no knowledge but this Grandmother did know, they were on the Ohio river above the mouth of the Bigbone Lick creek when the Autumnal Equinox stuck them.  They were not expecting such a storm and so found themselves buffeted by high winds and all the men had to get out and fight in the pouring rain to keep their boat off the shores and were finally compelled to take refuge in the mouth of the Bigbone Lick where the heavy timber gave them some protection from the storm but here they were driven upon a mud bank where they stuck and found safety.  Every effort to get the boat afloat was unavailable so it was decided to remain until the creek or river raised sufficiently to float the boat.  While here the younger folks visited the salt works at the springs but the father was too much exhausted by the labors against the storm.  He had directed those labors.  He gradually grew worse.  A doctor was called from the salt works but he arrived too late to do any good.  The body, weakened by the toils of the wilderness trail and age, gradually surrendered to the inevitable.  He was buried on the banks of the creek-another pilgrim who had fallen while carrying the gospel message to those on the frontier of their country.
   When a sufficient raise occurred to float the ark, the family gladly pushed off from the bar that had been a refuge during the storm but had also witnessed the passing of the leader whom all were ready to follow.  They floated down the river to Louisville, Kentucky, where, on account of the lateness of the season and rumors of Indian trouble, the family decided to pass the winter.  Here they met Samuel Hammond and his brother who had stopped there hunting a home in the west.  The Hammond brothers were raised on a poor farm that is now near the center of the city of Baltimore.  They found it hard to make a living on the land and could not sell it for any amount that they considered that it was worth and so abandoned it with the intention of returning and selling it as soon as they were established in their new home.  They felt that the place would pay them for the trip.  They never found time to make that journey and so this cloud is said to still exist on property that is now worth several million dollars.
   We do not know just how long they remained in Louisville but grandmother told me that the Hammond brothers made their expenses while there cutting cord wood, making rails and getting out and hewing house logs to be used in building homes in that frontier post.  The Courter boys were not so handy with the ax and so they made their way hunting, trapping and buying and selling furs and hides.  While doing so kept a lookout for some place that they felt would make them a good home as soon as the Indians became quiet enough that they would feel safe away from town and the malitia.
   When the time came that the Courter and Hammond families felt that it would be advisable to make the move they prepared their boats to take the water again and during the spring freshet, they ran their boat over the falls and continued their search for a new home.  Their first stop was near the present city of Cannellton, Ind. but later they dropped down to Grandview and eventually took up their lands in what is now Hammond township, Spencer Co., Indiana.  Many of the Hammond families still remain in this vicinity.
   Here Matthew and his family bid adieu to the Ark that had made them a home for so long a time and were glad to again find their home on dry land.  Not so with the other brothers.  John, Joseph, Abraham and William Henry took the ark and continued their journey down to the mouth of the Ohio and settled down there for some time.  They remained there for several years and probably married there as my grandmother never knew when nor to whom they were married.  The brothers finally tired of their new location and decided to go back up the river and find their relatives but when they arrived they found that Matthew had died and that all of the remainder of the family had moved out somewhere in the Illinois country and so decided to settle down where they were.  John and Wm. Henry settled down in Southern Indian and their families are to be found principally in Daviess and Green Counties, Indiana.  Joseph and Abraham returned to the Bigbone Lick where Abraham married and settled down but Joseph returned to Redbank, New jersey.  Abraham later moved to Switzerland Co., Indiana and his family are to be found in this and adjoining counties in Indiana and Kentucky.
   Soon after Matthew opened up his new home in Indiana or while they were still living at Louisville, Kentucky, his daughter Elizabeth met and married John Nelson and Catherine met and married George O. Litherland.  We searched the marriage records of Spencer and the adjoining counties in Indiana and were unable to find any record of their marriage so our natural conclusion is that they were married at Louisville before leaving that place or that they returned there or went to Evansville or Vincennes, Indiana for the occasion.  Both of these families went with the others when they moved to Wabash Co., Illinois.  The Nelson never had nay children that we have been able to discover, but the Litherlands evened up the score by having fourteen.  We found Mrs. Nelson's tombstone at Friendville, Illinois, but not his and from the date of her death he may have married again and moved to some other place.
   In 1811, Jacob, the oldest son of Matthew, married Rachel, the daughter of Samuel Hammond, and the sons and grandsons that have received the name of "Samuel Hammond" as a given name testify to the high regard in which he was held by the family.  Soon after their marriage, Jacob and his father-in-law fought side by side in the battle of Tippecanoe and that neither of them was wounded.  When I examine the roster of the troops in that battle I found the name spelled Korter instead of Courter.
   Matthew died a few years later, his youngest child being born in 1813 and died in its infancy.  After his death, Jacob moved in with his mother and became the head of the family.  With this large family on his hands together with the in-laws, convinced him that it would be the best for all concerned to sell the old homestead and go to where they homestead some good farms.  After a family consultation in the summer of 1815, it was decided that as soon as the crops were laid by, that the older ones would start out to find a new home for all of them.  This was done, leaving William at home to look after the needs of the families.
   As soon as the crops got to a place where they did not need the attention of the older men, they saddled up their horses, took their axes well-sharpened and their rifles with plenty of ammunition and took the trail used by the Indians to the Northwest.
   When they left it was agreed that they should choose a farm for William and that they would select lands part prairie and part timber so that they would have open land for farming without the necessity of clearing it and yet with a sufficient amount of good timber to fence the place and furnish timber for the buildings.  George Litherland found a tract that suited him about a mile east of what is now Friendville, Illinois, a little crossroads place, while Nelson found his home further to the Southeast and nearer the settlement of John Wood and his sons.  They chose a tract for William about a mile and a half east of Friendville and Jacob found a tract to his liking over nearer the Shawnee trace leading from their towns in Northern Indiana to the Ohio river at the Shawnee Village now Shawnestown, Illinois.  Some time later an Englishman came in and built a trading post near Jacob's tract and named it Lancaster.
   As soon as the proper filings were made, the three men with the aid of the Wood, Barneys and Higgins, donated by them gladly in order to get some more good neighbors who would help make the country safer from the Indians, rendered the newcomers wi1l the aid they could and before the close of the year they had four log cabins built, two large ones for Jacob and George Litherland and two smaller ones for Nelson and William.  As soon as they were made habitable, the men returned to their homes, sold the old homestead and all of their personal property that they could not take with them and in February they started on the long trek to their new homes.
   In their travel, they followed the old Indian trace (road) from the vicinity of Rockport to where it entered the big trace leading from Vincennes to the falls of the Ohio, at or near the mud hole (Buffalo Wallow) and followed the big trace from there in to Vincennes.  They started thus early so as to get out on their places before the breaking up of winter and the consequent high water and flooding of the lowlands, along the Wabash and White Rivers and the deep mud that they knew they must encounter.  The taw began before they reached the White River but by hard driving they made the ford of the White River below the Whiteoak Springs before the ice broke up and made it in safety to the North side of the stream.  From there on to the old Post they made by short journeys.  First so as to rest their teams and also through necessity.  Many places the wagons would sink down nearly to the hubs and there were but few times where they could make more than five miles per day and this was usually by doubling teams and much whipping.
   Grandmother related this incident to illustrate how much trouble and patience it took to make any progress. She said that the roads were so bad that all of them -- men, women, and children, had to walk.  On the last day out from Vincennes they were all tired and the children were worn out wading through mud.  They began to cry to get in the wagons and ride.  They were scolded and threatened but all to no avail.  The crying continued and they were discussing going into camp for the day and make the post the next day when William spoke and said, "Just go ahead.  I"ll fix the children up", and took out his pocket knife and began to hunt for nice sticks.  The children were all interested and quit crying to see what was going to happen and when they asked he replied that he was going to get them all a horse and riding whip.
   As soon as he said that each one began to hunt for a horse to suit and then a riding whip.  When he had all of them mounted and provided with whips away they went forgetting all about being tired.  They drove into town that evening.  The children on their stick horses and each one trying to make their horse out the most laughable capers.  The children were so amused that they forgot all abut being tired and their antics seemed to amuse those who were watching them very much and this made the whole affair much more pleasing to the children.
   They remained at Vincennes a week resting up the horses (Grandmother said "Not the stick ones") and cattle and supplying themselves with the things they most needed when they started out on the last lap of their journey.  They went down the river on the Indiana side and crossed the Wabash at Valley's ferry located between those streams as a road to their new homes.  They arrived in due season without any mishaps or troubles more serious than mire downs and cutting roads wider so that the wagons could get through for the Indian traces were sometimes rather narrow.
   Each family drove to his own home and the woman were very busy for a time arranging their scant furniture in their small houses so as to make the best show and be the most convenient.  Nancy and Sarah kept house for William.  The mother and my grandmother found a home with "Brother Jacob" as my grandmother always spoke of him and the other children found homes among the other members of the family where they could be the most useful and within a weeks time the spinning wheels and the looms were to be heard in the homes as the housewives of that day kept those useful appliances handy so that at any time they found a few minutes time they could put it in at the spinning wheel, looms or with the hand cards preparing the wool for spinning.
   As soon as the men found their tired animals sufficiently rested they doubled their teams and hitched to the big sod plow that they had bought at Vincennes and began turning the prairies soil while those who did not hold plow or drive teams employed themselves cutting off the briars and shrubbery so as to straighten up the fields.  With the help donated by the neighbors they had plenty of land broken up to furnish each one with what they needed most to plant -- corn, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, cotton, flax and some other crops while the women and children had been busy planting their gardens so as to have some vegetables to go along with their meat and cornbread.
   As soon as William had laid by his crops he began to agitate the proposition of organizing a church in order to show other people who were looking for a home that they were a God-fearing and God-loving people.  The place of holding it was under a large White oak tree standing on the west bank of Crawfish Creek just above where the old Timberville and Mt. Carmel road crossed the creek.  This was selected so that the people from Timberville, Barneys Prairie, The Wood settlement Palmyra and others in their vicinity would find it convenient to attend.  The stump that was used as a pulpit had long since rotted away but the stump of the tree under which they met still remained a few years ago.
   After the preaching a basket dinner was held on the grounds and after all had attended to their appetites they were called together again and a church congregation was organized by electing Elders, Deacons, and a clerk to keep the records.  We have a copy of those records covering the time from the organization to Jan 21st, 1860 and from Aug. 9th - 18.6-7.  There is some confusion as to the year as no record book was furnished at the time but the clerk kept the records on such pieces of paper as he could find and some of them became lost.  Some of them were found loose in the book and these and those made on the fly leaves have been added in their proper places by me, usually with pen and ink.
   The book was very interesting to me as every Courter, Jackman, Ramsey, Wood and Buchanan, whose names are found written therein are close relatives of mine as well as many of the other names.  A few years ago we had the privilege of attending a basket dinner at the Barney's Prairie Church that they hold annually in celebrating the organization of the First Christian Church west of the Wabash River.  William Courter preached for this people and served as their Elder for a number of years and when the church went in a body into the Christian (Cambellite) church on the preaching of Rev. Morris Trimble he cast his lot with the church and continued a faithful member until he was called to a better and higher service on Jan. 19, 1839.  The other members of the family all became members of this congregation with the exception of Jacob and Sindrilla who remained faithful to the New Light Church until their deaths.  Rebecca after her marriage to Edward Jackman went into the Methodist Church with him there being no Christian church near their home.  (Nancy and Sarah) were dismissed from the congregation in the following language found recorded on page 30 of the record book:  "And also the following persons are no more of us having joined the Mormons towit: John Oman, Nancy Oman, Sarah Courter.  There were many Omen's in the Church at the time and this shows that John and Nancy were married and members of the Church at the time and that Sarah was single at the time that they went to Utah).
   This same congregation ordained John Standish who married Hester Courter as a missionary to the State of Michigan.  Also my grandfather Elder William Courter, Jr. who became noted as an evangelist and missionary in the organization of churches in Wabash, White, Edwards, Richland, Lawrence Crawford Cos. in Illinois, and Knox and Gibson Cos. in Indiana.  He was a man of great energy and a wonderful memory.  He could repeat the New Testament from Matthew to Revelations with the exceptions of the genealogies in Matthew and Luke's gospels and if any passage was quoted in this limit he would tell to what book, chapter and verse it belonged.  There are a number of the Courter family in the ministry in Illinois and Indiana but all of them do not answer to that name come in from female branches.
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Mathew Courter's Timeline

1772
1772
Red Banks, New Jersey, United States
1791
October 19, 1791
Age 19
Georgetown, Beaver, Pennsylvania, United States
1792
February 24, 1792
Age 20
1793
1793
Age 21
1794
March 12, 1794
Age 22
1796
1796
Age 24
1798
1798
Age 26
1800
1800
Age 28
1802
September 28, 1802
Age 30
1804
September 28, 1804
Age 32