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Hidden Heroes - Elisha & Hannah Gore Durkee

"Under the utmost oppression of sorrow, I inform you that our dear Brother Elisha is no more. He expired without a sigh or groan on the 21st of August last. He died in the full faith of Christ and love to God. He has gone the way of all flesh but God the everlasting God will be our comforter, and we must soon appear before the same God for pardon and acceptance in the merits of our redeemer. He often looked wishfully at me and shed a tear or two over his dear children who were crying by his bed he attempted to speak but in vain at last fixing his eyes toward heaven he repeated these beautiful words "In thy hands I commit my soul" for thou hast redeemed me thru God of my salvation and then closed his eyes never to be opened until the sound of the last trumpet.

Elisha's funeral was attended by a great concourse of people, it was supposed that there were one thousand people that attended his funeral, there were eighty carriages and waggons (sic) numbered. There is a meeting house erected but a little distance from Elisha's. He gave two hundred dollars toward the house and likewise two acres of land for a building spot and buring (sic) ground and he had a great anxiety that the Gospel should be preached there and he is that first one that was laid in the new and solitary grave yard."

These somber words were written in 1819 by Mary Durkee Fuller to her sister, Anna Durkee Tracy, relating the death of their brother and early Cayuga County settler, Elisha Durkee. They were transcribed from a copy on file at the Cayuga County Historian's Office, Auburn, NY. the cemetery referenced in the letter is Oak Ridge Cemetery located on Route 326 on the outskirts of Union Springs. That a "concourse of people" attended Elisha's funeral speaks to the importance of the deceased.

Elisha and Hannah Gore Durkee first arrived in Cayuga County in the fall of 1789, settling several miles north of Aurora. Both the Gore and Durkee families had been deeply involved in the Indian Wars of Wyoming County Pennsylvania. Hannah, the daughter of Judge Obadiah Gore, endured the very worst of the wars witnessing death, destruction and extreme cruelty. An account of these incredible experiences, as told by Hannah herself, can be found at this link:

Elisha and Hannah were the parents of Betsey Durkee, the first white child born in Cayuga County in December of 1789. The Durkees continued to witness horrific acts against the earliest settlers of our area but they endured finally settling near Scipio Center where they raised a family of 12 children with Hannah dying in 1855. Today's challenges seem great to us but to the Durkee's and other early settlers, they would be nothing.


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