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Our Combs Family History

Submitted by Gary Combs descendant of Charles Combs of Seneca County, New York

Charles Combs (Abt. 1791- March 27, 1838). The following is from a biography of Charles' son, Charles C. Combs, which was found on a Nebraska GenWeb site for Merrick County.

Charles C. Combs was born in the town of Verick, Seneca county, New York, October 23, 1832, the fourth child of Charles and Sarah (WATERS) Combs, who had four boys and three girls. Our subject's mother was a native of England, and the father a native of Scotland. They were married in New York state in 1815. The father came to America prior to 1812 and was a soldier in the war of 1812, his son, Charles, now having the original discharge papers of his father. Charles Combs, senior, died in Seneca county, New York, in 1838, and about 1842 the Combs family began to separate.

The statement that Charles was a native of Scotland is probably a mistake on behalf of the biographer. Later census records for Charles C. Combs state that his father was born in New Jersey, which this author suspects to be the truth based on his participation in a Combs surname DNA study which shows a link to other Combs' from New Jersey.

I have not been able to find Charles Combs in any New York federal census records. I submit that Thomas Combs, who appears in Romulus, Cayuga County, NY federal census in 1800, is a strong candidate for being Charles' father. In his household in this 1800 census, it is indicated there are 2 males under the age of 10, and 2 males age 26 thru 44. There is also 1 female under the age of 10, and 1 female age 16 thru 25, and 2 slaves! The Thomas Combs of Romulus is interesting, since Romulus/Varick was where Charles & Sarah lived. Charles was born about 1791, so he could be one of the 2 males under 10.

Note: Seneca County was formed from Cayuga County in 1804, and would include Romulus. Also, the town of Varick was formed from the northern portion of Romulus in 1830.

In the book Town of Romulus compiled and published by Wayne E. Morrison, Sr., of Ovid, Seneca County, NY, page 12

Thomas Combs was a New Jerseyman who came on in 1798,, and bought one hundred acres in the central part of the lot.”

The lot referred to is Lot 65 of the Military Tract in what is now Romulus, Seneca County, NY. Charles Combs is buried in Kendaia Cemetery. A USGenWeb site for Seneca County cemetery index gives the date as March 28, 1838 and that he was 47 years old when he died. His birth year would be about 1791. I believe the correct date might be March 27, 1838, as this is the date I found in Seneca County Surrogate Court records for Charles Combs' estate. The Kendaia cemetery is on US Government Land, the Seneca Army Depot, which is not as active an army base as it was years ago. It is in Romulus, Seneca County, NY. It is on the grounds of what was once a Baptist Church, thus the Combs were probably not Quakers. Access to the cemetery is by appointment only. In the Kendaia cemetery, there is a Mary Combs, wife of Thomas, who died at age 54 on July 30, 1838, but that would make her just 7 years older than Charles. She could have been a second wife, the age could be wrong, or it could be a different Thomas, but I doubt it. There are not a lot of Combs listed in Romulus/Varick in the early 1800s as compared with Ovid.

Another grave is Almira, wife of Jacob. She died on May 27, 1851 aged 53. I don't recall seeing a Jacob Combs in area census records. It would seem that the 3 Combs buried in Row 1 of the cemetery would be related. It will be interesting to see if they are all on the same plot. It is possible that Jacob is Charles' brother, the other male under 10 in the 1800 census listing for Thomas.

I found the following marriage record in a book at the Phelps Museum, 10,000 Vital Records of Western New York 1809-1850, by Fred Q. Bowman, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore 1986. Record #5650, page 146.

McKNIGHT, Robert m 12/18/16 Eliza Combs; Rev. Moses Young. All of Romulus. Originally published in Geneva Gazette 25 Dec 1816.

I am betting that this Eliza Combs is related also. She could possibly be the female under the age of 10 and a sister to Charles.

After Charles Combs died in 1838, it fell upon his widow, Sarah, (aka Sally) to administer his estate. Charles died without leaving a will, and it wasn't until 1851 that all matters were settled. The surrogate papers indicate that Charles and Sarah had seven children, but apparently only five were still living as of 1851.

Children of Charles and Sarah (Sally) WATRUS (WATERS) Combs:

According to the Seneca County, NY probate records, they had 7 children, but only 5 apparently are living when the estate was finally settled in 1851.

  1. William Combs, born about 1823, date of death is apparently before 1860. The name of his wife is unknown at present. Moved to Cleveland, OH area, and had at least 1 daughter, Harriet.

    By the 1860 census, Harriet is listed as an orphan with relatives in Phelps, NY. Her birthplace is indicated as Ohio. It would seem that both William and his wife are deceased by 1860.

    Death Record of a Western Union telegraph notice and Family Bible in possession of a living descendant of Harriet Combs, daughter of William Combs.

    Death certificate from California shows her birth date as May 30 1853 and her parents who names are listed as being born in New York. Harriet's death certificate provides father's name as William Combs. Harriet's death certifcate provides mother's name as Anelia Cornwell, born in NY.

    1860 census shows Harriet as an orphan.

    1870 US Census used the nickname “Hattie”. 1870 census shows Harriett Combs who was born in Ohio living with Sarah Combs age 62 born in New York all living in Lockport, New York.

    1880 US Census shows her living in Eureka, Eureka, Nevada, born in 1853 in Ohio, father born in US, and mother born in New York. NA Film Number T9-0758, page 199B

    By the 1930 Census in California, her parents were born in New York.

  2. Elizabeth Combs, born about 1825, date of death unknown. Married Stephen HATHAWAY and lived in Varick, Seneca County, NY.
  3. Harriet Combs, born 15 Oct 1828, died 29 Jan 1916 in Geneva, Ontario County, NY. Married Richard C. RAPPELYEA who was from New Jersey, and died about 1857. Harriet never remarried. They had 2 sons, Cornelius C. RAPPELYEA, born about 1855, died 12 Dec 1929 in Geneva, NY, and Richard C. RAPPELYEA, Jr., born about 1858. Harriet and her sons along with her mother Sarah lived in Lockport, Niagara County, NY as seen in census records from 1870 on. Sarah does not appear in the 1880 census, and I presume she died during the 1870's.
  4. Charles C. Combs, born 23 Oct 1832 in Varick, NY, and died 12 Nov 1913 in Central City, NE.

    Here is a biography from a Nebraska Gazetteer:


    In compiling a biographical history it rarely occurs that we find an individual sketch so rich with incidents as the following. The writing of a story is simple enough, but when one has actually experienced the incidents related therein, it adds very much to the interest.

    Charles C. Combs was born in the town of Verick, Seneca county, New York, October 23, 1832, the fourth child of Charles and Sarah (Waters) Combs, who had four boys and three girls. Our subject's mother was a native of England, and the father a native of Scotland. They were married in New York state in 1815. The father came to America prior to 1812 and was a soldier in the war of 1812, his son, Charles, now having the original discharge papers of his father. Charles Combs, senior, died in Seneca county, New York, in 1838, and about 1842 the Combs family began to separate.

    Charles C. Combs left New York state in March, 1852, going to Adrian, Michigan, where he became an employee of the Michigan Southern railroad. He made his home in Michigan until the spring of 1859, when on April 1 of that year Mr. Combs landed in St. Joseph, Missouri, going to work on a farm seven miles distant, and in the spring of 1860 he went to Denver via the old Overland road assisting as driver of an ox team, a man who was transporting a number of men to Denver. While in Colorado Mr. Combs worked at placer mining, etc., until the month of August, 1860, when he became an employee of the Overland Stage Company in the capacity of stockman at a relay station of the company situated at Fremont Springs, and October 25, 1862, Mr. Combs became a regular driver on the line from Lone Tree station to Woodriver station; Lone Tree being the original name of Central City, Nebraska. In April, 1863, Mr. Combs and Wallace Burroughs, an old ex-stage driver took a squatter's claim and built a log cabin on the banks of, the Platte river alongside of the stage road, the house being eighteen by thirty-six and raised on April 6, 1863, and in the fall of that year a log barn was erected. This place became a wayside inn. Later on when the land was surveyed by the government, Mr. Combs filed on same, which has remained to this day the home farm. It is located seven and one-half miles southwest of Central City, Nebraska.

    On the twenty-sixth day of December, 1864, Mr. Combs was married to Miss Fannie Hilton at Lone Tree ranch, which was the homestead ranch of her mother and brother who kept the Lone Tree stage station. Miss Hilton was a native of Maine, the family coming to Nebraska and settling in Douglas county in 1858. Mr. and Mrs. Combs have had three children born to them: Nellie, who is married to Ed Jones and lives in Central City, Nebraska; Frank, married and lives on the old home farm; and Flora, who is married to George Brooks, has five children and lives in Colfax, Washington.

    In the spring of 1865 Mr. Combs purchased, the interests in the Combs & Burroughs ranch, as he had quit the employ of the Overland Stage Company prior to his marriage. Mr. Combs was the first sheriff elected in Merrick county after its organization, which occurred in 1865. He served in this office during 1866 and 1867.

    This portion of Nebraska in these early years was still the home of many Indians, the Cheyennes, the Sioux, and Pawnees. The Pawnee Indian reservation was located in the region that is now Nance county, with a trading post at Genoa. Many of the Pawnee Indians were in the government service as scouts under command of Major Frank North and others. Mr. Combs remembers many Indian fights, principally among Indians of different tribes. He also recalls the first days of the Pony Express. He passed through the hardships of early pioneer days of crop failures, grasshopper raids, etc. In 1874, at the time of the grasshopper pest, Mr. Combs left his home and went to Nevada where he was employed for fourteen months in the silver mines to earn enough money to tide himself and family over until a crop could be raised on the farm. While Mr. Combs was away Mrs. Combs, with the help of a young man, drew wood, with an ox team from across the river, and also used the team to attend church.

    Mr. Combs has always been an active man of affairs, and himself and wife, after a married life of forty-six years, are now enjoying their home to its fullness. Merrick county has but few of hose who came as early as 1862 and still live on their original ranch. The Combs' married and raised their family here, and in their advancing years are still young in spirit if not years. The family is one of the best known in this porton [sic] of Nebraska, and have the respect and esteem of all who know them.

    Note: On another page of this volume will be found portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Combs.

    pp. 357

    Charles C. and Fan nie HILTON Combs had 3 children, all born in Nebraska, Nelly J. Combs, born 1866, Frank C. Combs, born 1868, and Flora Combs, born 1870.

  5. John Combs, born about 1836 in Varick, NY, and died about 1892 in the area of Central City, NE. John is my direct ancestor. He married Maria Vandyne, and had 1 son, Charles Adelbert Combs on 1 Nov 1857. For years, the story passed down by my Great Aunt Irma to my father's cousin was that one day John just left the family. The last anyone saw of him, he was standing by the train tracks in Phelps, NY. It could be supposed that he and his wife, Maria Vandyne Combs, were divorced, and not much was said about him after that. We don't know for sure. Recently, we discovered that he appears in the 1870 US Census within the household of his brother, Charles C. Combs, in Lone Tree District, Merrick County, Nebraska. Marriage records for Merrick County, NE show that he remarried Mintie Luella Bowerman, and had 4 daughters, Pearl May, born 1884, Edith Irene, born 1886, Gertie Ellen, born 1888, and Cora Lenora, born 1890.