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The Montfort Family 1624: A Narrative

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Francis Montfort Jr 1784-1867

The Banta Cabin
bantacabin.jpg
Conewago, PA

Francis was born in York County, NY at the Conewago Colony near present day Gettysburg.  He was born May 3, 1784 and at the age of two migrated with his parents and older siblings to Kentucky.  My belief is the family came down the Ohio River by flatboat rather then the land route down the Wilderness Road and through the Cumberland Gap.  There is no record of the route they took however. 
 
By the time he was 18, he married his young half first cousin, Polly Banta.  The marriage took place in Shelby County, Ky on the second of May, 1802 and the license can be found there in the courthouse in Shelbyville.  Polly was born in Mercer County, KY on the 29th of January, 1783.
 
His mother, Charity Banta Montfort, was a half sister to John Banta,  the father of the young bride.  John Banta was a child of Hendrick Banta 3rds second marriage to Antie Demarest.
 
Francis was a skilled wood worker, especially with any kind of furniture or item made of wood. 
 
By 1805, they would have the first two of their three children.  John would be born in 1803 and daughter Charity in 1805.  In March of 1806, she was pregnant with her third and last child, David, who would be born the 12th of December of that same year. 
 
Religion was a major part of the life of these members of the Low Dutch Colony and they would have certainly participated in the Great Revival period in Kentucky.  During the early part of the 1800's, camp meetings would be held with upwards of 10,000 people taking part in several days of preaching and singing.  During August of 1805, at one such camp meeting, representatives of the United Society of Believers in Christs Second Appearing or more commonly called Shakers, visited a camp meeting that was held most likely in the Danville area. 
 
Most of the people at the camp meeting rejected the Shakers, as they talked about celibacy, rejecting marriage, living in a communal setting.  However  a few members of the Low Dutch expressed a desire to know more.  Thus the foundation of the Shaker Community at Pleasant Hill, in Mercer County, Kentucky began.  Their deep religious beliefs made them interested in what the Shaker representatives had to say, but the idea of living apart from everyone else, in their own place.... the reason they came to Kentucky in the first place was a special interest for them.  The Low Dutch wanted land, of course, but also wanted to keep their children from influences of the English, in particular.  Possibly  their interest harked back to the days in Niew Amsterdam when the Dutch sold what is now New York City to the British and having no desire for their families to be assimilated by the British language, culture, religion, the Dutch began their move inland.
 
The first five families to join the Shakers in August of 1805, carried close ties to the Low Dutch Colony.  Banta, Thomas, Montfort, and Bruner.  Elisha Thomas was a grandson in law of Hendrick Banta 3rd, Charity Montfort was his daughter, Ruth Bruner was born a Banta, a granddaughter of Hendrick.  Elisha Thomas gave his farm to the Shakers to start the community of Pleasant Hill and John Banta also bought and gave land to extend their property.  Samuel and Hendrick [called Vestus by the Shakers] also joined and added property to the soon to be village of Pleasant Hill.  Both were sons of Hendrick Banta 3rd and his second wife, Antie Demarest.
 
Francis was 18 when he married Polly Banta, the daughter of his half Uncle, John Banta and aunt Polly Riker Banta.  The marriage took place in Shelby County, KY on May 2, 1802 and in less than 13 months he would be the father of a son John, born in late March of 1803 and named for his maternal grandtather John Banta.   By Feb of 1805, a daughter would be born and named Charity after the paternal grandmother. 
 
Six months after the birth of Charity, the camp meeting took place that so moved the mother of Francis to join with his youngest sister,  16 year old Sarah or Sallie, as she was known by the family.  Also joining were Polly Banta Montforts parents, John and Polly Riker Banta and several of her younger siblings. 
 
Francis Montfort Sr, husband of Charity, apparently attended at least one of the Shaker meetings and was not impressed.  From later records it seems he was not happy at his wife's newfound religious fervor either.   He left her out of his will dated 1818 and most likely never saw or spoke to her again, once she joined the Shakers. 
 
In March of 1806, Francis and Polly Banta Montfort joined the Shakers, and unaware, as yet,  of a third pregnancy.  The child, a boy, would be born Dec 12, 1806 and considered a Shaker from his birth.  His name was David W. Montfort.
 
With so many of his relatives, mother, in laws, aunts, uncles and cousins, joining the Shakers, there must have been a great deal of pressure placed on the back of this young husband and father.  One journal records, that "he was reluctant to join, but now he is one of us" speaks out for the anguish he went through before he decided to make his commitment.  It appears they Shakers were not very sure of that commitment and Francis was sent to Union Village, Ohio for 8 weeks to "Learn the wheelwright trade."   I believe he was sent to this Shaker village in Ohio, to separate him from wife and children, perhaps attend daily meetings and talks with the Shaker elders till they felt he had fully committed to this new life.  
 
In December of 1807, with his young family and his in laws, the Montforts moved to Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.  Most likely they spent some time in a family members cabin waiting for the first large building to be erected  for the society.  David was a year old toddler, his siblings were almost 5 and almost 3 at the time of the move.  Here the family would be uprooted to live the Shaker life of separation of the sexes. 
 
He and his wife signed the 1814 Shaker Covenant with his wife, mother, brother Jacob and his wife, sister Rachel and her husband John Vories, sister Sally, and various aunts, uncles andn cousins.
 
Polly would live till 1838, serving in various capacities as Deaconess in one or two of the family units.  Her funeral would have been a time of joy to the Shakers, she was going to what she had worked so hard on earth to achieve, eternal life.   A simple service, upbeat with singing and praise, then a burial in the Shaker cemetery at Pleasant HIll.  Few stones remain, and only a persons initials would be carved into it, so it is not known the exact location of her grave, but her name and dates are recorded in one journal and in a few journal entries for the West Family. 
 
Francis, the reluctant one, would live out his life in Pleasant Hill, working as a gardener, mechanic [perhaps the result of his "8 weeks learning the wheelwright trade"], a deacon, carpenter, as well as serving as a guide to a group of young Shaker boys, to teach them the ways of the Shakers.  He also went on trips outside of Pleasant Hill, often alone and at times accompanied by Stephen Bosseau or others.  They could be gone from 2 to 14 days or more at a time.  Their job was to sell the Shaker brooms, willow baskets, or gardenseeds and often followed both the northern route and then the southern routes.  They went to the south as far as London, KY and to the north as far as Maysville, KY on what appears to be their regular route.  Often gone for several days at a time, their comings and goings recorded in several of the Shaker journals.
 
He was known then and even today, as a proficient carpenter.  One journal kept by order of the deacon of the East House and possibly kept by Francis, himself, lists all items made by him and others over a 19 year period.  Francis is prominently mentioned by name in this journal, over others also named.  In each year of the 19 year period, and by month, items made are listed on the date made and by whom.  At the end of each year is a summary of items not already named.  A tally of items listed as made by FM or Francis M or Francis Montfort or F. Montfort, amounts to over 100,000 made in that span of time.  He made broom handles, awls, tools for the shoemaker, boxes for the nurses, beehives, repairs to beehives, a variety of chairs, tables,  pie safe, bonnet boxes, apple paring machine,  fan handles, glass boxes,  seed boxes, matches, a frame for a stove, clothespins, table legs, cupboards, wheelbarrows, bedframes, rolling pins,feather brushes, trunks, sinks, shovels, tongs, tin lamps,  spools, carriage for the ice roller, gates, shelves, candle holders, items for spinning wheels,etc.
 
One journal entry stated that Francis returned from a trip "sick as usual,"  Of what is not stated, but one can speculate, asthma?  Allergies?  Since he lived to be near 83 and this entry was made when he was 63 in 1847, it is hard to judge what made him sick as usual.  He often went alone on trips but other times was accompanied by Stephen Bosseau, MInerson Gregory, George Stedman, Richard Shields or Stephen Manire, over a 19 year period. 
 
All three of the children of Francis and Polly Banta Montfort would leave the Shakers in 1827-28, marry and have children.  It is not clear if they ever visited with their father after they left Pleasant Hill.  It is known their Uncle John Calvin Montfort visited his brother Francis Montfort Jr on at least one occasion.
 
John Montfort left first, in March of 1827, followed in June of the same year by David.  Charity left in March of 1828 and perhaps David is the one to return for his sister.  It is likely she lived with him after she left the Shakers and through him, met her husband, Isaac B. Fallis, who she would marry later in that same year.   John would marry not long after leaving the Shakers and there are many descendants through him.
 
Charity would die after giving birth to one son, David Monfort Fallis in 1833.  He would move with his father to Missouri then onto Colorado where he died. 
 
David would leave and go back to Shelby County, Kentucky and in Sept of 1832, marry Mary/Polly Cook, daughter of Seth and Frances Wilcoxson Cook.  Her gt grandmother was Sarah Boone Wilcoxson [John], eldest sister of Squire and Daniel Boone.  The same Squire Boone who sold land to the Low Dutch Colony after their arrival in Kentucky.
 
There are many descendants of David scattered in Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, Oklahoma, California, Colorado and Texas.
 
Francis would live till January 15, 1867 and be buried the following day in the Shaker cemetery at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Again, few markers remain, but if one is located with the initials FM, it is him, as he is the only one of the Shakers listed in various sources, with those same initials. 
 

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