Sylvanus Brimhall

Taken from “Legacy”, a Brimhall family history by David Jex Brimhall

By his son, George W. Brimhall

Sylvanus Brimhall
Sylvanus Brimhall

Sylvanus Brimhall was born April 3, 1786 at Petersham, Massachusetts, a son of Sylvanus Brimhall and Tryphena Johnson. He was the first of eight children born to this union.

The family moved to Hardwich, Barnstable, Mass, when Sylvanus was approximately four years old.

He was only 16 years of age when he is reported to have served as a Marine on the “Philadelphia” in the War of 1812. The “Philadelphia” was a ‘frigate’ sent by the United States to block Tripoli and was captured. All on board were taken prisoners in 1803. In February 1804 Stephen Decatur led an expedition into the Harbor of Tripoli and burned the “Philadelphia”. In June 1805 the prisoners were ransomed for $60,000.

Lydia deGuitteau
Lydia deGuitteau

Sylvanus grew to manhood and married Lydia deGuitteau of Uttica, Oneida County, New York. She was the daughter of Francis deGuitteau and Anne Macky. The family name of deGuitteau was not used by the family in America, except by Lydia. Her father was a doctor and Lydia was a naturally tender, loving mother and undoubtedly nursed her children through many mishaps. It is not known whether she practiced nursing professionally.

The times were unsettled and the whole country was on the move. Pirates on the High Seas, Indians still on the war path, the land was still primitive and very little of it surveyed with the British Government still claiming British subjects in America subject to conscription in the British Army and Navy.
It is not known how Sylvanus earned his living while at Watertown and South Trenton, New York. We do know a son Horace Johnson was born April 3, 1809 and two daughters: Nancy on May 5, 1811 and Mary on November 9, 1812 at Watertown, Jefferson, New York.

The family then moved to South Trenton, Oneida County, New York where George Washington was born November 14, 1814, and then back to Watertown where Tryphena was born March 5,1816.

Sometime between 1816 and 1819 the family moved to Steuben County somewhere on the Conhocton River where it is believed Samuel was born on January 5, 1819. George Washington in his personal history on this date, states his father went to lumbering for a living. Sylvanus was away a great deal of time. The country was cold and frosty with little being raised but cabbages and potatoes. There was an abundance of wild fruits.

The family moved to Olean Point where they spent one winter and Norman Guitteau, a son, was born November 4,1820.

In the spring the family moved to Millville on the Oswao Creek which empties into the Allegany River. Sylvanus rented a sawmill and was furnished with logs of very fine quality to cut into lumber which sold for $6. per thousand and shaved shingles, a dollar apiece.

Food was terribly expensive because it all had to be shipped from Pittsburgh in large canoes 500 miles against a swift current with ropes, pike poles and the muscular strength of man through Indian country (the six nations of Algonquins).

Sylvanus was a very large, heavy, raw-boned man weighing over 200 pounds, a rugged man in a rugged country with nerves of steel. He was stern -yet tender and merciful with a courageous heart and an adventurous spirit. Sylvanus always tried to provide and care for his loving wife and children.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Sylvanus had the blacksmith make a four tined spear with barbs, which he fastened onto a handle about twelve feet long. Then fixing a platform across the skiff, which they covered with dirt, and taking his two sons, one to steer and the other to tend the fire (their only light), they went fishing at night. The spear worked fine and the expedition was successful as well as hazardous. They returned with several fish weighing 20 pounds or so.

That winter there were several cougars or panthers killed near their home. They had a milk cow and survived better than usual. Sylvanus, a man of principle always standing for what is right, impressed his young family by admonishing two “mountain men” neighbors for mis-using his borrowed milk pail. The one neighbor sent the family some deer meat following the incident.

Sylvanus, another boy, was born September 24,1822.

That winter was very hard, the mill froze up and little could be done, except packing lumber below the mill ready for rafting in the spring. By spring Sylvanus had about thirty thousand feet of lumber and as many shaved shingles.

The family spent the winter pouring over a new book Sylvanus brought home entitled “Morsels Geography” describing Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and Kentucky. Lydia and Sylvanus had long dreamed of going west.

In March 1824 the ice on the river broke up and Sylvanus rafted his lumber in four tiered sections, placing the bunches of shingles nearly on the outer edge of the raft for bulwarks, then making a garret roof on two sections for a house, he took all their belongings aboard, along with his family, and set the raft in motion down the Allegany River. The raft was nearly 80 feet long and at one end of the raft was placed a powerful steering apparatus and a pilot was hired to help steer the raft over the falls and the rapids. The mother and the girls and the two younger boys walked around the falls. The older boys helped Sylvanus and the pilot with the two additional men needed to lower the raft, on down the Allegany past the old Fort Diem, Quesna and then Pittsburgh, the junction of the Monongahela and Allegany Rivers. The family stopped long enough to sell the shingles to meet expenses and secure supplies. Then on into the beautiful Ohio River. The trip was not without its excitement as they almost lost Tryphena overboard. On past Cincinnati and after travelling well over 1500 miles, the family landed at Lawrenceburg, Dearborne County, Indiana. Sylvanus rented a house and the family moved in. Every board on the raft had to be cleaned and scoured with brooms then piled up to dry. The family then moved out of town about 12 miles where they stayed for almost a year while Sylvanus took the lumber to New Orleans to be sold. Another son, John was born here March 16, 1824.

When Sylvanus returned he bought a quarter section of heavy timbered land in Manchester, Wabash County, Indiana where the family lived for ten years. The family cleared the land, built fences, etc., and built a home, which promised everything necessary for man, producing everything useful for man from the blacksmith, wheelwright, professor and historian. George Washington states, “Also from that home of ‘Enoch Sylvanus’ has sprung the tentmaker, and such as have cattle, the organ maker and musician as well as the artificer in brass and iron and the handling of the distaff and making of cloth of the most beautiful design”.

The family was happy here and grew to adulthood with a firm belief in a Supreme Being, a love of country and a know-how to survive. Here a son Noah was born on February 8, 1826 so named for the river trip on the raft. Their eleventh child Andrew Jackson was born December 28,1827.

The family prospered and Lydia and Sylvanus were able to travel back east to see their relatives in approximately 1834. The girls had married and Horace was working on a canal in Ohio and George W. was out surveying Indian Country. It was at this time young Noah went to stay with his sister and her husband, Thalma Noyes. The whereabouts of the others is unknown.

In 1837 or 1838 Nancy’s husband died and she returned home with Noah and her own young children. It was at this time that the adventurous spirit again beckoned and Syivanus and his son George W. set out on one horse traveling to Fort Wayne, Indiana then to Fort Defiance, Michigan and then taking the old soldiers trail to Chicago, White passing through Pleasant Grove, fcfeHenry County, Illinois, Syivanus bought out some squatters at $1.25 per acre. The family moved to Pleasant Grove where Lydia became ilf and died August 10, 1843. She was buried on the old farm at Pleasant Grove, but when the railroad came through she was moved to Corral or Maringo, Illinois.

The missionaries for the L.D.S. Church had preached one sermon to her prior to her death. Mary, who was now Mary Crocker, lived at Galesburg where Sylvanus died at the age of 70 years, 3 and 20 on July 24,1856.

Three sons, George Washington, Noah, and John joined the L.D.S. Church. It is also believed that Norman also joined the Church based on his coming to Utah with the others and that under the direction of Brigham Young helped make a treaty with the Indians. Samuel became a Preacher, Andrew Jackson a Methodist Preacher, preaching once in Ogden, Utah in 1884. John was part of the Mormon Battalion, but took ill and was sent back with the sick detachment. Norman was the blacksmith at Richfield, Utah,

All of the children were taught to read and write at home by the fire of the kitchen stove and at the knees of loving parents. They attended the higher white living at Manchester.

Joseph Cutter, the husband of Tryphena Brimhall, was a Sergeant of the Color Guard, Minnesota Regiment and was killed in the Civil War.

George Washington Brimhall re-dedicated his father’s grave on or about January 2,1890; the following is a portion of his letter.

“January 2, 1890, about three weeks ago, I landed at Galesburg, Illinois ai my sister Mary Crocker’s and had a very bad ear ache. It cost me $10 to get it well again.”

“I have seen my son, Rufus and my daughter Mary, They all received me with Joy being absent 40 years or so.”

“Today my brother Samuel’s son and wife Mary came to me from Rosetta, Henderson County, Illinois.”

36 thoughts on “Sylvanus Brimhall”

  1. I just ran across your website when I looked up Sylvanus Brimhall. I live outside Chicago and have visited his grave several times while on our way to Nauvoo. He sure led an interesting life. Do you have more information on his son Noah Brimhall? I am related to Noah and his wife Lovina Jones.

    Do you have a copy of that Legacy book? Is it still in print or maybe online?

    1. Hi, Linda – great to hear from a distant relative! 🙂 The Legacy book is more of a three-ring binder of information collected by my great uncle – who is related through this line. I’ve scanned a bunch of it – on this site. I will look through the rest to look for more references to “uncle Noah”. I’ll scan and post what I can.

  2. Good morning. My name is Scott Wakefield and I have recently come across some information linking me to Sylvanus Brimhall through his son John Brimhall. John is buried in the Cemetery in Glendale Utah where my grandmother Irene (Blake) Levanger was born. This information in your web site is wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to share. I am very interested in getting a copy of the Legacy three ring binder if that is possible. I have a brother named Joel Wakefield, and together we are attempting to piece together our geneology. He is more of the computer PAF type personality, and I am more of the family history personality. I am collecting things like this very article with pictures. I hope it is OK that I copy what you have to put into our family history record making sure I footnote your web page as the information provider.
    I live in Bountiful and can be contacted through the following information:
    Scott Wakefield
    8012945256 home
    8015418668 cell

  3. I am descended from Sylvanus Brimall through his son, Noah and wife Lovina Jones. Their graves are in Mesa Arizona. My great-grandmother, Sarah Amanda Brimhall was their daughter. I have some information if you want to contact me.

  4. I was interested in finding the Brown/Brimhall House located on 2nd ‘ave in Mesa, it must have belonged to Noah, but haven’t been able to pinpoint it as yet

    by the way I have digitized the big red Brimhall


  5. i found some of the information on here pretty interesting, im lets see if i can connect it, hhm i think noah would be my great great great uncle.. cause George W brimhall is my great great great grandpa and i was wondering if you had any more info. im trying to trsce the brimhall side of my family.

  6. Noah was the grandson of Sylvanus Brimhall and Tryphena Johnson

    I have a great amount of information on the Brimhall line.

  7. Noah Brimhall and Lovina Jones are my great grandparents. I would be very thrilled to have a copy of the “Legacy” book. Please let me know how to obtain one.

    I am writing a history of Lovina for a project and appreciate all the help I can get.

  8. Lots of information on the Brimhall family on my website, I would be very interested in further information on Lovina, especially her first marriage to William Baily Lake, also why her father Morgan T. Jones disowned her.

  9. George H. Brimhall was my great-grandfather. His daughter Afton Crandall was my Grandmother.

    Steve Pounds,
    Lincoln, Ca.

  10. I would LOVE to read more about this family! Noah was my great great great grandfather. I actually live in Mesa, where he is buried, and I’ve been looking up information about one of his wives, Samantha, who I descended from. I took a trip up to Taylor a few weeks ago to find the graves of Norman Andrew and his wives and children. I’ve really been getting into researching my family and getting to know all of my history, so any information would be wonderful! I also found this great website that has journals and photos and stories about the Bramhall name and whatnot, so it’s worth checking out. It’s a little out dated, but still fun. Any more information would be fantastic.
    Here’s the website:

  11. Re: MAY THURSA MALLORY BRIMHALL b.1873 Canton, NY. d. 1959 Belding, MI marr: Simon Davis Brimhall b.1863 Lakeville, MN d. 1941 Covert, MI res. MN, moved to Covert, MI
    I already HAVE Brimhall/Bramhall info/ancestry back to Cornelius b,1592.
    Only fuzzy fact is wife of George b.1670 in Barnstable, MA: was she
    Anna Baker, or Anna Bacon, as a marr. record viewed by someone claims
    Both families were prominent in that area at that time.

    I am searching FOR INFO RE: ‘PARENTS’ sibs, of MAY MALLORY BRIMHALL.
    have exhausted all online resources, now am faced with driving all over unless anyone can help???,,,,,,,,,will now recheck sources listed above

  12. My grandmother, Grace Brimhall Calderwood, is George Washington Brimhall’s youngest child/daughter. I haven’t had much contact with my Brimhall cousins. Elmo Garff, Tryphina Brimhall Garff,’s son, has been a dear friend to our family. This blog has been very interesting to read and it will help me get caught up with what is going on with the Brimhall line. I know my grandma did extensive genealogy as well my mother Grace Estella Calderwood Marchant. My email is

  13. I am very interested in getting a copy of the Legacy Book and the Big Red Book either digitally or in print. The stories of our ancestors add so much to the names and dates that are compiled. Thank you so much for sharing them. I have shared my “find” on your blog with the rest of my family. The blog address is posted as the source. My connection to the family is through Sylvannus and Lydia.

  14. I too am very interested in getting a copy of the Legacy Book and the Big Red Book, digitally would be great. I’m related through George Washington Brimhall and would love to learn more. Has anyone found the currect spelling for his daughter Aurilla or Ourilla? I have seen many different spellings.

    1. Gary,

      My name is Lydia Nobbs Jones. I am the Grandaughter of Ruth and Virl Tanner. My mother was their daughter Geraldene. My Husband is also a descendant of Morgan T. Jones through his second wife Marry Parry. We
      may have information you could use from that side of the family. I’ve seen your posts in several places and the pictures you and Linda posted on my heritage are a treasure trove for me. I don’t know a lot about this side of my family and would love any info you would be willing to send me. You can

  15. In his journal Noah said he was born in Olean, Allegany County New York not Indiana. Good website however.

  16. Hello! Just found out by DNA testing that I am related to Sylvanus Brimhall and Lydia De Guitteau! Your blog was wonderful! Trying to put together a family tree,if you have any more info I would love to know! Thanks,

  17. Very pleased to stumble onto your Blog. I am a Proud descendant of Sylvanus Jr, George W., Emer Mayer, Allen Jack and Ervin D. Brimhall.

  18. Thanks for your post on Sylvanus Jr. I am a great grandson of Noah and Samantha. In 2014 we were on an LDS Mission in the Palmyra Temple. We were assigned to go each Sunday morning to the Corning , New York Branch which met in the little town of Painted Post,. We would come out of the hills and into the beautiful Cohocton Valley and River and drive south for about 45 minutes. We loved the beauty of that area on the 25 times we made the trip. A year ago reading the journal of George Washington Brimhall I learned that the Brimhall’s lived in that same area 190 years before. Later I read that it was thought they lived in Painted Post. Not a coincidence.
    Keith Clark Brimhall

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