Reflections of a Researcher: Lurissa G. Wilson

On occasion when I hit a wall I need a break while volunteering at the Research Center, and I like to take this opportunity to look at what is on the “Book Sale” shelf.  Things come and go there.  Once I saw a History of Chautauqua County and Its People two-volume set, and I felt the need to purchase that.  Nice, and a bargain at $15.

Currently there is a stack of cancelled cashier’s checks from the First National Bank of Jamestown.  Mostly from the year 1899 and typically made out to one business or another.  A few of them are made out to individuals and thus have their signatures on the back.  I was looking through them hoping to find some locally famous individual but the 1900 City Directory turned up nobody.  Next I searched names on Ancestry, figuring at least I would find somebody noteworthy.  One was made out to a lady who lived in Manhattan, and one was a guy probably from Ashtabula, Ohio – possibly locally famous but not locally famous around here.  And then I looked up Lurissa G. Wilson.

According to the 1905 Census Lurissa was living on Jamestown Street in Sinclairville.  So I sense that I am on the right trail because one of the stamps on the back refers to Schofield, Cipperly & Chessman of Sinclairville, New York.  In 1905, Lurissa was 80 years old, living by herself and doing housework.  This would mean she was born somewhere around 1825.  

The 1850 census has her at age 25 living in the Town of Gerry and married to Wm. W. Wilson with a son named Marvin E.  All were born in New York.  The 1855 Census shows them living in Ellicott, among the few people on that page of the census who own land.  They had been there for two years and all had been born in Chautauqua County.  This would make both William and Lurissa born during the “Pioneer Period” in Chautauqua County.  Of course I am more interested in Lurissa because I have her autograph.

The next step I took was to go to Ancestry.  Lurissa Wilson is mentioned several times but no marriage record could be found.  Find A Grave refers to her as Lurissa Cutting Wilson, born 12-17-1824 and daughter of Calvin Cutting and Mary (or Polly) Walworth. Now Find A Grave is a fine resource but information there can be put in by anybody and so I need a little more evidence.  As Ronald Reagan said, “trust but verify” and that saying applies here.  I was still dabbling in Find a Grave only this time I was looking for Calvin Cutting.  And here is where I found paydirt – someone had attached an excerpt from History of Chautauqua County, New York by Obed Edson, a whole paragraph about Calvin Cutting in the Town of Gerry.  As we have this book in the library I went to it and found the paragraph (top right).

As you can see, Lurissa is mentioned in this paragraph along with her husband.  And so I can make the argument that the back of the cancelled cashier’s check has the autograph of a pioneer of Chautauqua County.  She may not have been rich or famous but she is noteworthy.

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