In the month of February 1764, a large family set out, probably by oxcart from South Canaan, Connecticut. Their destination was 30 miles to the northwest – this valley. They were to be the third white family to settle in this section, which was to become Canaan in New York State. The head of this family, William Warner was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1717. His great-great-grandfather had come to Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1637. William married Rebecca Lupton of Boston in 1739. They lived in South Canaan, Connecticut.
William and Rebecca had twelve children before they moved to Canaan and one more after they settled here. The nine boys: William, Josiah, Jonathan, John, Thomas, Lupton, Jason, Daniel, and James – averaged six feet in height. The girls: Rebecca, Hannah, Sarah and Abigail were not far behind. Theirs was a hard-working family. William and the boys built a house and tavern, which stood about a hundred feet west of the present Canaan Historical Society Meeting House. Rebecca is described as a “woman of extreme energy, faculty, and executive force”. Of the daughters, it is said that one could knit a pair of long socks in a day and another could make a fine linen shirt and hem a cravat in the same period of time.
The Warner family, like most of the families in this area was strongly in support of the colonial fight for independence. It was on June 24, 1776, that inhabitants of our King’s District held a special meeting at William Warner’s tavern. They chose delegates to the Provincial Congress and then as the minutes of the meeting read, “The question being put, whether the said District chooses to have the United American Colonies independent of Great Britain, voted unanimously in the affirmative.” These were the instructions’ sent to their delegates. The 17th Regiment of Albany County Militia was soon formed. William Whiting of King’s District was chosen its Colonel. William Warner and seven of his sons enlisted. The father probably never saw action, for he died in October 1776. However, the seven sons were with the regiment at the decisive Battle of Saratoga. Nor were the women any less vigorous in championing the cause. While the men were away, Tories burned Col. Whiting’s gristmill and caused other depredations in the vicinity. Several Tories were apparently caught and the story is told that when our men wanted feathers to add to the tar, Rebecca Warner sent out her best pillows and said she had more – if necessary.
After William’s death, Jonathan took, over the tavern. He and his brothers were active in local affairs and many town meetings were held in the tavern. The meetings in 1777 and 1778 dealt with the new State Constitution. The people of King’s District were reluctant to adopt it, primarily because they felt it didn’t deal sternly enough with those loyal to the King. Jason came back from the war to marry his colonel’s daughter. He and Abigail Whiting were married in February 1783. They built and lived in what is known as the “Queechy House” between here and the Lake. Jason and “Nabby” had twelve children, but only six survived to adulthood. Thomas and Henry, the oldest two, graduated from Union College, Schenectady in 1808 and 1809 respectively. Thomas went into the ministry and became Chaplain and Professor of Ethics at West Point.
Henry went into law and established a good practice and reputation in New York City. His daughters, Susan and Anna, were popular novel and hymn writers in their day, drawing on Canaan memories for several of their books. It is interesting to note that Jason was in the habit of taking a shower under the falls of the brook on his place at 3:00 A.M. – winter and summer. This alone says much for the hardiness of our forefathers. Jason’s brother Daniel married Olive, a daughter of Major Asa Douglass, an early settler of the northern part of town. The house they built is still standing. The design on the wafer iron that was given to them as a housewarming gift in 1814 has all the symbols of the Great Seal. We had it modified and it now serves as the logo for The Canaan Historical Society and the Town of Canaan.
Daniel and Olive Warner had nine children – three sons and six daughters. The youngest son William Henry, was the most illustrious. He graduated from West Point in 1836, and was assigned to the newly formed Corps of Topographical Engineers. He was assigned to help map and settle the New England boundary dispute in 1842. In the Mexican War of 1846, he went to Santa Fe and California with Colonel Stephen Kearney’s force as part of a small detachment of topographical engineers. This group did the first accurate mapping and description of the trail and surrounding country. Their report to congress still makes fascinating reading. Brevet Captain William Henry Warner was severely wounded in the small but bloody battle of San Pascual in California. He survived and did extensive mapping in California. In 1849, just after discovering a pass suitable for railroad use in Northern California, Indians killed him. He was but thirty-seven.
The Warner family came to this valley two hundred and thirty-three years ago. The last Warner to reside in Canaan was a grandson of Lupton. Henry Lupton Warner departed this life in 1897. A century has passed but the significant and valuable contributions the Warner families shared in the life of this community and our country are not forgotten. They were a hardy lot and we cannot fail to appreciate the difficulties they went through to leave us such a heritage. We owe a great debt to these founding fathers and sons – and – their wives and daughters.