A Portrait of Moses Chauncey West, circa 1865

As happens in exploring the history of a neighborhood one can be sidetracked by a clue which sends one off in an entirely different direction.  While researching 19th century photographers of the Tri-State NJ NY PA region in the Library of Congress' digital collection, I happened upon an elegant carte de visite portrait, with the penciled notation M. C. West, taken at the Branch's Photograph Gallery, Port Jervis N.Y. from the  William A. Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs. This research would lead in turn to the following brief sketch of the lives of Moses Chauncey West (1833-1914), his wife Emma Martha Myers (1844-1908), and their ancestral West and Myers families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

"M.C. West" Branch's Photography Gallery


By 1830 the first instance of the surname as a head of household, free African American man, William West, appears in the Pike County, Pennsylvania census records. By 1840 Enos J West  and family are living in Dingman Township, Pike County.  The Margaret "Peggie" West family household in 1850 includes Titus West, age 95, born in New Jersey, Chauncey West, age 17, occupation Miller, and the namesake of Enos J. of 1840, Enos, age 6.

Chauncey West, born in PA, US Census 1850, Pike Co PA

By 1850 in Milford Township, two West children, females Cordelia, age 14, and Harriet, age 10, are living in the households of the Widow Cornelia DeWitt and Edwin Eldred, Esq. respectively. Chauncey's future wife, Emma Martha Myers is found, age 9, in the household of  Sarah Scuremon, age 78, a free African American woman living in Frankfort Township Sussex NJ.

Two heads of household Harry and Henry West also appear in the Sussex Co NJ census records of 1840, and in 1850, Prince West, age 37, is residing in Sandyston and Harry, age 61, in Walpack townships NJ.

Prince West, US Census 1850, Sandyston Township NJ.

Harry West, US Census 1850, Walpack Township, NJ

By 1860, both Chauncey and Emma are living in the village of Newton, Sussex Co, NJ, Chauncey working as a miller, Emma as a servant.  In November of that year they would be married.

US Census NJ 1860 ~ Village of Newton, Northrup household, MC West, Mulatto, Miller, $400.

US Census NJ 1860 ~ Village of Newton, Nelden household, Emma Myers, Black, Servant.

To the Clerk of Sussex Co. N.J.
"I hereby certify that Moses Chauncey West of the Township of Newton, and Emma Myers of the Township of Frankford, were by me united in Marriage on the 29th day of November, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty." ~ GW Lloyd, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Frankford N. J.

New Jersey Marriages, Moses Chauncey West & Emma Myers, 29 Nov 1860.

The family settled briefly in Minisink village, Orange Co NY in 1865, moved to Wantage in NJ by 1870, before finally settling in Middletown NY before 1880.

Chancey West family, US Census, 1880, Middletown, Orange Co NY
The Pike County Press would report a visit from Chauncey to his brother Linford, who served in Co A, 41st Regiment during the Civil War.  Linford joined the Delaware Chapter of the G.A.R in 1884.
Pike County Press., January 17, 1896, p 1.

Respected Colored Resident Passes Away at Advanced Age
"Moses Chauncey West died suddenly at the home of his son, Edgar A., of East Rutherford, N. J., on Friday. October 10, 1914, at 3 p. m. in the 81st year of his age, having been born on March 4, 1833, at Milford, Pike County, Pa. He was the son of Enos J. and his wife Margaret Santica [?] West, his mother having attained the age of 95 years at her death, which occurred in the year 1895. The deceased was a respected colored citizen of this city, having been a resident thereof for over 40 years, 29 of which he was employed as a grist miller at the Houston mill. Having obtained a liberal education at the Milford Academy, in which village he grow to manhood, it enabled him to transact business pertaining to his calling. In 1860 the deceased was married to Emma M. Myers, daughter of William Myers, of Branchville, N. J., who departed this life in 1908. He is survived by three children: Edgar A., of East Rutherford, N. J.; Mrs. Harriet A. [Turner] Warner [2nd marriage] and Mrs. Bernetta W.[West] Reynolds, and four grandchildren Bessie L. Westfall, Kenneth C. Hallock, Alma [d.1937] and Chauncey [West] Reynolds [1905-1985], all of this city; also by two sisters, Miss Helen A. West, of Milford, Pa. and Mrs. William Franklin, of Port Jervis. Mr. West was a Republican in politics and had the honor of being nominated by the Prohibition party for the important office of Assessor for the city of Middletown, and at one time was elected delegate to the Republican convention of this city. Funeral services will be held at his late home, 82 Sprague this city, on Sunday, October 11, at 2 p. m. Brother J. J. Harris, of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, will have charge of the services." ~ Middletown Daily Times Press, October 10, 1914, p 8.