Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sarah Kniffen Vredenburgh: Circuit Preacher's Wife (52 Ancestors #5)

Week five opens with yet another mysterious female ancestor. This week I point the spotlight on Sarah Kniffen Vredenburg(h), my fourth great grandmother. The name Kniffen is one of those that can, and has, been recorded in several different ways. Sarah's parents are UNK, making it just that much harder to verify her surname. My grandmother, the Genealogy Queen, had in her notes a question as to whether it was Kniffin or Kniffen. I have recently discovered that it might also be Sniffen or Sniffin. 


Another good challenge designed to drive me, and others searching for Sarah crazy.

Let's see what we know, and leave the door wide open for new discoveries.

 Sarah Kniffen was born in Westchester Co, New York in July 1792, according to her monument marker on Find A Grave. Nothing is known of her childhood.

Sarah married Hackaliah Vredenburg(h), a Methodist minister, sometime before 1812, when the first of their children was born.  Some accounts claim they had eight children, other claim nine. I have been able to prove six and speculate on a seventh.

Sarah Kniffen Vredenburg's America
In 1817 the young family moved to Terra Haute, in the new State of  Indiana, but it was not to be a settled life. Sarah's husband was an itinerant preacher, a circuit rider, with an assigned territory of 300+ miles. Some of the memoirs written on Rev. Vredenburg tell of winters where there was no shelter for the family, no food to eat, "the pittance received from the people being barely sufficient to furnish them with clothing". This must have been a terribly hard life. Oft spoken of as "privations, dangers and toils of the itinerancy" I can nary imagine what this sort of life was like. Yet, Sarah lived it. I would imagine quietly and without complaint. Traveling from town to town, raising her children virtually alone while her husband was gone for days or weeks at a time, "organizing new societies and circuits, carrying the Gospel messages to the scattering settlements, and enduring all the exposures and privations of pioneer life." For further reading this book contains stories of life in early Indiana.

It is unclear as to when the Vredenburg's actually moved to Illinois, but by 1860 Sarah and her husband had settled in Vermillion County to live the retired life. It is said the Rev. Vredenburg enjoyed the time he had spent in Vermillion County while on his circuits. Several of Sarah's adult children are found in Vermillion Co, Illinois as early as 1845.

In 1869 Sarah lost her husband to what can be described as a heart attack.

In August 1870 a widowed Sarah had moved clear across the State of Illinois to reside with her daughter and son-in-law in McDonough, Illinois.

In September 1870 Sarah died. She was 78 years old.

She is buried with her husband in Vermillion County.

Sarah was just one of the uncounted thousands of strong, silent, resilient pioneer women whose stores go untold, but without whom the American frontier would not have been tamed. A Founding Mother who sadly will remain in the shadows of her husband and his accomplishments.

Thank you Sarah Kniffen Vredenburg. For your strength to plow through, despite the harshest of conditions.


  1. I liked your post on Hackaliah Vredenburg and Sarah Kniffin. My page for Hackaliah is here:
    Larry Vredenburgh

    1. Hi Larry! Hackaliah is sure a mystery, isn't he? If you want to collaborate just give me a shout - I'd love to bust that brick wall! ~Anne