Taft Family History
Robert Taft, who was born in England about 1640, emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and married Sarah (last name not known) about 1668. The Tafts were a very prominent and prolific New England Family and to conduct genealogy research on the Taft Family takes much time and patience since many first names in the family are used throughout succeeding generations of Tafts. However, the Taft who settled in our area was Royal Taft, the great-great-grandson of Robert Taft.
Royal Taft was born in Windham County, Connecticut, located in the north central part of the state in approximately 1786. He was a teacher for a period of time. He moved to Westchester County, New York, and married Sarah Valentine. In 1812, he and Sarah moved to New York City and lived there for 7 years while Royal worked as a storekeeper. His wife’s mother, also named Sarah Valentine, owned approximately 440 acres of land in the area of the present Taft Cemetery. In the early 1820s, Royal purchased this land from his mother-in-law and built an addition to the existing house, added a barn and a hotel called “The Taft House”.
Once he and Sarah settled in this area, Royal engaged in merchandising, hauling goods from Newburg, New York. Eventually, he operated a store as well as operating the Taft House. When the mail route was established, he was appointed postmaster in 1826. The Taft House became home of the first Tafton Post Office. Although the Tafton Post Office has been relocated several times, it is among three of the oldest continuously operating post offices in the county. Royal remained postmaster until his death on August 2, 1841 (aged 55) when he became the fourth occupant of the little cemetery located near his home. Royal and Sarah had eight children.
With the death of Royal Taft in 1841, his sons Charles, Theodore and Thomas Taft took over the family property. Thomas was appointed postmaster of the Tafton Post Office following his father’s death, serving from 1841 to 1867. Prior to his father’s death, he became a partner in his business and continued operating his father’s store and other business interests after his father’s death. Charlie and Theodore were sent to Wyoming Seminary in Kingston where better educational opportunities were afforded.
In 1867 Thomas Taft relocated to Hawley to secure better educational facilities for his children. He became a partner with his son-in-law Wesley Pierson in operating a gristmill, located near what is now the Old Mill Stream Restaurant. After the partnership dissolved in 1879, he owned a grocery store in Hawley.
Charlie Taft lived in Hawley working as a merchant and died in 1874. Theodore Taft eventually moved to Jersey City. There were other children in the Royal and Sarah Taft Family. James died in infancy and is probably buried in New York City and Eliza who was born in 1833, died unmarried but we do not know where she is buried. It is possible she is buried in the Taft Cemetery with no grave marker.
Other burials in the cemetery
The Taft Cemetery is ¼ acre of land surrounded by a 3 foot high stone wall within which are buried 8 members of the Royal Taft Family. Buried prior to his death were Royal and Sarah’s daughters: Amanda Taft who died in April 25, 1823 (aged 16 months); Adeline who died January 19, 1832 (aged 11 ½ years); Elizabeth Ann who died 7 days later on January 26, 1832 (aged 8 years).
The fourth of the couple’s daughters, Eliza Adelaide Taft died August 4, 1842 (aged 9 years). Royal’s wife Sarah Valentine Taft lived until October 30, 1853, age 64. The remaining graves are those of Royal and Sarah’s grandchild Charlie Taft (son of Theodore and Sarah M. Taft) and daughter-in-law. Charlie was 19 days old when he died on September 12, 1861. The final member of the Taft family to be buried was Royal’s daughter-in-law, Sarah (Charlie’s mother) who died May 1, 1867 at age 35.
President Taft and Royal Taft
There has been speculation about the relationship of Royal Taft to President William Howard Taft. They are third cousins, twice removed. Their common ancestors are Robert and Sarah Taft. Robert was born in England about 1640. He married Sarah in the Massachusetts Bay Colony about 1668.
Robert and Sarah Taft