Genealogy Wise

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Hello All,

I wanted to share an interesting story about one of my ancestors (5th great-grandpa), David Williams. I was always told we were related to him, but not until I began my own research was I able to find verification of this.

To begin, David Williams along with a few other men (Isaac Van Wart and John Paulding) were of those who captured John Andre on Sept. 23, 1780. For this act, each of the men were given a $200 pension for life, land, and each was presented (by George Washington himself) with a silver medal, hand stamped with their initials, and with the motto "Fidelity". The medal is sometimes either called the "Fidelity" medal or the Major Andre medal.

My reason for posting today are the events surrounding these medals. I am learning day by day that these three men are forgotten heroes who have been robbed.

I say "robbed" because when I went to locate where each of the medals were based upon historical records, I learned that David Williams grandson, William C. Williams (my 2nd great-grandpa) had the medal in his possession, but decided to give it to the New York Historical Society who also had the medal of John Paulding. The Issac Van Wart medal has never been found.

However, when I went to call the NYHS, I learned that they did at one time have the two medals (Williams, Paulding) but in 1975 or 1976 the medals were stolen.

These medals are RARE to say the least. They are priceless because of their rarity (hand stamped, presented by GW, etc.) So where are they? They are out there somewhere!

According to a letter from the NYHS, the case was locked and there were people who saw it in the case at a certain time. This (to me) implies it was someone who worked there that stole them. They also stole the name tags identifying what the articles were.

I hope to spark some interest in this. I have written numerous places because it amazes me that there are thousands upon thousands of books written about the capture of Andre and these medals, but NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH about them being stolen. Even the New York Times has written numerous articles about the capture, medals and events surrounding almost 100 years after it happened. So where is the article about the theft of the medals? I have written the NYT and so far, each department does not respond. It was the NYT articles from the late 1800's and 1900's that attempt to instill how "important" these events were, yet the men and heirs have been robbed of history.

Here are some historical articles shedding light:

The New York Times - "Gift To Historical Society" - July 5, 1909 -

Wikipedia Entry for the Fidelity Medallion -

New York Times - "Tarrytown's Great Day" -

The last link shows just how "important" these events were. Especially considering they were still being celebrated so many years later.

"Three Forgotten Heroes" -

"Centennial Celebrations of the State of New York" - Starting at Page 195 - David Williams -

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Replies to This Discussion

I did not know of the loss of the medals. I am connected to John Paulding but not as a direct. The story of the boots is another good story to share with the family. The three men had worn out boots and were going to steel Andre's boots
as the cold weather was coming soon. The papers for Arnold were in the boots.
I will go read your links. Thanks for giving us more about the tree men who have 3 counties in Ohio named for them.
Very interesting story. I suggest you send your story to the NY State SAR. I googled NY State SAR and then I tried to log into their site to get a name or email address but the site rejected my attempt. You should be able to find something in the White/Yellow pages. I think they would be very interested in the story.
hey there
Contact the DAR about this too. They might be help you out!!!!
Hi Patsy and Earl,

I have contacted both SAR and DAR and only SAR seems interested (talking to Dan Moran I believe). DAR just sent me membership application in response to a written letter about the thefts. Nothing about David Williams himself. I will probably get in touch with them again since I am sure the letter ended up in the wrong hands of DAR and possibly with someone who does not realize the importance of my inquiry.


I received the following reply via SAR-TALK on RootsWeb (public post, individual reply). Mr. Charles Weeks, president of an SAR chapter in Florida, suggested:

Mr. Gallagher,

If I may offer a suggestion, please write up your "Stolen Medals" story as detailed as possible and send
it to every Coin Magazine and Coin Paper in the US. There are many, many Coin Collectors and Coin
Professionals throughout the US and large numbers of them always read every page of these periodicals.
You might be surprised as to the response you may receive if you give your address and e-mail and request
any and all information on your quest to locate these medals. There are collectors of MEDALS, PINS,
BUTTONS, TOKENS, you name it and there is a COLLECTOR out there.

These Periodicals love to receive well written and interesting stories and many of them include them in
their Monthly Issues. The responses you receive will be interesting.
Mr. Gallagher,

That is an EXCELLENT idea!!!!! Thank you so much for inquiring and finding me another way of possibly spreading the word about the medals. I am going to do some research today and get a good list of them and then sit down and formulate a summary of the thefts. :)

Thanks again!!!

Hi Angelique,
I'm an ancestor of John Paulding. My father was named after him and of course, I grew up with knowledge of the important historical event that our GGGGG grandfather's were involved in. In 1984, I had the opportunity to visit the NYHS museum to see the "Captors Room". I had no idea that the medals had been stolen until I read your posting. Thank you for posting this information and sharing it. I will be anxious to learn if you are able to make any progress in finding out more information.

My great-grandparents were Peter Paulding and Marie Louise (Fowler) Paulding they were from White Plains, NY. My grandmother (Gertrude Folwer Paulding Messier) was a Paulding on her father’s side and a Fowler on her mother's side. My ancestors are buried in the White Plains Rural Cemetery, the Flushing Cemetery, Hudson Rural Cemetery and the Peekskill Cemetery.

If any other Paulding ancestors frequent this site, I would be interested in making contact with them.

Linda Messier
Hi Linda!

Sorry I am taking so long to respond to this post! It is GREAT to meet you! I have not ran into any others who have descended from any of the guys. I tried locating a Williams ancestor, but was too late and he had passed in 2004 which was very sad because he died of pancreatic cancer, which is what my great-grandmother died of also from that same family line. Email me anytime at: I just recently wrote NUMEROUS letters to various numismatic associations and such regarding the thefts of the medals. One letter was partially printed here: (under "This Weeks Letters")

Scroll down to, "Genealogy research reveals medal theft"

I have hope that the medals will be returned, people just need to be looking for them :)


I am direct ansestor of Major John Andre'. I would be very interested in any information regarding his captors that you may have. For obvious reason this subject is very interesting to me and my family.


Les Andre'
Hi Les!

Great to meet you! I found TONS of information about Major John Andre and the captors in places like Google Books, Google News Archives, The New York Times archives and more. There really was an overwhelming amount of information :)

Here are some of the resources that I have:

"Andre's Captors: The Story as David Williams To'd it" The New York Times, January 10, 1901
PDF Download:

"Dean One of Andre's Captors." The New York Times, January 12, 1901
PDF Download:

Tarrytown's Great Day; Preparing for the Centennial Celebration of Major Andre's Capture" The New York Times, August 18, 1880
PDF Download:

Gosh, there were just tons more at the New York Times website:
I found articles by using keywords like "major John Andre", "Paulding", "Van Wert" or "Van Wart" along with other variations.

Then on Google Books and Google News Archives, same thing, there are LOTS of books containing references to John Andre and the captors :)

Here are some examples:

1923 October 5 - Historical Society Has Andre's Watch: Silver Token Believed to Be Authentic, As Major Said He Was Robbed of One - Reading Eagle - Google News Archive Search

(BTW, this watch was also stolen along with the medals of David Williams and John Paulding from the NYHS.)

1952 December 28 - Bravery Of Americans Marked By Top Medals - St. Petersburg Times - Google News Archive Search

I know there are tons more, but my URLS in my bookmarks are somewhat unorganized lately :) I know that most places that I searched generated lots of possible hits for all names involved since the event seems pretty well recorded in so many places. I have honestly found so much that I had to step back, regroup, and sit down again at a later date to sort through it all! :)

It is great to meet you! I have never really been interested in the Revolutionary War, but having an ancestor who was alive at the time, gives me a reference point to start with and has made the learning much more exciting :)

I still have a lot to research since there is so much out there, but I have saved and printed so much stuff that I am sure what I have will keep me busy for months!


Maybe we can get together and try to order the files from the NYPD regarding the thefts of the medals of David and John and the watch of John Andre? I tried last year to do a FOIL request, but I am sure they just sent automated letters without even looking for the files, lazy. I have the case # and even the agent that worked on the case when they were stolen sometime in 1976 from the New York Historical Society. I am sure whoever stole the medals and the watch, must have worked there because the case was locked and they took the descriptive labels.
Thank you for all the information! I will look at it when I get a chance.

Les Andre





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