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

Fascinating story. I am curious is you know the origin of your ancestor and his name.
Though purely anecdotal, my family history also goes back to Davie Williams, via my great grandfather, Manning P. Williams. I have heard stories of this gentleman all my life and was even dragged to see his headstone on a family vacation to Cooperstown one year. :) I have only just started the official search for our family history and stumbled upon this article. I would love to help you out in whatever way possible. It is our family's story yes, but more importantly our country's. Good luck to you.
I found this forum very interesting, because I come at the "Capture of Captain Andre" from a slightly different perspective.  My GGGGG grandfather was Col. Sebatian Bauman - he drew the defense plans for West Point that were among the papers Benedict Arnold stole and that were found in Capt. Andre's boot when he was caught.  We've always known in our family that Col. Bauman drew the plans, but we never knew much about the capture of Capt. Andre.  Exciting to read!!

Have you checked the Historical Museum at West Point ?


There were electrotype and cast copies made of the original medals, and It is not clear that the New York Historical Society ever owned the actual Fidelity medal awarded to David Williams.  There are also 19th century accounts stating that the original medal was donated to the New York Library in Albany, and also the Tarrytown Historical Society.  Only one can be original!  The original may well be safe and sound in one of these other institutions.





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