John Corish Devereux: the dancing uncle

Note that in the parody engraving on the wall, a cat is teaching a monkey to dance
Grown Ladies Taught to Dance, engraving by John Collett, ca. 1770

When I started this project back in 2010 I spent some puzzled hours wondering how the Devereux name came to be part of the Colt family. It appears nowhere in the direct line. There were murmurings that the name may have come from a friend of the family somewhere along the line. Finally, I found the answer: a dancing uncle! 

The Irish immigrant John Corish Devereux (1774-1848) married Mary Rice Colt, a sister of Roswell Lyman Colt, in 1815. After a colorful start as a dancing master, he eventually became a hugely successful merchant and banker. John and Mary Devereux had no children of their own and eventually left their entire estate to the Colt family. In 1817, Roswell passed on his sister’s name to his fifth child: Mary Devereux Colt,  who would later marry A.K Josephs.  Perhaps he guessed that his sister was not going to have her own family.

Check out the full story:

John Corish Devereux (1768-1848)

John Devereux was born in 1774 in Wexford, Ireland, and was the second oldest of nine children. The Devereux were an old, well-to-do, respected Roman Catholic family who lost lives and money in the short but bloody Irish Rebellion of 1798.

John had fortunately left Ireland before the troubles of 1798, and after a sojourn in France arrived in the United States in mid-1796. In September of that year, “J. C. Devero, Dancing Master, lately from Europe” advertised that he was opening a Dancing School in Hartford, Connecticut. Two years later he advertised that he was teach­ing in Windham and Tolland. He taught also in the Connecticut towns of Middletown and Norwich, Pittsfield and elsewhere in Massachusetts, and in Troy, New York.

J.C. Devero, Dancing Master

The family tradition from John’s mouth is that he “danced one thousand dollars out of the New Englanders,” and this $1,000 started the immensely successful Devereux merchant business. When John opened his store in 1802, Utica was a hamlet of a few hundred persons. Judging from the Utica store advertisements of that time, the merchandise sold included whiskey, gin, wine, brandy, cigars, tobacco, and snuff. John did well enough so that by 1805 he had bought property in Utica, and then by 1806 on the waterfront of Sackets Harbour, where he and his brother Nicholas later had a store.

You can read more, and see a few pictures, here. Oh, and he made a lot of his money selling to Irish workers digging the Erie Canal. He and his brother Nicholas later founded a bank, a church, an orphanage, became mayor, etc. etc. like all the rest of our ancestors seem to have done.

This has to be the guy!

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