Bird's Eye View Of Corning, NY

Post card image from:

Women’s lives are often only documented through their connections to the men in their lives.  This is true of my 3x great grandmother, Sarah (Sally) Giltner. Census records say she was born in either 1804 or 1805 in Broome or Tompkins County, New York. However, both counties were formed from Tioga County after she was born; Broome in 1806, and Tompkins in 1817, so neither is likely correct. The postcard above is a birds eye view of Corning, New York, where she lived most of her life.

She married William Cretsley in Caroline, Tompkins County, New York, on Christmas, Dec. 25th 1824.[1] One would think that starting a marriage on such a joyous day would be good luck but Sarah’s life was anything but lucky.  She and William had 8 known children but on the 1865 New York census, she states there were 10.[2]  So it’s likely she lost two children when they were very young.  At least two other children, including my great great grandmother, Angeline Cretsley Smith, and her husband, William, died before she did.

Her husband owned a farm and property valued at $1,000 in 1850 but one month before he died in 1856, he sold it to his sons for $500.00  Sarah was listed as head of household in 1860 but in 1865, she lived with my great great grandparents, Daniel and Angeline Smith.  Her youngest daughter, Mattie was also with them. She apparently depended on her children for survival the rest of her life.  By 1875, she is living with her daughter, Abigail Johnson and her husband, James. [3]

Sarah’s maiden name was unknown until I found her son, Andrew’s, Civil War pension.  She claimed a mother’s pension when he died at the age of 20.  He was her youngest child and he supported her with his earnings during his short lifetime and afterward with his pension.


Sarah’s daughter, Abigail and a neighbor, Simon Van Etten, gave testimony showing why she needed the pension.  She suffered an injury that caused her to lose the use of one of her arms.  sarah2


It is believed that Francis Giltner and Otelia Yentzer were the parents of Sarah Giltner although no direct evidence has been found to prove this connection.

Francis was a Revolutionary War Patriot.  He joined at the young age of 15 and became a fifer.  Fifers were in the drum and bugle corps and since my father, Robert Smith, was in the drum and bugle corps in the Marines after WWII, I thought it was appropriate to join DAR on this ancestor. Francis left no Will when he died, but I was able to prove Sarah’s connection to him with indirect pieces of evidence that point to Francis Giltner as her father.

Sarah’s own death was foretold in the local paper about a week before it occurred.  Her son-in-law was a well known business man in the community so what happened in his household was apparently news.  In the first clipping, she was identified only as “Mrs. Cretsley”, the mother of Mrs. James Johnson.


After her death, she was identified by her nickname, Sally, not her proper name, Sarah.


I’m still missing big pieces of Sarah’s life, what did she look like?  What did she feel about world events, or her young son going off to war?  (She had two other sons who served and survived.)  If it were not for records of her husband, her son’s tragic early death, and the fact that she lived with a well to do son-in-law in her later years, I would know virtually nothing at all.

[1] Andrew W. [Crettsley], Private, Mother’s Application for Pension, 109200, 141st New York, Company D, Civil War Union,  National Archives, certificate 73532, box 32355, bundle 73. Sarah Cretsley, mother.  August 28, 1865.

[2] 1865 New York State Census, Aurelius, Cayuga County, New York, page 59, household 398, family 423, D.B. Smith, with [Sarrah] and Mattie Cretsley, 27 June 1865, FHL film 853200, v. 1.

[3] 1875 New York State Census, Corning, Steuben County, New York, family 305 James Johnson Jr., June 12, 1875, obtained from:  Steuben County Historian, Bath New York, January 2002, by volunteer researcher, Marion Springer.

[4] Andrew W. [Crettsley], Private, Mothers Application for Pension.

[5] Andrew W. [Crettsley], Private, Mothers Application for Pension.

[6] “Mrs Cretsley, the mother of James Johnson…”, Corning Journal, Corning, New York, 2 Jan. 1879.

[7] “Deaths, Mrs. Sally Cretsley”, Corning Journal, Corning, New York, 9 Jan 1879.


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