John Tunnicliff was born in Derbyshire, England about 1725. He was the eldest son of George and Mary Tunnicliff. He married Elizabeth Tunnicliff (perhaps a cousin) in 1747 and later Mary Woodhouse. He is sometimes referred to as John Tunicliff, Sr. to prevent confusion with at least two contemporary namesakes.
John Sr. came to America in 1755. He was living in Philadelphia in 1763 when he inherited the bulk of his father's estate. His son, John, and other kin followed him across the Atlantic - living with him as an extended family in several locations.
By 1768, he was living near or in Albany where he was a member and vestryman at St. Peter's Anglican church. At that time, his family included fifteen people. His group was referred to as "Mr. Tunicliff & followers."
Probably with the help of his brother, sons, and/or nephews he took up farming near Albany but also on the frontier in what is today Otsego County. In 1774, his farm was described by a visitor to Albany.
With the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, this obvious newcomer came under suspicion as a potentially disloyal Englishman. Perhaps his Albany property was on land occupied by the late Colonel John Bradstreet. His western land at "Butternuts" in the Unadilla valley and on Otsego Lake was a known resort for British operatives including Joseph Brandt. Several times, he was called before Albany tribunals, questioned, and asked to post bail. In 1778, his Tryon County house was raided and destroyed while Tunnicliff was in Albany swearing an oath of neutrality.
With the end of the war, the aging Tunnicliff left the Albany area for a farm in what became Otsego County. In 1790, his household of twelve people was listed on the first Federal Census in Otsego. John Tunnicliff, Sr. died in January 1800.
Sources: The life of John Tunnicliff/Tunnicliffe is CAP biography number 1683. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. The most consistently accessible of the online resources may be from Lyman Butterfield. We seek more definitive information on the exact locations of his various lands!
Patrick M'Robert: "The soil is very indifferent for several miles near Albany, being nothing but a cold spungy clay or sand, covered with pine trees; but even upon this soil they have exceeding good crops when they are at any pains to manure their land, as Mr. Tunnicliff, a Derbyshireman, has showen, who settled here about five years ago on one of the worst spots in this country, and by his management had this year the best crops I have seen. His stock is also of a superior kind to any in the country. He got the breed of his sheep from Derbyshire."
first posted 10/30/02; re-cast and revised 10/30/13