Catherine Metcalf


"Catherine Metcalf" was a wife then widow who lived in Albany with her children from the 1780s until the early 1800s.

Based on English local records, Catherine Humphrey was christened in St. Mary's church of Bolton-on-Swale (North Yorkshire) in October 1743. Thus, she would have been the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Humphrey.

In May 1763, she married a somewhat older Simon Metcalf also at St. Mary's. After giving birth to a son and daughter, about 1766, these Metcalfs emigrated to New York. Over the next two decades, at least eight more children were born on the northern frontier, in Canada, and in Albany.

Simon Metcalf was a surveyor who mapped lands in the Champlain Valley and beyond - acquiring a number of parcels himself in the process. In 1771, the governor of New York approved a grant of 30,000 acres in what later became Swanton, Vermont to Metcalf and his wife. Afterwards, Catherine Metcalf is said to have received a large sum from the State of Vermont to settle their land claim.

At some time during the 1780s, this Metcalf family settled in Albany. But, by 1787, Simon Metcalf had acquired a ship and left New York for the Far East with a consignment of seal furs. By the end of that year, he had sold the shipment in China. Perhaps, Catherine never saw her husband and at least one of her sons again as they seem to have been occupied on both the far and near Pacific shores over their last several years.

In 1788, the house of George Metcalf was listed on an Albany assessment roll and George and his mother were named as its principal residents. The census of 1790 identified household of Simon Metcalf in the second ward as including eight members and a slave. We are not at all certain that Simon Metcalf was one of them for his seems to have been trading actively in the Pacific region every year from 1787 to the end of his life.

Such activities proved dangerous as son Thomas was killed in Hawaii in 1790 and Simon Metcalf himself was killed by angry natives in the Pacific Northwest in 1794.

In the meantime, widow Catherine became head of their Albany home. In 1799, her house and lot in the third ward was valued on the Albany assessment roll. In 1800, her household included a man roughly her age, two younger females, and a free person of color.

Her son and perhaps two daughters became prominent Albany residents. Her name was absent from the first Albany city directories. Perhaps she moved with her son whe he re-located to Staten Island in 1811.

Catherine Humphrey Metcalf (widow of Simon) died in July 1818 aged seventy-four years, eight months, and nine days. She was buried in the Episcopal cemetery.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Catherine Murphy Metcalf has not been assigned a CAP biography number. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

first opened: 11/25/08