I realize that traditional genealogy suggests that our shared ancestor Jarvis Dobbs (1755-1815) was the son of Capt. William H. Dobbs. How I wish I could prove the connection, but I can’t yet, for these reasons:
I’ve found no records for Jarvis before 1776 when he enrolled in the militia in Flushing, NY. It may be important that he named a child William Henry Dobbs, but it was his fourth not firstborn son (although granted, an earlier child with that name may have died). None of Jarvis’s 4 daughters (or adopted 5th) were named Catherine, the name of William’s first wife; Jarvis’s first daughter was Mary. Four of William’s children (Joseph, William, Anne and Mary), by the way, lament their father’s death in letters and testimony that never mention a sibling named Jarvis. Jarvis is also missing from reports of the intense Revolutionary War activity up the Hudson River where William and family played such a well-documented role. William lived in the City of New York and sailed to the West Indies; Jarvis lived his recorded lifetime near Flushing in western Long Island, except for a brief journey through New York en route to the battle of White Plains. Jarvis had a sloop named Abigail in 1780, and it’s likely that he sailed Flushing’s commercial course to the New York piers near William’s home; the distance is close. But, I haven’t found a definitive link between the two men yet.
As for a detailed bio for William H. Dobbs, I’ve created a 50 page timeline to begin sorting through data for men named William Dobbs in New York and vicinity in the years between 1705 and 1800. From maritime, court, real estate, Revolutionary War and City of New York records, my sense is that history has compressed at least four dynamic fellows named William Dobbs across two generations living within a few blocks in what is now Lower Manhattan. Where did the H come from anyway? I cannot find a William Dobbs using that middle initial before Jarvis’s son was born.
What I did find were two New York Harbor pilots named William Dobbs who were licensed in 1771 and 1772. There are also two William Dobbs’ captaining ships to and from the West Indies in the 1760’s and 1770’s. The process of untangling the church sexton, lamplighter, shoemaker, blacksmith, mariners, almshouse keeper, privateer, and pilots – all New Yorkers named William Dobbs - continues. Signatures help. I’m confident I’ll find Jarvis in there somewhere.
William Dobbs’ wives complicate things, too. Capt. William married Dorcas Harding in 1757 and signed his daughter Maria’s baptism in Curacao in 1771. So which William stayed married to a Catherine, who is very much alive as William’s wife in 1760’s records then his widow in 1794?
Hewlett Dobbs, possibly Jarvis’s twin, is my last challenge. A 1939 family letter from a Jarvis descendant declares that “Ulett” was Jarvis’s brother who chose the English side during the Revolution. Indeed, Hewlett Dobbs was a Loyalist who emigrated to New Brunswick, Canada and died there in 1822 at age 67. There are many unique details in the letter that have proved true. What’s interesting is that Hewlett needed a legal guardian in 1773, suggesting that his father (and likewise Jarvis’s father) was already dead (and therefore not “William H. Dobbs” who lived until 1781). Hewlett is a Long Island name. Let’s keep searching!