Monday, September 04, 2017

Woodstock: The Remarkable Captain Samuel Stephens, Mayflower descendant and son of a Revolutionary

 Captain Samuel Stephens and Emma Swan, our 4th great-grandparents, were relative latecomers to Woodstock with their arrival in Woodstock around 1815.

Samuel Stephens in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Samuel was born to Edward Stephens and Mayflower descendant Phoebe Harlow in Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

Birth and death records are not available for Samuel but his gravestone indicates he died at age 90 in 1856, which puts his birth at about 1766. A 1913 SAR application by a great-grandson, Harold Ellsworth Stevens, MD, in Lewiston, ME, gives a birth date of September 16, 1768, but the source of that date is unclear unless from family records. Indeed, the Revolutionary War pension application of his brother, William, makes reference to a family Bible with birth dates.

Both parents were in their 40's when Samuel was born, the 9th of ten children. Three of the 10 died young - a brother at age 3 before Samuel was born, and two sisters at ages 21 and 27.

Samuel grew up in a revolutionary age and family. When but eight years old, his father and three brothers marched with a Plympton military company to nearby Marshfield on April 19, 1775, the day of the Lexington alarm. While surrounding areas were revolutionary bent, Marshfield was a hotbed of Loyalists. Brother William spent 7 months in the young colonial Navy on the brigantine Hazard in 1777-78.

Samuel had several losses before he turned 22 with the death of an older sister in 1786, his mother in 1787, father in 1788, and another sister in 1791.

The earliest record of Samuel occurs with his 1788 marriage to a young woman from the neighboring farm, Desire Harlow, just months after his father’s death. Their first child, Samuel Jr., was born 7 months after the marriage. They had another two children by 1798, the year Samuel purchased a lot in Paris, Maine.

Samuel is again mentioned in his father’s probate papers in 1789. Although his father owned significant land in the Plympton/Plymouth/Marshfield area, he died insolvent and his land was sold off to his sons and sons-in-law to cover his debts. A small, but nice parcel at Hobbs Hole went to 21 year-old Samuel, perhaps made possible with money from the his new wife’s family. Farming soil in Plymouth was acidic, porous, and downright poor for farming except for a few patches, one of these being Hobbs Hole, “a 15 minute walk from Burial Hill in Plymouth.” Even with a workable piece of land, Samuel’s attention turned to other opportunities in the expanding colonies.

Samuel and Desire in Paris (great name for a movie)

Still a young man at age 31, Samuel and Desire and children joined a host of others migrating from the Plymouth, Plympton, and Marshfield areas to inland Maine in the years after the Revolution. Samuel’s brother, Sylvanus, became an early resident of nearby Sumner although it’s not clear when he arrived.

We know Samuel purchased the 100 acre “Center lot” in Paris, Maine, in 1798, from Lemuel Perham and the family finally traveled the 188 miles from Plymouth to Woodstock in 1800. Tragically, Desire died in 1801, leaving Samuel with three young children. Samuel married our 4th great-grandmother, Emma Swan, the following year.

Emma’s father, William Swan, a Revolution soldier who fought at Bunker Hill, moved his family to Paris by 1790 and was an early settler of Woodstock by 1802, about the time Emma married our Samuel in Paris.

Samuel had another six children with second wife Emma. Desire must still have been on his mind as their first child was named Jesse Harlow Stephens. One of their children, Oren, died young, perhaps only two years old.

Samuel took an active role in the early Paris community. He and another Paris resident, Nicholas Smith, built a grist mill on Smith Brook. He was on the committee to build a Baptist Church in the town, treasurer for the town 1803-04, and selectman/assessor in 1806 and 1810. He cast musket balls to arm the town's War of 1812 militia.

Samuel and Emma in Woodstock

By 1815, Samuel once more moved his family, this time to Woodstock and - again - he was a prominent member in the community. He was a Selectman in 1817 and Overseer of the Poor in 1818. At a town meeting in 1817, “old Mrs. Lucy Swan was set up at auction and struck off to Samuel Stephens at $1.09/week.” The town handled their old folk in those days by auctioning off care to the lowest bidder. Old Lucy, indeed, was Emma’s mother, our 5th GGM; she died the following year. 

After moving to Woodstock, Samuel bought a grist mill afterwards known as the Captain Stephens Mill, and businesses built up around the area, including a blacksmith shop, hotel, and a circus ground. Stephens Mills was the business center of Woodstock for several years. The unreliable water source allowed the mill to operate only intermittently and it was dismantled in 1834.  

Woodstock Corner about 1830, from Woodstock Chamber of Commerce

Samuel and Emma built a beautiful home that was the last of the original Stephens Mills settlement when it burned down in 1968.

Captain Samuel Stephens house, built in 1815, photo in 1955, from Stephens Mills website
School areas were redistricted in 1820 and Samuel's farm was in the First district along with the Swan and Bryant families, also grandparent ancestors.

Samuel served two terms in the Maine legislature, elected in 1827 and 1831 to represent Woodstock which meant trips to Portland until the state capital was moved to Augusta in 1832. In 1845, he voted with the minority in favor of liquor licenses in Woodstock.  Most of the town, including another GGF Orsamus Nute, voted for prohibition.

Samuel's oldest son, also Samuel, died tragically at age 43, crushed in a mill accident in Woodstock in 1832, and wife Emma died 4 years later, leaving Samuel a widower for the next twenty years. His oldest son by Emma, Jesse Harlow Stephens, a Methodist minister, hung himself in 1843, reportedly influenced by Millerism.*

*William Miller developed a national following for preaching the Second Coming of Christ would occur sometime in 1843.

In 1850, eighty-two year old Samuel was living with Sam Jr.'s widow and 36 year-old spinster daughter, Mary. He died in 1856 at the age of 90.

Samuel was a "highly respected citizen," clearly involved in the community and did well for himself, particularly given his father's insolvency and no inheritance from the family.  In addition to his property and home, probate inventory showed he had two cows, 10 sheep, a ton of hay, and 5 bushels of potatoes and turnips each, among other sundry things. One of the appraisers of his estate was our Orsamus Nute.

Samuel's family:                                                                                                                                   

Desire Harlow, 1st wife, died in Paris, age 32
  • Samuel Stephens, Jr. (1789-1832), private, War of 1812; m. Mayflower descendant Elizabeth Doten; killed in mill accident at age 43, 2 children.
  • Captain Eleazer Stephens (1792-1852), War of 1812 Navy veteran; m. Nancy Stevens, 5 children.
  • Desire Stephens (1798-1869), m. Artemus Felt, 8 children.
Emma Swan, 2nd wife, died in Woodstock, age 66
  • Jesse Harlow Stephens (1802-1843), m. Abigail Lurvey, 5 children; Methodist minister, hanged himself at age 41. 
  • Benjamin Stephens (1807-1890), m. Julia Maria Davis; 5 children; son Orin became a doctor.
  • Orin Stephens (1809 - ), died young, possibly in 1811.
  • Jane Stephens (1812-1893), m. Joseph Davis; 5 children; daughter Lovina Dunn Davis married our Orsamus Nute.
  • Mary Stephens (1815 - died after 1870), unmarried, lived with father until he died, then on the "town farm."
In total, Captain Samuel had 30 grandchildren.

Samuel, Emma, and Samuel Jr. are buried in Curtis Hill Cemetery. Many other Stephens are buried in the Nute-Stephens cemetery, including son Benjamin and his family, and there appears to have been a close connection between the Nute and Stephens families.

The Mystery of Captain Samuel Stephens 

Paris and Woodstock town histories often refer to Samuel as Captain Stephens even when the rank of other Revolution veterans in these towns is rarely mentioned. The source of Samuel's captainship is not documented from the Revolution, nor is he listed as one of the Paris men training for the War of 1812.

The Woodstock Samuel Stephens has been generally accepted as a Revolution privateer:
  • From Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors: Samuel Stevens, Gloucester. Descriptive list of officers and crew of the ship “America” (privateer), commanded by Captain John Somes, sworn to in Suffolk Co., June 8, 1780; age 14 yrs; stature 3’10 “; residence Gloucester.
  • Maine Veterans Cemetery Records documents the same information under his name, associating the information with our Samuel’s gravestone, and citing Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors as the source information.
  • His gravestone has an American Revolution veteran marker.
  • Stephens Mills website sources the Woodstock Samuel Stephens as this young Gloucester teen.
Here are the problems with this claim:
  • There is no doubt our Samuel is from Plymouth, and not Gloucester. Paris and Woodstock town histories refer to Samuel as being from Plymouth, he married a young woman from the Plymouth Harlow family, he is listed in the Plymouth Edward Stephens probate papers, and brother Sylvanus from Plymouth lived in nearby Sumner.
  • Gloucester had an extensive Stevens family headed by William Stevens, famed as a master ship carpenter in the 1600s, and rampant with Samuel named offspring. They spell their name Stevens, whereas our Plymouth family were Stephens.
  • If his gravestone is correct, Samuel would have been 12 and not 14 years old at the time this young sailor took to sea harassing the British.
  • The Gloucester teen was 3’10” tall and would have had to grow another 12” to be out of the category of dwarfism. American Revolution men were tall, averaging three inches taller than the British soldiers. An average American adult male would have been 5’8” in those days, about an inch less than the contemporary American male. If we extrapolate to 14 year old boys of that era, an average Revolution era 14 yr old boy would be about 5’3 1/2”. A 3’10” fourteen year old sailor would have stood out, so much so that the stat got put into the listing in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors.
In order for our Woodstock Samuel to be the Gloucester teen privateer, he would have had to make his way 75 miles north from Plymouth to Gloucester by age 14, back to Plymouth before age 20 to impregnate and marry the Plymouth Desire Harlow, and grow another two feet.

More likely, the connection between the Woodstock Captain Samuel Stephens and Gloucester privateer is incorrect. Quite possibly, our Samuel attained his Captainship post-Revolution in the local militia, following the footsteps of his Revolution father and brothers, rising up the ranks as he seemed to do most of his life. Even more likely, he was in the seafaring business in Plymouth as many in the area were wont with poor farming quality in the area. He was set with the family house on the property at Hobbs Hole and until age 30 captained his own boat. This would explain why he continued to use the title Captain in later life when other Revolution veterans in the Woodstock/Paris did not. As in, aye, aye Captain.

Next up, The Stephens family before Woodstock . . .

The Old Village of Woodstock, Maine, 1808-1840-50, Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.
A History of Buckfield, Oxford County, Maine from the earliest explorations to the close of the year 1900.
History of Woodstock, Me. : with family sketches and an appendix, William Berry Lapham, 1882.
History of Paris, Maine, from its settlement to 1880, William Berry Lapham, 1884.
History of the town of Gloucester, Cape Ann : including the town of Rockport, Babson, 1860.
Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War
Woodstock Cemeteries, compiled  by Joyce Howe
Stephens Mills webside,

Monday, August 14, 2017

Migration of Our Woodstock Families: Poland and Paris, and finally Woodstock

Woodstock is a beautiful, rural Maine town, dotted with lakes and stunning in the fall with hillsides a kaleidoscope of color. Bryant's Pond lies in the northwest corner and feeds the Little Androscoggin River. The people of Bryant Pond were the last to give up hand-crank telephones with a human operator in 1983. The old Grange and Masonic Lodge buildings feature three-story attached outhouses - well, technically they are "inhouses."  The 2010 Census showed 1,277 people and 371 families living in Woodstock spread over 47 square miles.

Woodstock hills in the fall
Bryant Pond

Three story "privies" of the Masonic Lodge and Grange
The Woodstock Historical Society manned by a dedicated staff has its home on Main Street close to the Pond. I had the privilege of spending a day in the fall of 2016 with a staff member, Joyce Howe, who took me around to our family sites and cemeteries - and we had the best pizza for lunch at a little store in "town."

Woodstock Historical Society
Our family line on the Nute side converged on Woodstock, Maine, in the late 1700s-early 1800s, finally emerging from that wilderness-taming experience when 2nd GGF Orsamus Nute moved his family out of Woodstock to Boston in 1864. From there, the family has dispersed around the country, from Connecticut, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to California.


They came from the Watertown, Cambridge and Plymouth areas - the Brooks, Swan, Bryant, and Stephens families - Nutes from New Hampshire; Strouts and Davises from coastal Maine and Massachusetts. Even the New Hampshire Nute lived briefly in coastal Falmouth, Maine, before migration. By and large, the families followed a route progressively north and inland, along what is now Route 26 from the coast to Poland and Paris, and from there to Woodstock on a rugged road built in 1795 to connect the two settlements. The roads were all pretty rough in those days - no whizzing along freeways in air-conditioned and heated vehicles.


The planning by proprietors for the “plantation” of this area of Maine took place in Watertown, MA, with Paris originally called Plantation Number Four, and incorporated as a town in 1795.

Paris roads were laid out in 1794, and the road to Woodstock in 1795. Even before the road to Woodstock opened, two Bryant brothers, Christopher and Solomon, were hard at work clearing land in Woodstock in preparation for their big move. Paris had 40 households in 1798, living in log and dirt cabins until sawmills were built. Solomon Bryant had 79 acres, William Swan 50 acres, and Samuel Stephens 100 acres. Samuel is listed as owning property, but didn’t move to Paris until a couple years later. 

The Bryants of Plympton migrated to Grey on coastal Maine after Solomon served in the Massachusetts militia in the Revolution, and inland to Plantation Number Four (Paris) by 1788. He was chosen surveyor of lumber, a task he continued over the next several years. In 1796, Solomon was named a hog reever for the town. Sons, Christopher and Solomon Jr., were first settlers in Woodstock and daughter Betsey eventually moved to Woodstock, but Solomon Sr. lived out his days in Paris.

Dr. Peter Brooks of Acton, Massachusetts, arrived in Paris with the families of Solomon Bryant and William Swan, Jr. and stayed about 4 years. He moved then to Poland, Maine, briefly to Woodstock in about 1798, and finished his years down the road in Mechanic Falls, Maine.

Cambridge born 5th GGF William Swan, a Revolution veteran of Bunker Hill, was appointed tithingman* at the first Paris town meeting in 1793. Two Swan daughters married the two Bryant boys, Emma married our Samuel Stephens, and most of the family relocated to Woodstock. 

Samuel Stephens of Plymouth bought a lot in Paris in 1798 and migrated there with his family by 1801.  Samuel signed a petition for division of the town in 1803 and was on a town committee in 1806. In 1812, Samuel is referred to as Captain and was paid $4.50 for casting balls.

*A parish officer elected to preserve good order in the church during divine service, to make complaint of any disorderly conduct, and to enforce the observance of the Sabbath.


Poland was incorporated in 1795, but settled as early as 1769. Early settlers included the Bray, Fickett and Davis families who cleared land for farms and  “one named Cox who manufactured hair combs” may have been the father of Judith Sarah Cox, wife of Jonathan Fickett. These were followed in the 1790s by Davises, Strouts, and Dr. Peter Brooks.

Sixth GGF and sea captain Zebulon Davis was living in Poland, then called Bakerstown Plantation, as early as June 1776 when he signed the Bakerstown agreement setting up militia for the Revolution. He was a captain, taken prisoner by the British and confined for an extended time at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Wife, Mary Bray, and younger four children, including Aaron, moved from Gloucester to Poland with their dad.

4th GGFJonathan Fickett arrived in Poland from Falmouth, ME, soon after his marriage to Judith Sarah Cox in 1788. Judith Sarah died in 1800 and he married Solomon Bryant's daughter, Betsey, in 1804. 

The Strouts were seafaring families from the Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, Maine areas. Our Strout is 5th GGM Thankful who married War of 1812 veteran Aaron Davis Sr.  Aaron Jr. married Lucinda Oraing Brooks, daughter of our Dr. Peter Brooks.

3rd GGF Samuel Nute moved to Poland bringing along his widowed mother, Rebecca Wentworth, sometime between 1810 when he is listed in the Falmouth census and 1816 when he married Betsey Fickett. 


Fifth GGF Solomon Bryant’s sons, Solomon Jr and Christopher, first cleared land in spring of 1797 in what was called Number Three, later to become Woodstock. The brothers’ plan was to have ten town lots where the extended Bryant family could settle. Their sister, 4th GGM Betsey, married both 5th GGF Peter Brooks and 4th GGF Jonathan Fickett. Jonathan’s daughter by a different wife,  3rd GGM Betsey, was the mother of our Orsamus.  Gets complicated, huh? All these guys intended to take up residence in Woodstock from surrounding settlements. The Bryant brothers, got moved in by fall of 1798. Others followed the next year, including another Bryant brother, Samuel.

William Swan moved his family to Woodstock in 1802.  William’s daughter, Sally Swan married Solomon Jr.;  daughter Susanna married Christopher; and daughter Emma was the second wife of 4th GGF Samuel Stephens. William’s 17 year old daughter, Lucy, had an illegitimate son, Gideon, fathered by married, father of 9, Dr. Peter Brooks. Gideon was raised by William Swan and took the Swan name rather than Brooks.

While this preliminary settling was going on, the land which belonged to Massachusetts underwent various ownership/grant changes, finally incorporated into a town in 1815. An 1812 tax list shows those of our people living there were the William Swan family and the sons of 5th GGF Solomon Bryant - Christopher, Solomon, Jr. and Samuel. Peter Brooks and wife Betsey Bryant had come and gone.

The Aaron Davises, both Jr. and Sr., had moved in by 1815, Samuel Stephens by 1817, and Jonathan Fickett by 1818, settling on what was later the Nute farm.

Life was hard, everyone was poor, and the soil not conducive to farming. They had no stores or doctor, with the nearest "amenities" some distance over the hill in Paris. Fish was plentiful in the beautiful Bryant’s Pond, small game readily available in the forests, but winters were harsh, crops failed from drought, and fires burned through timber. Stories of privation are told that farm women dug up potatoes planted for next year’s crop in order to have something to eat.

Fickett - Nute farm, Woodstock

The Nute family moved to Woodstock by 1820, the same year son Orsamus was born. Samuel and Betsey were able to buy her father's hilltop farm with an amazing view.  They had 4 children, 3 daughters and Orsamus. When Orsamus left taking all his living family with him, no Nute descendants were left in Woodstock.

The tenacity, courage, and resilience DNA of all the above generations came together with the union of Orsamus Nute and Lovina Dunn Davis, the last of our Woodstock lines, and they left Woodstock for Boston with their infant son, our great-grandfather, Joseph Edson Nute, in 1864.

More stories to follow on these tough pioneers who rightfully deserve to be called our illustrious ancestors.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Revolutionaries: Our Little Compton Baileys

We pick up on our Bailey family in Little Compton, Rhode Island, just a hop across the Sakonnet River from Portsmouth and about 55 miles down the coast from Plymouth.  Colonists from both areas looking for more grazing and farm land, to expand their holdings came to Little Compton in the early 1680’s. One of the original Little Compton founders was Colonel Benjamin Church from the Plymouth area, commander of Colonial forces during King Philips’s War in 1675-1676 and known as the father of the US Army Rangers. Four of Colonel Church’s brothers are our grandfather ancestors.

To catch up from the last post, Lt. Thomas Bailey (1690-1740) and Mary Wood (1691-1745) from our Portsmouth families married in Little Compton in July 1712 just months after six of Mary’s siblings died suddenly in an influenza epidemic. Thomas was living on his father’s lands and both inherited Little Compton land from their parents. They had ten children between 1713 and 1733, nine boys in a row and the last a girl, all born and raised in Little Compton. 

Of their children:
  • John inherited £300, land on Warrens Point and his father’s sword.
  • Constant Bailey inherited  £1,000, a good cow, and “a horse to ride of a credible sort.” He moved back to Newport where he was a cabinet maker. When Mary died, she gave Constant a Negro boy and 16 acres in Little Compton she inherited from her father.
  • Joseph inherited £100 and a good horse. He moved to Newport where he was a cordswainer (shoemaker).  Mary left him another 16 acres in Little Compton.
  • Oliver inherited all Thomas’ land in Freetown with buildings, saw mill, grist mill and fulling mill as well as £300.
  • James, Thomas, Barzilla, William and Lemuel were underage when their father died.  As executors, Mary and the oldest son John were to divvy up the remaining lands and property when the children came of age. 
  • Lemuel, the last son, died at age 13, the same year as his mother.
Generation Four

The second son, Thomas Bailey, Jr. was a husbandman - or farmer - in Little Compton on lands owned by his father which became Thomas Jr.’s when Thomas Sr. died. He married 20 year old Mary Bennett in Little Compton in 1734. Thomas was18 years old; his mother just had a child herself the previous year.  

Seven months after the marriage, Mary and Thomas had Phebe, our sixth great-grandmother. A second child for the couple was born two years later on October 3, 1736. Mary died days later, and we would presume the cause of death was related to childbirth. The following year, Thomas married 19 year old Abigail Lynd and they had four children. She died twelve years later at age 31; Thomas now was 34 and twice widowed. He married a third time the following year to 22 year old Deborah Carr. They had another 4 children, all girls.

Photo from Little Compton Families, Vol 1
Little Compton Families gives the following excerpt from an old book of photographs by Arthur Aspinwall:

The people of Little Compton, as might be expected from the descendants of the Pilgrims, were patriots, and none were more patriotic than Bailey. Occasionally they were troubled by visits from British warships, and upon one of these occasions a part of British seamen landed and captured Bailey and a coast guard who was on duty there and several others. They were carried to the boats, and upon arriving on the beach an effort was made to induce Bailey to tell them the number of men in the American army. The patriotic old man replied that they might as well attempt to count the sands of the beach as the troops upon which the Americans relied. This exaggerative bit of “yankee insolence” was rewarded by confinement in a British prison-ship for some time…Bailey, while confined, played off crazy and gave his answers in a peculiar way in hopes of being released. He told his captors that he must go home because his wife was wide open, his barn door was sick abed, and every pumpkin had a hog. In a short time he was released and went home to live a peaceful citizen.

Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors shows Thomas was on the British prison ship, “Lord Sandwich” in New York in 1776.  He was 61 years old.

Thomas lived to a ripe age of 77 years and is buried with lots of other Baileys in the Little Compton Old Commons Burial Ground.
Generation Five

Phebe Bailey (1734-1785) had a childhood of loss with the death of her mother when she was two years old and a stepmother died when she was 16. Little wonder it is that she married Isaac Hathaway, Jr. (1729-1798) in 1752 when she was but 17 years old.

Phebe and Isaac had 16 children starting the year after they were married; three died in infancy or early childhood. During the Revolution, Isaac and his two older sons served in the Revolution - Isaac as an adjutant in the 2nd Bristol Regiment and Quartermaster in the 1st Bristol Regiment in Rhode Island; son John served as a Colonel in the 2nd Bristol Regiment; and son Isaac, served in Rhode Island and in a Berkshire militia. Isaac's brother, Joshua, was a Major in the Massachusetts Minutemen.

Isaac, Phebe and eight or nine of their children left Freetown sometime before or in early1780 for Adams, Berkshire County, in the very western part of Massachusetts, a distance of 170 miles, most likely by ox cart carrying their belongings.  These would have included Phebe, 17; Robert, 16; Prudence, 14; Irene, 13; Henry, 11; Susanna, 10; Bailey, 9; Rebecca, 8; Rachel, 5; and Daniel, 3. Whether 25 yr old Isaac III accompanied them or joined them later is unclear, most likely he went along at the same time.
Berkshire County, showing proximity of Adams and Cheshire towns
Isaac's family was in Adams by October 1780 when son Isaac Jr. is recorded as belonging to the 2nd Berkshire militia.  Most likely, they made the trip in the spring to have time to plant crops. Isaac does not appear to have a Revolution land grant and does not appear to be in the group of Rhode Island Baptists that originally settled Cheshire. Indeed, the family was likely Quaker and Adams was settled in the 1760's by Quakers from Rhode Island.  An act by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1782 states,

Whereas it appears that Capt. Isaac Hathaway, of Adams, in the county of Berkshire, is now in the possession of a certain lot of land in said town, which he holds by an agreement made with John Murray, Esq; [John Murray was one of the original three buyers of 23 square miles of Adams in 1766] an absentee, but by reason of the losses the said Isaac has sustained by the war, and the public having the use of his money, he is unable to make that full payment for said lands that is required by law in order to compleat his title thereto; Therefore, Resolved, That the committee for the sale of conspirators and absentee estates in the county of Berkshire be and they hereby are directed to receive from him the said Hathaway his note of hand, with one responsible surety, payable in one year from the date of said note, to the Treasurer of this Commonwealth, or his successor in said office, for the sum of twenty eight pounds, with lawful interest, and to govern themselves in their conduct toward said Hathaway and the land he possesses, upon his paying the residue of the money due for said lands, in the same manner as though he had paid the whole in cash.  October 19, 1782.

Mary Hathaway (1757-1824), our great-grandmother ancestor, married Thomas Borden in 1776 and stayed behind  in Fall River. 

Phebe would have been in her early 40’s at the time of the move. Such hardship they must have endured to move with eight children, likely by cart and ox over rough roads with what belongings they could take to what was still wilderness, and to leave behind what family she had in Freetown, a well-to-do family at that.

Children of Isaac Hathaway and Phebe Bailey:
  • Captain John Hathaway served in the American Revolution and died in Hudson, New York in 1818, age 64. He married a young woman from Long Island and the couple returned for a few years to Freetown, MA, before going to Hudson, New York, in 1788 with a group of Massachusetts and Rhode Island proprietors to go into the ship business. He became a wealthy owner of a fleet of sloops.
  • Isaac Hathaway III served as a private in the Continental Army in the American Revolution. He married Jemima Constock in Adams, MA, and migrated with brother Robert and the Comstock family to Farmington in 1790, an area now called Hathaway Corners.
  • Mary Hathaway, our sixth great-grandmother, linked with our Borden family in 1776 when she married Thomas Borden, great grandson of our Richard Borden and Innocent Cornell.
  • Irene, born in 1759, died at age 3 1/2 months in Freetown.
  • Robert, born in 1761, died at age three weeks.
  • Phebe, born in Freetown in 1763, probably went to Cheshire, MA, when her family moved.  She died in 1797 but no other information available.
  • Robert Hathaway, born in Freetown, migrated to Cheshire with the family, and was a pioneer settler in Farmington, NY along with his brother, Isaac.  He died in 1806 in Hudson, NY.
  • Irene would have been about 12 years old when the family moved to Cheshire. She married in Windsor, MA, and died in Palmyra, NY in 1849.
  • Henry Hathaway, born 1769 in Freetown, married a young woman in Adams, MA, and died in Russia, NY in 1804.
  • Susanna, born in 1770, married in Adams, MA, and died in Norway, New York in 1845.
  • Bailey, born in 1771 in Fall River, married in New London, CT, became a master seaman. He died in Hudson, NY in 1831.
  • Rebecca, born in 1772, was seven years old when the family moved to Cheshire, MA, married there and died at age 27.
  • Rachel, born 1775, married in Cheshire and died in Russia, NY.
  • Daniel, born 1777, died shortly after birth.
  • Sally Hathaway was the only child born in Adams, MA, in 1781.  Father, Isaac, died in 1798 when she was 17 and she must have afterwards gone to Farmington where she married Joseph Comstock in 1802. She died in Michigan in 1862.
Life could not have been easy for Phebe. She had the deaths of a mother as a toddler, a stepmother as a teen, and three children of her own in their infancies. Her father was taken prisoner during the Revolution and she was in the midst of the Revolution herself with a husband and two sons as Revolution soldiers. Phebe had 16 children over a span of 28 years. She left behind three adult children when she moved into the wilderness with little expectation she would see them or her grandchildren again. Her daughter, Mary Hathaway Borden, had two young babies when Phebe had to leave the only home she'd known.

Memory of
Phoebe the wife of
Isaac Hathaway
who Died August 13th
Aged 51 years
And had Been the
Mother of 16 Children
13 of which were living
At her Death

Phebe died in 1785, four years after the birth of her 16th child and six years after that horrendous move to western Massachusetts. Her death is listed in Adams but she is buried in a small Baptist cemetery near Adams, the Old Churchyard Cemetery, Cheshire, Massachusetts. Isaac remarried eight years after Phebe's death and lived until 1798. 

Old Churchyard Cemetery, Cheshire. Photo from Find-a-Grave.

According to Find-A-Grave, the Old Churchyard Cemetery is on the National  Register of historic places, located beside the first site of the Baptist Church, and associated with the original settlement of New Providence plantation which was annexed to Adams in 1780. The Church house has been moved up the hill. Cemetery gravestones date from 1785.  Phebe must have been one of the first interred in the bucolic stone walled cemetery.

Little Compton Families, Vol I, compiled by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour, 1967.
A History of the Town of Freetown, Massachusetts, 1902.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our Portsmouth Bailey Family, and then there were none

Twelve ancestor families settled this land virginal to Europeans, and started an American experiment of religious freedom and separation of church and state. By 1712, second and third generations had left the island for the mainland or relinquished their surnames by marriage into another family line.* They left behind a few from the elder generations who died in Portsmouth, including John Borden (died 1716), Mary Earle Corey (died 1717), George Brownell and Mary Walker Earle (died 1718), and the last remaining grandparent ancestor on the island, Susanna Pearce Brownell who died in 1743. From the time of the first colonists in 1638 until then, they had greatly multiplied, accumulated property and wealth, built farms, lived through Indian Wars, and experienced tragedies. 

The last of our Aquidneck Island families to immigrate who came to roost in Rhode Island in the early 1650’s - the Bailey family.  
The Bailey Family

William Bailey, Sr. is shrouded in mystery and misinformation, though he is mentioned by various sources as the head of the family that came to Rhode Island.  Family tradition says he was a silk ribbon weaver in London.  The 1894 Records of the Bailey family, descendants of William Bailey of Newport, RI, states William Bailey, Sr., bought land in Newport in 1655 “partly bounded by the sea” and sold 20 acres in 1656 to a man from Portsmouth.  Otherwise, there are no records of this man.  This same book, however, lists him as married to our Grace Parsons who is actually the wife of a younger William Bailey, our tenth great-grandfather. The confusion comes about as the records clearly state a William Bailey, Sr., bought the Newport land in 1655 implying there was a Jr. there at the same time.

It is more probable that the William Bailey Sr. who bought the land and our tenth GGF William Bailey - referred to in Ancestry as William Bailey, Jr. - are one and the same.  There is no crumb trail of immigration ship, birth, marriage or death records telling us when this family may have arrived or where they were living before coming to Portsmouth/Newport.  A number of English Bailey immigrants arrived in New England in the 1630’s and 40’s, but none have been tied with certainty to our William. Further, there are no other Baileys in early Portsmouth/Newport colonial history which would be expected if a Bailey family arrived in those early times.

Generation One

William Bailey (abt 1631- abt 1670) arrived at the Colonies as a single young man about age 22, with or without a William Sr., and married our Grace Parsons in Portsmouth around 1653. He and Grace resided in the Middletown area of Aquidneck with property bounding on the Parsons and Thomas Lawton farms. 

William died at about age 39 leaving five minor children and no will which might indicate his death was unexpected.  His burial is unknown.

William and Grace had five sons:
  • John Bailey (1653-1736) married a Miss Sutton and remained on the family land in Portsmouth.
  • Hugh (1654-1724), sixteen years old when his father died in 1670, was taken into the custody of his grandfather, Hugh Parsons.  The elder Parsons left Hugh all of his land, house, belongs, a bequest that left his mother Grace without means of support and likely led to her situation as a reluctant wife in her second marriage.  Hugh married twice with 8 children from his first marriage and died soon after his second marriage in East Greenwich on land given to him by his grandfather Parsons. He is buried in the Hugh Bailey Lot on his land.  Hugh also died without a will leaving  young children who were appointed guardians by the town.
  • Stephen Bailey (1665-1724) married Susanna, both buried in Newport Cemetery.
  • Joseph Bailey, lived in Newport, no other information.
  • Edward Bailey ( -1712), married, had 4 children and lived in Newport and Tiverton.
Generation Two

John Bailey (1653-1736) was born and raised in Portsmouth.  At about 28, he married a woman with last name Sutton (1660-1709).  The rest of her name and from which Sutton family are unknown.  Indeed, her first name was possibly Sutton. Her grave stone is marked only with “Sutton.”  

John owned lands in Newport, Middletown and Tiverton. Remember Middleton is the middle of Aquidneck Island, with Portsmouth town in the north and Newport the south side of the island.  He moved to Middletown about 1682 when he purchased 50 acres and a building. His will indicates property that would be used on a dairy farm. John and wife Sutton had 12 children over a span of 20 years. He died at age 83, she at 69, and they are buried on his farm in the Old Bailey Cemetery, Berkeley Ave. in Middletown, RI.  

John’s will in 1733 indicates he was considerably well-to-do with substantial agricultural land holdings in the Newport-Portsmouth area and Little Compton which he distributed to sons and grandsons, even those under age. His will left two 18 acres lots in Little Compton to each of his grandsons as well as his eldest son, William Sr. The remainder of the Little Compton lands went to his son Thomas who was already working the farms there, described as “uplands, salt meadows, and ledges.” The Newport farm went to the eldest son, John Jr. Son, Samuel, received half of his land in Portsmouth he had purchased from Thomas Cornell, another of our ancestor grandfathers. Reflective of the time, his two youngest daughters received only £5 each and some household goods.

The opening of his will was beyond the usual “being of sound mind and body”:

 In The Name of God Amen, I John Bailey of Newport in ye Collony of Rhoad Island and Providence Plantations In New England yeoman Being in Good health of Body and of a Perfect Sound Diposing mind memory and understanding Praised Be the Lord Therefore Considering Ye Uncertainty of this my Naturall Life and the Necessity of Settling this my Temporal Estate In Order to my Great Change when It shall please the Lord to Call me hence Do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament (That is to Say) Principally and first of all I give and Recommend my Soul unto the Hands of My Creator hopeing for the Sake and upon the account of the Sole merits of Jesus Christ my only Saviour & Redeemer to Be Everlastingly Saved and my Body I Commit to the Earth therein to Be Decently Buried at the Discretion of My Executor Herein after nominated. And As to that Temporal Estate it Hath Pleased the Lord to Bless me with in this Life after all my Just Debts and funerall Expences are Honestly paid and Discharged I Give Devise and Dispose of the Same as followeth.

The will also reached beyond the grave anticipating squabbles among the children over his estate:

I Give all the Remaining Part of Personall Estate undisposed of unto my Son Thomas Bailey and for the Preventing all Differences which may happen to arise amongst my Children or Grand Children Concerning my Estate or ye Estate by my Daughter Ruth Late Deceased Do therefore further Declare my Mind and It Is my Will that If any of the Legatees Herein Before named, Children or Grand Children will not Conform to and Rest Satisfied with my manner of Disposeing, ordering or Giving the Same that then & In Such Case the Portion of Legacy of Him, Her or they that shall move any Suit In Law or Disturbance Shall Revert to my Executor to Enable Him the Better to Defend ye other Part of my Estate against Such Suit or Disturbance.

Generation Three

Being several sons down the line for inheritance, Lt. Thomas Bailey (1690-1740) went to his father’s land in Little Compton across the Sakonnet River and just south of Fall River and Tiverton. Little Compton belonged to Massachusetts until incorporated into Rhode Island in 1747. His older brother, William, had already settled onto farmland nearby. Thomas was living in Little Compton by 1712, age 22 - and perhaps earlier - when he married Mary Wood (1691-1745). Hers was the John and Mary Wood family who lost 6 children within 8 days in 1712. She is our Richard Warren Mayflower descendant link.

Mary and Thomas had ten children between 1713 and 1733, all born in Little Compton. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Little Compton was a modest, sparsely settled agricultural community with a population of just over 600. Little Compton Families says Thomas was the richest man in town at the time. The Thomas and Mary family lived in an early 1700’s home built in the center chimney style, still standing at 14 Grinnell Road.

Thomas Bailey House in Little Compton
Built about 1700, now in an exclusive neighborhood
Thomas died in 1740 at age 50 and Mary in 1745, age 54. Both are buried in the historic Little Compton Old Commons Ground behind the Congregational Church. In his will, he gave his wife and daughter, both named Mary, each half of the household goods and use of the best room in the house.  The sons received various amounts of money, land, cows, horses.  He had lands at Freetown with saw, grist, and fulling mills that he gave to a son, Oliver.

Lt. Thomas Bailey Headstone
Old Commons Burying Ground, Little Compton, RI
The Bailey Brook Farm in East Greenwich, RI was founded in 1677, likely by his his brother, Hugh. Listed on the National Historic Register, the property is still operated by the Bailey family as a dairy farm, 2068 South County Trail, East Greenwich, RI, 4 miles out of Providence.  

Another Bailey Farm is located on the island at 373 Wyatt Road, Middletown, RI, owned by the Bailey family until the 19th century. The farm has been reduced from more than 100 acres to about 45 acres, and the Old Bailey Lot Cemetery is nearby, likely once on the original farm.

The Historic Bailey Farm, Middletown, RI
William Bailey is our tenth and Lt. Thomas Bailey our ninth great-grandfather.

Lt Thomas’ son, Thomas Bailey, Jr. is a Revolution patriot, held prisoner in 1776 on the English prison ship, “Lord Sandwich” in New York. Another generation down the line in Little Compton, an 8th great-grand mother married into the Hathaway family. More to come on these families when we look at our Little Compton families.

Migration map:  Portsmouth/Newport, Fall River, Tiverton, Little Compton, Freetown
*Last death or immigration of the Aquidneck families
Lt. Thomas Bailey moved to Little Compton by 1712
Richard Borden moved to Fall River before 1694
John died in Portsmouth in 1716
Joseph moved to Freetown in 1712
George Brownell died in Portsmouth in 1718
Sarah Brownell Borden moved to Freetown between 1709 and 1712
Innocent Brownell Borden moved to Tiverton before 1694
Thomas Cooke moved to Tiverton by 1698
Mary Corey Cooke moved to Tiverton by 1698
Mary Earle Corey died in Portsmouth in 1717
Martha Earle Wood died in Portsmouth in 1696
Sarah Earle Cornell moved to Tiverton by 1681
Grace Parsons Bailey Lawton died in Newport in 1677
Susannah Pearce Brownell died in Portsmouth in 1743
Philipa Shearman Chase moved to Freetown in 1672
Mary Walker Earle died in Portsmouth in 1718
William Wood moved to Dartmouth in 1667
Lt. John Wood moved to Little Compton by 1681

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Portsmouth Parsons Family: A Reluctant Wife

The two decades of the Great Migration (1620-1640) have passed and England is in the midst of their English Civil War, a clash between the tyrant Charles I and his parliament, when the last of our Portsmouth families crossed the Pond - the Parsons in the mid-1640’s and the Baileys in the 1650’s.

Hugh Parsons (1613-1684) was born in Great Torrington, Devonshire, England in 1613 and has an unknown immigration date.  An arrival date of about 1645-46 would have coincided with roiling times in Great Torrington related to the English Civil war. If so, Hugh would have been about mid-30’s.

Hugh first showed up in Portsmouth records in 1658 when he was on jury duty, and later in 1662 as constable, 1663 as a freeman, 1667 enlisting in a troop of horse, and 1673 testifying in the Thomas Cornell murder trial. 

There is a great deal of confusion around when Hugh married and with whom he had daughters, Grace and Hannah. There were three Hugh Parsons in the New England area at the same time, one of whom was tried in Boston for witchcraft in 1652. At least one historian has speculated the witchcraft and Portsmouth Hugh Parsons are the same, but they have different death dates.  

The usually reliable Torrey New England Marriages for the Portsmouth Hugh Parsons is totally confusing. It lists Hugh’s marriage to Elizabeth England, widow of Wm, about 1635-1640 or after 1641, Portsmouth but no note what the Portsmouth location means. We know Hugh was not in Portsmouth this early or he would have shown up in some town records. Another alternative interpretation is that he married an Elizabeth in England, and this Elizabeth is the mother of his two children.

By 1662, Hugh married second wife, also Elizabeth (1613-after 1684), widow of John Wood living on land adjoining Hugh’s in Portsmouth. John Wood had died in 1655, so it makes sense that the widower Hugh married the widow Elizabeth, and that Hugh’s two daughters, Grace and Hannah, were born to a previous wife. Second wife Elizabeth helped prepare the corpse of Rebecca Briggs Cornell  (the Killed Strangely lady) for burial. Both she and Hugh testified at the Thomas Cornell’s murder trial in 1673. 

Hugh died in 1684 at age 70. His burial unknown, likely on his land. With only two daughters, this was the end of the Portsmouth male Parsons line. Hugh's will left his land and buildings to grandson, Hugh Bailey.

Daughter Hannah married first Henry Matteson in 1670  and they had two children, Henry and Hannah - that had to be confusing around the dinner table. Secondly, she married Charles Hazleton of Kings  Town, RI, in 1693, no children from the second marriage. She died the year after her father, Hugh.

Daughter Grace Parsons (1634/44-1677), the earlier birth year based on her marriage year in 1653 when she would have been age 18, was most likely born in America. She married William Bailey, Jr (1634-1670) from an adjoining Portsmouth farm in about 1653 and they had five children, all sons. 

In 1661, husband William and a neighbor, Thomas Lawton, agreed that William would have 60 acres of Lawton’s farm in a hunting swamp lying on one side of the farm on which Hugh Parsons lived. We know, then, that Parsons, Lawton, and Bailey were all in the same neighborhood. The agreement goes on to say that William would have the land for his lifetime and if his wife Grace kept herself a widow after her husband’s death, then she was also to have it for the full term of Thomas Lawton’s life and three years afterward. It appears to be an odd arrangement in which Lawton sells the land to Bailey, but with conditions which also included upkeep of the property and that William was not allowed to resell the land, so this wasn’t just a lease. More of this in a minute.

Grace was about 35 years old when William died in 1670 and she married, secondly, Thomas Lawton from an adjoining farm who had sold/leased land to William. Thomas was about the same age as Grace’s father, around 60 years old.  
George Lawton Farmstead in Lawton's Valley, Portsmouth
Thomas Lawton and his brother George were signers of the Portsmouth Compact in 1638 and early settlers in Portsmouth so they both had substantial land from grants. Thomas and George had land adjoining each other in Portsmouth, now known as Lawton’s Valley, and George's original historic farm house is still standing. George was an overseer of Hugh's will in 1684. 

Was Grace forced into an arrangement with the elderly Thomas Lawton in order to save the property for which William made conditional arrangements in 1661? Was her still living neighbor and father, Hugh,  complicit in the arrangement?

Things were clearly not going well for Grace at this point. 

In June 1674 Thomas Lawton drew up his will which starts out with “I do hereby declare that although Grace have not behaved herself towards me as a wife ought to do towards a husband, yet for the manifestation of my care of her, I do hereby give, bequeath unto her all the goods that are yet remaining in my custody of those that were hers when I married her and also one good feather bed and bolster; also 12 pounds per annum for life in lieu of all right she has.”

In June 1676 town records show that Grace “having presented her many grievances to the town often, and to the Assembly several times, for due and sufficient maintenance, she being much neglected in her husband’s absence; it was therefore ordered by the Assembly that 6 shillings per week in silver be paid her or her order during her life, or until her said husband Thomas Lawton shall come himself, or maintain her. During his absence or neglect, the said sum of 6 shillings per week shall be paid by his agent Daniel Lawton (Thomas’ 22 year old son), and an Inventory of moveable goods in her custody be taken, which inventory Daniel Lawton shall have. Grace to have the privilege of chamber she is now possessed of, and use of necessary movables, and the rights of her or any of her children now or in the future to any estate are not cut off.

In April 1677 town records show Thomas Lawton made agreement with 23 year old stepson John Bailey whereby Grace, “the present wife of Thomas Lawton,” should receive 10 pounds per year from John Bailey, and Elizabeth Shearman, daughter of Thomas Lawton, should have 3 pounds/year. In consideration of these, John Bailey was to have lease of the dwelling house, land, and orchard for term of time Grace lived without changing her name by marriage. The term of tenancy not to expire until one year after death or marriage of Grace. On the same date, he sold John Bailey all his household goods except a bedstead, chairs, etc.

Grace died the same year at age 42. We can only speculate on the cause of death. Her burial is unknown.

Grace and William’s second son, John Bailey (1653-1736) continued our ancestry in the Bailey line.

Hugh Parsons was our 11th great-grandmother and Grace our 10th great-grandmother.