Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Before continuing on with some of the more serious stories concerning my
Willard family relations and the Indian wars in New England, there's one
story about how a Sawyer cousin escaped death.

Deacon Josiah Sawyer was the son of William Sawyer and Hannah Houghton
(also related to me from my Houghton line) and grandson of Thomas Sawyer.
He was born in Lancaster, Ma. in 1714 but at the time of this story in 1735
he was living in Bolton, Ma. with his father. He would later go on to be a
Deacon of the church in Berlin, Ma.

I'll let author William Richard Cutter describe the incident:

"While returning home one evening afoot, as was his custom, an Indian
waylaid him, just as he was descending the hill north of the Quaker
Sawyer dodged the upraised tomahawk and took to his
heels. Fortunately for him,
he was a good runner, for he was unarmed.
The savage soon saw that he was
outclassed, and gave up the pursuit.
By measurement the next day it was found
that one of the leaps, as the
footprints showed, was sixteen feet. That leap is
famous in Berlin history."

(William Richard Cutter, Historic Homes and Places and Genealogical and
Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Middlesex County, Massachusetts
N.Y., N.Y., Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908 p 1379)

Now two things about this tale makes me smile. One is the wording of the first
sentence. On a first casual reading, it might make you think it was poor Josiah's
habit to be waylaid by Indians while walking home.

The second is the image of the leap measuring. It must have occurred while a
party of Josiah's neighbors were looking for the Indian and following the
tracks of the chase. I wonder how they measured the jump, did they actually
measure it? And was it actually 16 feet, or did it grow in the retelling?

Finally, did his escape from his Indian pursuer and his miraculous leap perhaps
inspire Josiah Sawyer's calling to the clergy?

For if it did, then I suppose we could call it a leap of faith!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm honored to have been been awarded the "Kreativ Blogger Award"
by Colleen at CMJ Office , Gena Philibert Ortega at Gena's Genealogy
and the author of Taylorstales-Genealogy .

Thanks very much to all three of you and I might I add that the
feeling is mutual. I have enjoyed reading your blogs!

The Rules:
1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person for whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 5 other bloggers.
4. Link to those sites on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

I'm going to have to do some looking around and see who I
can give this award to who hasn't already received it!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Randy Seaver over at Genea-musings has a weekly feature called Saturday Night
Fun. This past Saturday it was "Who's Number 21?" Because the date was Feb. 21st,
Randy asked us which of our ancestors was number 21 on our Ahnentafel list. Now
that would be one of our eight great great grandmothers, and in my case, she would be
Elizabeth Coburn (or Colburn). Unfortunately, she belongs to a branch of my
family where I know somethings about when but not a lot about where.

Elizabeth was born in Oxford County, Maine, possibly in the town of Newry, on 10
Aug, 1842 to Wesley(Westley) Coburn and Lucinda Stow. She is often referred to
as Lucy Elizabeth Coburn so it's possible her first name was actually Lucinda,perhaps
after her mother. She was the youngest of four children. She married Nathaniel
S. Barker, the son of Nathaniel Barker and Huldah Hastings. I don't have a date of
marriage as yet but it would have to be sometime before 1862 when Elizabeth's
oldest daughter Huldah Barker was born.

Nathaniel S. Barker died in 1884, but Elizabeth lived on another twenty years, dying
on 15 Nov 1904 in Bethel, Maine where she was living with her son, my great
grandfather Frank W. Barker.

Not much information compared to some of my other ancestors but more than I have for
John Cutter West!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


It seems as though my Willard and Sawyer relations had more than their share of
adventurous and sometimes fatal encounters with Indians well into the 18th century.

As I mentioned previously, Cyprian Stevens had married Mary Willard, one of
Simon Willard's daughters, and their family was prominent in the continuing
settling of the New England wilderness. Their son Joseph Stevens and his
family were living in Rutland, Ma. on the morning of 14 Aug, 1723
when tragedy struck:

"... after family devotions and breakfast, he and his four sons went to Meeting
and were surprised by five hostile Indians. While Captain Stevens made his
escape in the bushes, two sons, Samuel and Joseph, were slain and scalped,
and the other two Phineas and Isaac, carried away prisoners to Canada. The
pluck of Phineas, who carried his younger brother on his back when he was
exhausted, saved him from being slaughtered to get him out of the way or left
to die alone in the forest. It was more than a year before the boys were
redeemed. A subscription was taken in the Framingham church, where the
Stevens family had been members, April 19, 1724. The father made two trips
to Canada and returned finally with Isaac August 19, 1725. Isaac was much
attached to his Indian foster mother and would have preferred to stay with
her, it is said. The cost of this ransom and other misfortunes impoverished
Captain Stevens and he died in want, Nov. 15, 1769."

((Ellery Bicknell Crane, Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical
and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts N.Y. N.Y,
Lewis Publishing Company,1907 p 277 ))

Meanwhile their cousin, Reverend Joseph Willard, the minister of Rutland,
was out hunting when he was attacked by other members of the
Indian war party:

"Being out with his gun on August 14th, hunting, or to collect fodder for
the coming winter, he was surprised by two Indians, — one of the Indians'
guns missed fire, the other did no execution. Mr. Willard returned the fire and
wounded one of them, it is said, mortally ; the other closed in with Mr. Willard ;
but he would have been more than a match for him, had not other three come
to his assistance. And it was some considerable time before they killed Mr.
Willard. "

((Jonas Reed and Daniel Bartlett, A History of Rutland: Worcester County,
Massachusetts, from Its Earliest Settlement, with a Biography of Its First Settlers
Worcester, Ma, Mirrick & Bartlett, Printers, 1836))

Another account says the young Stevens boys witnessed his cousin's death before
being taken to Canada. Phineas was 16 years old and during his captivity learned
much about the Indian's methods of war and hunting, and in his adulthood would
become, as we'll see, one of the leading Indian fighters of the colony.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


By now I don't think there's anyone in America who hasn't heard about the
Facebook Terms of Service controversy. NBC Nightly News even did a segment
on it today. I'm not good at legalese but I believe it boiled down to anything we
posted would still be archived there even if we should discontinue our memberships.
Due to the reaction that followed, Facebook has gone back to the previous Terms
of Service but the damage has been done and some of my fellow Genea-bloggers
have left Facebook.

The question has been asked why there has there not been as fierce a reaction by
the genealogy blogging community to Facebooks action as there was to Ancestry
last year when contents of blogs turned up on Ancestry? I think the reason is that
there is a bit of difference in what Ancestry did from Facebook. As I recall(and if
I'm wrong, folks, please correct me.) the Ancestry incident involved using the
cached blog entries in a "Internet Biographical Collection " that only paying
subscribers to could view. The authors had not given permission for
this and felt their copyright notices had been violated. Genealogy bloggers protested
vigorously, and Ancestry removed the material from

Now with Facebook, we have posted whatever information about ourselves we wish.
It's our choice to share with this with others but sometimes we find out we have shared
with more "others" than we intended, because what we share with our Friends is also
shared with their Friends who may not know. So privacy is an issue. And if we post
research to Facebook, either by Notes or by a blog feed, we're also sharing, but in most
cases its information we already posted on our blogs, so it could just as easily be found
by someone Googling "genealogy blogs" even if we leave Facebooks and all our posts
there were deleted.

Yahoo has a similar TOS to the one Facebook tried to change to and a message board
I've been on for years discussed it because there were some folks posting stories to it
who worried about copyright matters. I decided I had no problem with it because I
wanted to share my stories with my friends. I have the same viewpoint on sharing my
genealogical research so I wasn't as upset with Facebook as I was with Ancestry.

In the past week because of information I posted on Facebook, I've come into contact
with two West cousins, one I didn't know about and one I haven't had contact with in
years. They might have eventually found my blog online, or maybe not. Perhaps if and
when I leave Facebook, someone else might stumble across my Notes there and contact
me, the same way I've found people through years old posts on Genforum message
boards. And I've had people from family, high school, college, and work "Friend" me
as other reasons to stay on.

So, speaking only for myself, that's why I was not as angry about Facebook as I was
about the Ancestry incident.

Besides, who'd take care of my Lil' Green Patch if I left?

Probably not the most coherent discussion of the matter you folks will read about the
whole affair, but it's the best I could do.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Well, it's that time of year again! It's the Carnival of Genealogy's Second
Annual iGene Awards, when geneabloggers choose the best posts from
their blogs for 2008 in five categories. This took me longer than I thought
it would because I had 214 posts last year and I found myself going through
them with a critical eye as to the writing. Alas, this left me no time to come
up with a comedy routine or a medley of song parodies about each winner
such as the ones Billy Crystal used to do for the Oscars.

But here, at last, are my award winners.

Best Picture goes to the postcard photo of my grandfather Floyd E West Sr.
in his World War 1 uniform. My Aunt Dorothy gave me this
during our visit last August.

Best Screenplay is awarded to the Pursuit of David Robbins series. I'd cast
Harrison Ford as Sheriff Lewis Loomis, Liam Neeson as David
Robbins, and perhaps Tobey Maguire as young Daniel Ellingwood.

Best Documentary for 2008 goes to the Levi Ames series about his trial and
execution. I almost gave this Best Screenplay but I couldn't come
up with an actor that I could "see" as Levi.

Best Biography winner is the autobiographical Granduncle Clarence Remembers
series. You can't beat a firsthand account, and it's a good fit with the
previous year's memories from my Aunt Dorothy.

Best Comedy has to be A Flutaphone Lullabye which concluded the epic search for
49 Genealogical Uses for a Flutaphone, a quest given me by Janice
Brown of Cow Hampshire. (Janice, we miss you!). Click on the
flutaphones label at the end of the post to see all 49 uses, if you dare!

And that concludes this year's West in New England iGene Awards. Goodnight,
and Good Luck!

Written for the 66th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

Friday, February 13, 2009



The annual Ellingwood Reunion will be held at Jerry Ellingwood's home, August 8th from 10 am until everyone has left, rain or shine. Each family should bring their own meat and something to share such as salads, desserts, veggie plates etc. Whatever your specialty may be, we will enjoy it. Since this a family event, please do not bring alcoholic beverages. There will be games for the young and young-at-heart, a display table of family genealogy, memorabilia, and articles and pictures. We are always looking to add to this so check your closets for something from your family branch. We want everyone to be represented. Copies of the “Ellingwood & Dunham” book by Florence E. O’Connor will be available to purchase (at cost). They have been put in notebook style so that individuals can add their own lines and other information to the book. Be sure you have written down things you and your family have experienced this year (births, marriages, achievements, etc.) as we want to keep our information updated. What seems to be insignificant to you now, may one day be important to someone generations ahead. The annual news letter will be available. If you have something you'd like to have in the Ellingwood Newsletter, please contact Lori Grippo at Come with new ideas as to what can be added to make this event fun for everyone. Weather permitting, there will be party boat rides on Norway Lake, and families can use the Norway Beach for swimming. Hosts, Jerry and Linda have had, in the past, bushes full of blackberries they have generously shared. Some people have been known to "get lost" in the bushes! Grills and drinks are provided. See you there!

Here is the reunion “board.”

Jerry Ellingwood, President

12 Harrison Road

Norway, Maine 04268

(207) 743-5927


Brady Ellingwood, Vice President

Bonnie (Ellingwood) Akinson, Treasurer/ Secretary

Al Akinson, Website Management




Julie Dyck & Melody Gammon, Activities Leaders

Lori Grippo, Family Historian / Newsletter Editor

9 Vienna Court

Burnt Hills, New York 12027

Phone: (518) 884-4077

Fax: (518) 884-4077 (Call first)


Thursday, February 12, 2009


I've had a very interesting few weeks thanks to my online genealogy research!
I'm going to discuss them in the order in which they happened, but I won't give
full names unless or until I have these folks permission.

The first contact was from a collector of items related to the history of Groton.
He has documents and items related to my Prescott ancestors and as soon as
I have talked with him and have his permission to talk about those, I'll have more
to tell you about that.

The second was from Lori Grippo, a cousin from my Ellingwood line who is a
direct descendant of my ancestors Asa Freeman Ellingwood and his wife Florilla
Dunham. Lori publishes the newsletters and brochures that are given out at the
yearly Ellingwood Family Reunion and I will give the information for that in my
next post. She included some Ellingwood Family links in her email and last night
while following them I discovered a picture of Asa and Florilla that I'd never seen

Way back when I first started blogging, I mentioned how a nice lady named Gayle Nee
had helped me with some information about my White Family. The other day I got an
e-mail from her saying she had found my blog and my mention of her. Gayle was one
of the first folks that gave me a helping hand and I've tried to follow her (and others')
example by sharing what I've found with others. Thanks again, Gayle!

And finally, just last night I was contacted on Facebook by a fellow descendant
of John Cutter West. He's descended from Leonidas West, the younger brother of
my ancestor Jonathan Phelps West. We've already shared some files today!

So once again genealogy blogging and networking have brought me in touch with
relatives and other great people!

Sunday, February 08, 2009


King Phillip's War was but the first of a series of conflicts between the
New England colonists and the Indians but those that followed were often
extensions of the wars between England and France. The first of these
was part of the Nine Year's War in Europe and was known in the colonies
as King William's War, because it began when William of Orange drove
the last Stuart king from the throne of England in 1689. William joined with
other European rulers in a "Grand Alliance" against France, war ensued,
and eventually the hostilities spread to the American colonies.

Both the English and French made use of Indian allies and the fighting
stretched from Canada to New England and New York. By this time
many of the families who'd evacuated their homes during King Philip's
War had returned to their towns to rebuild, including my Houghton, Willard,
Prescott, and Sawyer ancestors, and once more their lives were touched
by warfare.

One of the more interesting stories of my ancestors in this period
is that of Thomas Sawyer, Jr. He was born on 2 Jul 1649, the son of Thomas
Sawyer, Sr. and Marie Prescott, and was the first white child born in Lancaster,
the town his grandfather John Prescott had founded. As noted in Cyprian Steven's
letter to the Governor in 1676, he was one of those who'd taken shelter in the
Lancaster garrison houses during the Nipmuc Indian attack of March. By that time
he was married to Hannah Lewis (21 Sep 1672). After the war he and his family
returned to the town where Thomas had a sawmill where the Sawyer family had
another close encounter with Indians. The story is told in William Richard
Cutter's Historic Homes and Places and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs
Relating to the Families of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (Lewis historical
publishing company, 1908) and you can view it on Googlebooks here:

"On October 16, 1695, Thomas Sawyer Jr., his son Elias, and John Bigelow of
Marlborough, were at work in his saw mill when they were surprised and captured
by the Indians. The Indians took their captives to Canada, and turned Bigelow
and young Sawyer over to the French to ransom. The Indians kept the other Thomas
Sawyer to put to death by torture. Sawyer proposed to the French governor that he
should build a saw mill on the Chamblay river, in consideration of saving his life
from the Indians, and giving the three captives their freedom. The French needed
the mill and were glad of the opportunity. But the Indians had to be reckoned with.
They insisted on burning Thomas Sawyer at the stake. They knew him and knew
he was a brave man, not afraid of torture and death. The crafty French governor
defeated their purpose by a resort to the church. When Sawyer was tied to the stake,
a Fench friar appeared with a key in his hand, and so terrible did he paint the tortures
of purgatory, the key of which he told them he had in his hand ready to unlock, that
they gave up their victim. Indians fear the unseen more than the real dangers, and
doubtless the friar took care not to specify what he would do in case the auto-de-fe
was carried on. Sawyer built the mill successfully, the first in Canada, it is said.
He and Bigelow came home after seven or eight months of captivity. Elias Sawyer
was kept a year longer to run the mill and teach others to run it. The captives were
well treated after the French found them useful to them."

It's certainly an interesting story. My only question about it is the part about Elias
Sawyer being left behind to run the mill, since he was born in 1689 and would only
have been 6 or at most 7 years old at the time. But there were three older Sawyer
sons andperhaps it was one of them instead of Elias taken in the raid. At any rate,
it was a better outcome than might have been expected in such a situation.

Other relatives of Thomas Sawyer Jr. would not be as fortunate.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


The 65th Carnival of genealogy is up over at Becky Wiseman's
kinnexions blog and the subject this time around is the
Genealogy Happy Dance, that moment when we discover something
in our research that makes us want to stand up and cheer. There's
50 interesting articles from my fellow genea-bloggers. They're
well worth the read and you'll never know what you might learn
from them. This time around, I discovered another distant cousin,
Cathy Palm at Detour Through History who is another descendant
of Stephen Hopkins!

Thanks Becky for the great job!

And now the call for submissions for the 66th Carnival of Genealogy:

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, to be hosted
by Jasia at Creative Gene, will be: iGene Awards, The Best of The
It's Academy awards time... time for the Academy of Genealogy
and Family History, aka AGFH, to honor their best blog posts of 2008*
in the following 5 categories:
  • Best Picture - Best old family photo that appeared on your blog in 2008. Tell us which you liked best and why.

  • Best Screen Play - Which family story that you shared in 2008 would make the best movie? Who would you cast as your family members?

  • Best Documentary - Which was the best informational article you wrote about a place, thing, or event involving your family's history in 2008?

  • Best Biography - Which was the best biographical article you wrote in 2008?

  • Best Comedy - Which was the best funny story, poem, joke, photo, or video that you shared on your blog in 2008?
Start digging back into your archives and choose which of your blog posts deserve to be recognized for outstanding achievement. This is not a competition between bloggers but a chance for you to spotlight your own shining efforts at recording your genealogy and family history in 2008*.

There is no nomination process. You just need to announce your winning blog posts for the 5 categories mentioned above in an article on your blog and submit it to the Carnival of Genealogy. Please act as your own "award presenter" by writing an introduction and include it in the "Remarks" box on the BlogCarnival submission form.

The deadline for submissions is February 15, 2009.

*We're going to define "2008" to include any posts written in 2008 as well as those written Jan. 1-Feb. 15, 2009 as well (so that new bloggers can participate).

Submit your posts here.

This was fun last year and I'm looking forward to this years edition.

Hmm. It also means I better get started reviewing my blog !

Sunday, February 01, 2009


I think most genealogists have at one time or another experienced the Genealogy
Happy Dance, that moment when you find some long looked for information or when
you discover something you didn't know at all about your ancestor(s). Reactions
range from exclamations of "Wow!" or "YESSSS!" to outright cheers. In my case,
it's usually a "Wow" while inwardly I'm doing a mental Snoopy Happy Dance, because
truthfully, if I actually danced it would be a sight so dreadful to behold, Western
Civilization as we know it would come to an end.

My first Happy Dance occurred the night I discovered a treasure trove at
of Revolutionary War Pensions Files for John Ames and Asa Barrows which led to
even more files for my Barker, Coburn, Upton, Hastings and Houghton ancestors. It
was the first time I'd found records that contained written memories of my ancestors.

My Aunt Dot has been the provider of my two biggest Happy Dances. First there was
the folder she gave me with pictures of my Grandfather and Great Grandfather West
and pictures of Great Grandmother Lottie Barker and her four sisters. There was also
Pop’s WWI discharge papers from the Army and a copy of a certified abstract of Arvilla
Ames' and John C (Cutter) West’s marriage record. The best part for me were the thirteen
handwritten pages with memories of her and my father's childhood in Maine, stories I'd
never heard before.

That Happy Dance was surpassed last August when Cheryl and I visited Dot and her
family in Ohio and they surprised me by giving me the West Family Bible. This on top
of the photographs of Pop in uniform and of the Barker Family reunion. That was my
Biggest Happy Dance moment.

My latest Happy Dance has involved the information I've found about Simon Willard
and just last night something I discovered over on Googlebooks about Thomas Sawyer
Junior which I'll be posting later.

Of course, being that they were from the Puritan era, the Happy Dances I did for those
were danced deep in my subconscious. I don't want them spinning over in their graves,
after all, over their descendant's outrageous behavior. (Bad enough I was born a Papist!)

But when I find something more about my Mom's Irish ancestors, you can bet my Happy
Dance will be an Irish jig!

Written for the 65th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.


I found a few more things during my research on Simon Willard that
touched on some of my ancestors. One of them is this transcription at by Janice Farnsworth of "Lancaster in Philip's War:
The Early Records of Lancaster, Massachusetts 1643 - 1725 Edited by
Henry S. Nourse, A.M. Lancaster, 1884 (page 107)

"Lancaster March 11, 1675/6 - Letter to the Governor and Counsell -"A
humble Petition of the poor distressed people of Lancaster (excerpt)
"...many of us heare in this prison, have not bread to last us one month &
our other provisions spent & gon, for the genrallyty, our Town is drawn
into two garisons - sixteen soulders....we areseartaynly a bayt (bait) for
the enemy. We are sorrowful to leave the place but hoplesse to keep it
unlesse mayntayed by the Cuntrey....our women cris dus daily...which dus
not only fill our ears but our hearts full of Greefe and makes us humbly
Request yo'r Hon'rs to send a Gard of men & that if you please so comand
we may have Carts about fourteen will re-move the whool eight of which has
presed long at Sudbury but never came for want of a small gard of men, the
whooll that is, all that are in the Garison, Kept in Major Willards house
which is all from y're Hon'rs most humble servants & suplyants -
Lancast'r March 11, 1675/6 Jacob FFarrar
John Houghton Sen'r
John Moore
John Whittcomb
Job Whittcomb
Jonathan Whittcomb
John Houghton Jun'r
Cyprian Steevens

The other garrison are in like distresse & soe humbly desire yo'r like
pitty & ffatherly care, having widows & many fatherless children - the
number of carts to Carey away this garison is twenty carts. Yo'r Hon'rs
Humble pettisioners
John Prescott Sen'r
Tho. Sawyer Sen'r
Tho. Sawyer Jun'r
Jonathan Prescott
Tho Willder
John willder
Sarah Wheeler, Wid.
Widow Ffarbanks
John Rigby
Nathaniell Wilder
John Rooper
Widow Rooper

The whole is in the handwriting of Cyprian Steevens.
[Massachusetts Archives, LXVII, 156.] "

Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth

What struck me reading this was the names of those in the garrison. They include my
direct ancestors John Prescott, Thomas Sawyer, Senior and Thomas Sawyer, Junior
in the second garrison two of my Houghton relatives in the first. It reminded me again
of how many of my ancestors were so close to a violent death during the Indian wars
of New England. Some, as I've mentioned in earlier posts, did not escape it. One of
those things that historians sometimes ponder is "What If?" If more of my colonist
ancestors had died, I and many more of their descendants wouldn't be around to
trace our ancestry.

As it was, Thomas Sawyer Junior was to have another encounter with Indians
some years later, and I'll be telling that story soon.

Thank you to Janice Farnsworth for granting me permission to use her transcription!