Saturday, June 30, 2012


In light of the recent rash of bear sightings in unexpected places here in
Massachusetts (such as on Cape Cod), I thought I'd share this story cousin
Florence O'Connor included in her book The Ancestors and Descendants
of Asa Freeman Ellingwood and Florilla (Dunham) Ellingwood. It's told
by my 2x great granduncle Isaac Harris Ellingwood, the brother of my
2x great grandfather Asa Freeman Ellingwood:

"                              FOUR LARGE BEARS
I can remember a bear experience that I had. Bears had been troubling our
sheep so we were on the lookout for them.We were on a hunt one day in
the pasture. I sent the hired man and boy into the back field to see if they
had bothered the sheep during the night. When Willie and I came into the
field we crept along and there not 20 feet from us were four large bears.
There was no time to do anything but to face them. I sent Willie back for
the other men while I stood there and watched to see what they would do,
so I loaded the gun with buckshot and fired. The bears disappeared, one
went up a tree and the others I could not see I suppose they were all up
the tree and rushed up. But they were not. I looked off a litte way and
there were two eating the carcass of a sheep that they had killed. I
decided it was time to fire again, and cocking my gun, I fired. One of the
bears jumped about ten feet. I expected her to come for me then, and I
had the other barrel of my gun in readiness. all would have gone well had
it not accidentally gone off. The bear came within ten feet of me and
stood there glaring. I dared not run and there was no time to reload. I was
certainly in somewhat of a serious predicament. The two bears in the tree
wanted to come down again and I had more than my hands full.

I had no desire to have four bear safter me at once. The two in the tree would
drop down a little and then go back up. It was a funny experience, but there was
no laugh in it for me.I hardly know what would have happened if help had not
come just then" (pp47-48).

And.....that's where it ends. But since I do know great great granduncle Isaac
wasn't eaten by bears, I'm pretty sure the encounter turned out alright for him.

But I can say with some forebearance, probably not for the bears.

Friday, June 29, 2012


The letters found by C. while remodeling the Fred Blanchard home show that families
in late 19th century America had problems and secrets like those that beset
families today; they were just better at hiding them. The following is a letter from
Columbia (Briggs)Ellingwood, Fred Blanchard's  former mother in law. Her late
daughter had been Fred's first wife and the mother of his three children, Helen,
Jessie and Adnah. Reading the letters it's important to keep in mind that all three
eventually turned out well despite the problems the letters discuss.

It's also important in regard to the following letter not to jump to a conclusion. What
might have been scandalous behavior back in the 1890's is oftimes totally innocent
in today's society. As the song goes, "In olden days a glance of stocking was looked
on as something shocking...".

So here are the images of the letter and my transcription: 

Mechanic Falls  November 30th 1898
Dear Son Fred you said in your last letter you wrote me now give  me a rest
but there was something I thought might do you good so I wrote some but
you have never answerd either of them but Fred I have never laid up
anything against either of you for I know you have poor health both of you
that makes lots of difference with us all I have a clear concince I know I
have allways tried to have the children hear to you and Annie and use her
well I have never said anything against her to them I can see just how it is I
was afraid it would be so

 (page 2)
when they got grown up I have had children enough of my own to know
how much a Mother had to put up with I didn't expect she could put up
with them as we Mothers have to with our own Children but I did hope
they could stay at home untill they had a home of their own God only
knows how I have felt for the Children because they couldn't see or
realize what they was doing no Child can until it is to late how many
Children have run away from good homes to have their own way and
ruind by so doing now you are thinking Jessie has a good place now
fred she is with me and for the price of her life I can't let her

(page 3)
go back there only to get her cloths the man told her she couldn't  stop
there any longer and do you want to know why I will tell you but don't
you let any one I told you this dont even tell Annie unless she will never
tell it to anyone Jessie has never told no one but me and she dont know
I am telling you I am down to my Brothers to see his Widdow and see if
she will Board Jessie and let her have use of the instrument to take
lessons on she will and let her Board here if you will pay what the raw
materials will cost and let her help her to make up the rest She hasn't
any thing to live on only her Pension so she will have to have that  

    (page 4)
now Fred if you ever tell what I am going to tell you as a secret I shall
never tell you anything come what will never tell Jessie I wrote this  to
you she came to me for advice Mr Trask hant what a Man ought to be if
I could see you Fred I would tell but dare not put it in black and white
for fear of trouble but I shant let her go back there only to get her clothes
Mrs Trask told her she might stay all Winter and help her do the work
oh Fred it is too bad but I thank God she came to me she didn't know
what to do the poor Girl is to be pittied if she hant done right she cant
see it she thinks she is the one who has been misused and she cant see
she is to blame but if she l.ives to have a Family of her own

(page 5)
she will see who was to blame Jessie cant do housework for a living she
hant strength I have tried her she will work then she will look pale no
Collar in her Lips or Ears if she comes here to board Mrs Hawks will fit her
for a teacher 15 dollars a quarter She is the one to fit her if she had 6
Bottles of Ayers Sassaparilla I think she would be lots better I dont say
without knowing  what it is for if you cant get it at wholesale I can if she
is sick I will take her home

(page 6)
I'll do the very best I can as I would have one for my own Child
Have got to close  let me know what you will do for her at once
If I had the means I would use it but I hant  God knows my Heart if we
deceiver ourselves and others God we can't deceive
Love to you both as dear Children
Mother of Old.

Despite all this early furor Jessie Blanchard eventually became the wife of J.J.
White, a successful and prosperous jeweler in Providence RI and the mother of
children of her own.


Two weeks ago while I was visiting the South Middleboro Cemetery in Middleboro
Ma. looking for graves of my Benson relatives I came across a set of headstones
that caught my attention even though I thought they were not for any of my relations.
Living in Massachusetts I've visited many old cemeteries and seen various methods
of preservation for deteriorating headstones such as the framing on these. But
there were two things about these that I had never seen before. One was the
concrete base. None of the other headstones in the cemetery had it and whoever
had made it was probably trying to both prop the stones up in a secure position and
prevent them from sinking into the ground:

The other item were the metal plates fastened to the backs of the stones. They
had more information added to the text of the original inscriptions(I've boldfaced
the parts I believe were added):

"Grandson Of The Nameless
Nobleman Of Plymouth
In Memory Of Mr John
LeBarron.       He Died
Aug 1 1801
Aged 79 Years  & 4 Months."

"In Memory Of Mrs
Mary -Raymond- Wife
Of Mr John LeBarron
She Died March 25 1791
Aged 60 Years & 8 Months

Repaired 1974 By R M LeBarron R D 1
Greenwood PA"

Next to these there was another repaired gravestone. The metal plate
was fastened to the front of this one:

"In Memory Of Martha-Benson- Widow Of 
William Parker-Who Died Oct 13 1777
In The 76th Year Of Her Life -Martha
Was Married First To James LeBarron-Son
Of The Nameless Nobleman Of Plymouth-
James Died May 10 1744 & Martha Married
William May15 1745-James Is Probably
Buried Here Beside Martha -As Is Her
Son LeBaron           Robert M LeBarron
                      R D 2                   1974 "

"The Nameless Nobleman of Plymouth" was a Frenchman, Dr. Francis LeBaron
who arrived in Plymouth in the late 1600's and made a place for himself in the
community. There's a great site here run by David Blanchette where you can learn
all about Dr. LeBaron's story. But then when I saw the second headstone with
the name "Martha Benson" I realized I must have a family connection with her.

 From what I've found so far online, it appears that it's a close connection: Martha
is the daughter of my 6x great grandparents John Benson and Elizabeth Briggs..

It's been 38 years since Robert Lebarron repaired those gravestones and fastened
the metal plates to them. I wonder if he is still alive. Thanks to him, I found the
grave of my 5x great grandaunt  Martha Benson

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Before I go on one of cemetery tours I usually check Find A Grave to see if
there are any relatives listed as being buried in towns I planned to visit. I
don't care if someone has already taken pictures; I want to take my own,
and if there isn't a picture, then I plan to post the one I've taken.(although
I'm woefully behind that at the moment).  I usually just look at the list of
interments, print out the list of photo requests, and then  write the names of
relatives to look for at the bottom of the list. But I'd left the list at home when I'd
set out for Middleboro.

When I got back here to my apartment and sure enough, I'd written Caleb
Benson on the South Middleboro Cemetery.  I hadn't spotted it on my own so
now I cheated and looked at the Find A Grave photo. No wonder I hadn't
spotted it: it wasn't a headstone, but one of those small ground level markers.
The next day I went back, found the stone and took my own picture.

That night when I shared the picture with Ellingwood cousin Mary Ennis, she
commented on the title "Rev."  Neither one of us had know he was a clergyman,
nor was there any indication of it in cousin Florence O' Connor's book on the
Ellingwoods. A Google search turned up a reference in Michael J. Maddigan's
South Middleborough: A History to a dispute in the Third Baptist Church between
Deacon Caleb Benson and a new minister. I also discovered other facts about Caleb
One was that he had a twin brother named Joshua.

The second and more fascinating was that several of Caleb's children were Loyalists
and were among the New Englanders who fled to Canada during the American
Revolution. Meanwhile, his daughter Content Benson was married to my 4x great
grandfather Asa Barrows who was a Minuteman and supporter of the Revolution.
As to Caleb's own sentiments, I have no clue as yet.Since he stayed in Massachusetts
I would think he was not a Loyalist but I could be wrong.

It's another thing to add to my list Family history questions to be answered! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


After my success finding relatives in the cemeteries along Rte 58 in
Carer and Plympton, Ma., I decided next to search in the nearby towns
of Middleboro and Rochester. I was especially hoping to find the grave
of my 5x great parents Caleb Benson and Deborah (Barrows) Benson.
The day I set out to search, though, I left my list of cemeteries in the towns
at home. When I realized it, I decided it was a nice day for a ride and I'd
just wing it.  I took the roundabout route, driving down Rte 58 and then
across to drive up Rte 105 in Middleboro and watching for cemeteries
along the way until I spotted the South Middleboro Cemetery by the
South Middleboro United Methodist Church.

My third cousin 4x removed.

I'm not sure how I'm related to these folks yet.

Benson Burial Plot

The gate to the plot.
The moment I got out of the car and walked through the entrance
into the cemetery I spotted a number of Benson headstones. Since
the Benson branch of my family tree has a lot of blanks I didn't recognize
most of the family members buried there so I made sure I took pictures
of every Benson grave. 

Grave of Consider Benton, brother of my ancestor Caleb Benton

The church was founded in 1748, which was the same period that my
ancestor Caleb Benson had lived. Yet I hadn't found his headstone there.
So where was Caleb Benson's grave?

Monday, June 25, 2012


In the previous post I mentioned I'd made another Ellingwood connection. K., the
sister of the young lady who'd found the Blanchard family letters told me that
her husband's grandmother had once been married to Elmer Ellingwood and
there had been a son, Elmer Jr. who had died at seven years old. So after checking
my data base I realized this was Elmer Merrill Ellingwood, my third cousin 1x

Elmer was another descendant of John Wesley Ellingwood, my great great
grandfather  Asa's older brother.  I've written about this branch of the family.
Its members moved around a lot and had more than its share of tragedy. When
K. sent me some images of newspaper clippings, I realized Elmer had continued
the family misfortunes. His first wife was Florence(Flossie) Riff who he'd wed
13Dec  1933. Elmer Jr. was born in 1933 and was then killed in 1943 in an accident
of some sort(I haven't found a record of it but K. tells me it was an accidental
death). By that time Elmer Sr and Flossie had divorced because he'd married
his second wife Lilian Wirtanen on 19Oct 1939.  By 1950 they had five children.

The following is a clipping K sent me. It's a wire service story from the
Youngstown Ohio Vindicator of June 28, 1950:

" 3 of 5 Children Die on Healthful Farm

East Windsor, Conn., June 28 (UP)
Elmer Ellingwood moved his family here from a Whitingham, Vt
lumber camp so his children would have a healthier and happier
life on a Connecticut farm.

Less than 24 hours after they arrived,  three of his five children
died in a small pond they were exploring on the tobacco farm
where Ellingwood was to begin work Monday.

Drowned were were Rollin, aged 10, Larry, 8 and six-year-old

This is the worst tragedy in a family all too well familiar with heartbreak.
Elmer had lost four children. Not only that, both his father Wesley
and brother Charles had died by self inflicted gunshots  six years
apart(1932 and 1938 respectively) in Vermont. Another brother, Edward,
had died after being hit by a truck. And It wasn't the last of it,
because twenty-eight years later daughter Jacklyn was a suicide by
drowning in Springfield, Ma. By that time there were five more children,
all daughters, in Elmer's family. Despite their losses, the family carried on.

Elmer passed away on 17May 1983 in Springfield, Ma.     

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I've expressed my belief many times here that sharing genealogical research
online is a good thing because of the things you can learn and the contacts you
make with people who've seen your family tree or genealogy blog. Here's another
case in point.

This last Tuesday I received this message from K.(I am not giving her full name
out of respect for her privacy)through my tree on Wikitree :
"Hi Bill, I bought a home that was owned by Fred H Blanchard. I am trying to find
information on his first wife and mother of his children Eliza Ann Ellingwood.
We found several letters from the children to their father but we can not find
much info on what happened to Lizzy...."

I checked my RM5 database here on  my computer. The only Eliza Ann
Ellingwood I could find was a daughter of my 2x great granduncle Isaac  Harris
Ellingwood who'd died in 1859  before she'd turned three years old. But when I  
doublechecked that against the source it came from, Florence O'Connor's book
on the Ellingwoods I realized I'd missed an entry: On page 37 under "Children
of Isaac and Columbia Ellingwood Eighth Generation"  is the following:

"Lizzie Ellingwood married ---? Blanchard
    Helen Blanchard(9) m. Lewis Whipple
    Jessie Blanchard(9) m. J. J. White
    Adna Blanchard (9)"

After kicking myself mentally for missing that, I used the information as a
starting point and using documents I found on FamilySearch and Ancestry,com
I was able to able to find more. This was what I sent back to C. along with some
of the documents I found:

"Hi K,
Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I needed to do some research
on this, since I somehow missed Eliza Ann when I was entering the
family into my data base. It might be because she was the second
child of Isaac Harris Ellingwood and Columbia Briggs named Eliza Ann.
The first had died two years before Eliza Ann Ellingwood Blanchard
was born. Eliza is my first cousin 3x removed.

 As best as I can figure out, she died sometime between the birth of
her son Adnah on Jan 14 1882 and Fred's marriage to Anna A Hutchinson
on Jan 10 1886. It's possible she died in childbirth or shortly
afterward which was all too common back then when many children were
born at home and infections were easy to develop. I've been trying to
find a record of her death or burial but so far no luck 

I don't know whether or not you already know what became of the
children so I thought I'd share what I've found about them They all
seem to have ended up in Rhode Island:

Helen was born May3 1879 in May 3 1869 in Milan, NH. She married Lewis
Whipple on Sept18, 1907 in Berlin, NH. Lewis was a construction foreman
from Providence R.I and Helen was a schoolteacher. I've traced them through
the U.S. census from 1910-1930 in Cranston and then Providence R.I. I found
no record of children. Lewis kept working in the carpentry and home construction
business but Helen apparently didn't continue with teaching.

Jessie was born on June 24h, 1880 in Milan. She married John Joseph
White on Jun 18th 1899 in Rhode Island. He was a jeweler working in Cranston
RI and eventually had his own company. The 1930 Census said he was
making $50,000 a year and the family was well enough off to afford a
cook. Jessie and JJ had three sons and one daughter: Frederick, Reginald,
Milton, and Patricia. Sometime after 1930 either JJ died or they were
divorced because Jessie remarried in 1946. Ironically it was to her
(very) distant cousin Clarence Howard Ellinwood.(all Ellingwoods/Ellinwoods
/Ellenwoods are descended from Ralph Ellinwood of Salem Ma.[1607-1673]).
She died a year later in Falmouth, Ma on July 29th 1947.

Adnah was born 14 Jan 1882 in Milan. He's an interesting person. I couldn't
find him on the Censuses and I suspect it is because he was out of the country
a lot. As early as 1912 he was visiting Honduras in Central America. He seems
to have worked out of Georgia and Alabama but by1918 on the WWI Draft
Registration card he gives his residence as being Cranston, R.I. and he was
working as the manager of the Blanchard Manufacturing Co. He died in
Jacksonville Florida on April 13th 1940 but was buried back in Cranston. I've
found no record of a wife or children." 


Now, K. is not related to the Blanchard family but as she said she and her
husband had found some letters because they had purchased the Blanchard
house and in the process of remodeling it have found letters hidden there.
They date from the late 1890's which was after Lizzie's death and Fred's
marriage to his second wife, Annie Hutchinson. When K. and her sister
C. searched online for information on Eliza Ann Ellingwood from Milan NH
they found my Wikitree entry, and because they contacted me, I've been able
to correct my database and add new names to it.

And there is an Ellingwood connection with their family after all. I'll talk about
and the letters in another posting. 


As I was leaving Plymouth after my visit to the Harlow Old Fort House, I
noticed a sign on a street corner that said "Forefathers' Monument". I'd
never heard of it so I decided to take a look. Besides, the street was
named Allerton St. How could I not drive up a street named after an

The National Monument to the Forefathers is situated at the top of a
hill and stands eighty-one feet tall. It was completed in 1888. When I
visited it mid-Thursday afternoon, I was the only one there. It's a shame
it doesn't draw more people because it's a beautiful piece of work.


A week ago I learned that the house built by my 8x great grandfather William
Harlow in Plymouth, Ma. still exists and was open for tours on Thursday afternoon.
Now I live about twenty miles from Plymouth and except for visiting Plimoth
Plantation about forty-five years ago I haven't visited the historical sites down
there. Considering how much of our family history took place in Plymouth and
the adjoining towns I decided it was time I fixed that. So yesterday I drove Ping
the Wonder Car down to visit the Harlow Old Fort House.

It was a nice day and I took one of the backroads, Rte 36, most of the way. I'm
glad I went now because in a week or so when people start visiting Plymouth
on vacation the traffic will be heavier. The Harlow House is located at 119 Sandwich
House just past Plymouth Center and right across from the Plymouth Fire Dept.
headquarters. I arrived twenty minutes before the start of the tour so I looked
around a bit and took a picture of one of the rooms through a window. I also
looked around the gift shop and the workshop where events and educational
programs are held. Pat, the young lady in charge, asked me to sign the visitors'
book and when I told her I was a Harlow descendant she asked if I could add
the details of my lineage. Luckily, I just happened to have a relationship
chart with me that I had printed out that morning.

The tour started at 2pm and there was only myself and an elderly couple from
Colorado.  Our guide was a gentleman named Ron who was very good. He
demonstrated the steps William Harlow would have taken in constructing a
wooden barrel(my ancestor was a cooper by trade) and then led us into the
common room for a discussion of what life was like for the Harlow family in
the late 1600's. The discussion continued in a third room and I was impressed
with how knowledgeable and enthusiastic Ron was talking about the history
of the house.

I won't go into specifics of Ron's tour; after all, if I did that there'd be no
reason for you to go and hear him yourself, and you really should do it if
you are in the Plymouth area on a Thursday afternoon. But I do want to
paraphrase something Ron said: how many people can say they've stood
on the same floor, in the same house, in the same location(the house has
not been moved) that their ancestors did centuries before?

Thanks to the Plymouth Antiquarian Society and their volunteers, I can say that!

((Admission for adults is $5.00, $2.00 for children. You can read more about the
Harlow House and the two other houses maintained by the Plymouth Antiquarian
Society here at their site.))