Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Back when first started researching my family's history I discovered my 9x great grandfather John Fobes. I couldn't find much information about him other than he was a Scotsman who'd come to Massachusetts and had originally lived in Duxbury before moving on to Bridgewater. But I did find some family trees online that fascinated me, including Scots ancestors with nicknames such as David "Trail the Axe" and  John "with the black lip" Fobes.

Here's the entry for John Fobes from Nahum Mitchell's History of Bridgewater, Massachusetts:

John Fobes (from Duxbury) was one of the original proprietors of Bridgewater, where he settled, and d, a. 1661; made his nuncupative will before William Brett and Arthur Harris; his wid. Constant, sister of Experience Mitchell, m. John Briggs of Portsmouth R. I. 1662.—he had John, Edward, Mary, Caleb, William, Joshua, and Elizabeth.—John d. at George Allen's in Sandwich 1661.—William m. Elizabeth I), of Constant Southworth a 1667, and settled finally at Little Compton, and was with Capt. Church in Philip's war.—Joshua fell with Capt. Michael Pierce of Scituate in that disastrous battle with the Indians near Attleboro’, in 1676.—Caleb went to Norwich. -p162

Mitchell's History of Bridgewater, Massachusetts,  Published By Edward Alden Bridgewater, Ma.1897

Friday, March 15, 2019


My Irish immigrant great grandparents John and Anna (Kelly) McFarland

((I wrote this back in 2008 when Borders Books was still in business))

We got a new book in at Borders last week for my "All
Things Local" section and the minute I saw it I knew I'd be
buying a copy. It's Peter F. Stevens' "Hidden History of the
Boston Irish" (trade paperback, $19.99 from History Press)
and a quick scan of the back made me grin. There was a
reference to Barney McGinniskin, who in 1851 became the
first Irishman on the Boston Police force. Barney announced
his arrival with: "Barney McGinniskin from the bogs of

I could picture him roaring that out, an "in your face"
declaration of his presence despite the opposition to his hiring
that Stevens details. Many of the objections against him were
all too familiar to the Irish immigrants of the early 19th
century: he was taking work away from native born
Americans, American culture was threatened by the influx
of low born, poorly educated foreigners, and worst of all,
they were Catholic!

Barney lost his place on the force three years later during the
era of the aptly named "Know Nothing" Party's reign of anti-
Catholic terrorism, but the Irish kept coming, carving out
lives for themselves and their families in New England.

"No Irish Need Apply?' Fine, some of them started their own
businesses while others took on menial jobs that put roofs
over their heads and money in the bank. If they had to work
as maids or ditch diggers, they did; their children would have
the chance for better jobs as clerks or teachers. Bit by bit
they worked their way to their dreams. Among them were
my Mom's grandparents.

One of her grandfathers, John McFarland, started out as a
laborer in 1880 and was working for the Boston City Street
department by the 1910 census and as a gardener for the
City in 1920. At the time of his death he owned two houses.
By 1940, his sons were employed by shoe factories, a bottler,
and a diamond cutting company and each of them owned
their own homes. His grandchildren include three Boston
firemen. It's an American success story that's repeated in
many other families whose ancestors arrived here with very
little and achieved so very much through hard work and

I recently heard a conservative declare we make too much
of being "hyphenated" Americans, of being Irish-American,
or Italian-American or Polish-American. If he had his way,
there'd be no celebration of Columbus Day or St. Patrick's
Day or any other ethnic group festivities.

I was astonished as a historian, as a genealogist, as well as,
yes, an Irish-American. We should be proud of being
Americans but we should also be proud of where our
families came from and the contributions their cultures have
made to American culture as a whole. When I hear the debate
raging over immigration today I hear some of the same
arguments used against the immigrants of other times,
including my Irish ancestors. If those arguments had
prevailed then, what a much poorer country America would
be today!

And as a historian I am proud of the contribution Ireland itself
has made to music and literature, and in its role the Irish
monasteries played in preserving much of the Greek and
Roman literature during the Middle Ages.

So that's what I feel about being Irish and Irish-American:
pride in my ancestors for what they overcame, and grateful
to them for what they have given back to America in return!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


((First posted in Feb. 2012))

One of the great things about researching my family's history is what I learn
about our country's history along the way. While I have a college degree in
history, there are areas and topics that I've never explored before that I've
finally encountered in the lives of my ancestors. One of those topics came
up last night when I was writing my post on Deacon Samuel Edson and is
contained in this quote:

"He was an active member of the council of war from 1667 to the end of
King Philip's war, and also of the committee to distribute contributions
made by the Irish people for that war, and also to those entitled thereto
in Bridgewater."

Now, while we have New England ancestry all the way back to the Pilgrims
and Puritans on my Dad's side of the family, I have Irish Catholic(and German)
ancestry on  Mom's side. Given the long conflict between the English and
Irish, I found it hard to believe that the Irish would have sent any sort of
aid to English settlers fighting Indians in New England. I could imagine
them perhaps offering to hold the coats of the Englishmen, but sending
help, no. But then I remembered something I already knew about English
history and things began to make sense: it wasn't all of Ireland that sent
help. It was the part under the rule of the Puritans.

The Irish Catholics had rebelled in 1641 and for a time had been successful
due to the conflict in England between King Charles I and the English Parliament.
But when the English Civil War broke out  they formed an alliance with
the Royalist side and the Parliament sent Oliver Cromwell in 1649 to deal
with the rebellion. He did so with such ruthless efficiency, especially in Ulster,
it set the stage for the next four hundred years of Irish history.

The Puritans in New England were supporters of their brethren in England.
While I'm not aware yet if they had been supportive of the Irish Protestants
in Cromwell's fight with the Catholics its possible the "Irish contributions"
were a repayment for aid sent from the New World.

I found this account of the "Irish donation" as it was also known:

"The fact that in Ireland there was a certain familiarity with Colonial affairs even
as early as the seventeenth century is proven in many ways, but none more so
than by the action taken by the citizens of Dublin when the news reached that
city of the distressed condition of the New England Colonists resulting from
"King Philip's War." No more striking instance of practical sympathy toward the
suffering Colonists is related in American history than this incident. The Indian
war of 1675-1676 was bloody and devastating in the extreme. Large numbers of
the inhabitants of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island fell in battle or
were murdered by the savage foe and many towns were destroyed, and it is
worthy of note that more than one hundred Irish names are enumerated among
the Colonial militia who fought the Indian hordes. In these times of distress and
misery it is recorded that Ireland was the only European country which sent relief
to the Colonists, and so large was the consignment that the Lord Mayor of Dublin
sent three Commissioners to Boston to take charge of the distribution of the "Irish
Donation," as it is called in the official records of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay.
It is not known what the "Irish Donation" actually consisted of, but that, with
traditional Irish generosity, it was liberal in the extreme we may judge from the
fact that the cost of the freight alone was the very large sum for those days of £475
sterling. The relief came in the ship Katherine, which sailed from Dublin for Boston
on August 28, 1676. In Massachusetts alone 47 towns and 2351 persons were 

succored by this timely Irish relief."

A Hidden Phase of American History: Ireland's part in America's struggle for liberty
(Google eBook) by Michael Joseph O'Brien  (Dodd, Mead and company,  New York

So Bridgewater, Ma. was one of the towns that received that "timely Irish relief",
and Samuel Edson, my ancestor, helped distribute it among the townspeople.

I love family history!


 ((First posted in Feb. 2012))

My ancestor Samuel Edson was involved in several land purchases from the
Indians living in the Bridgewater Ma. area and some of the documents concerning the
purchases still exist.

"This deed, made November 20th, A.D. 1672, witnessoth, that I, Pomponoho, alias Peter, an Indian, living at Titicut, in the colony of New Plymouth, in Now Eiig., have sold for the sum of sixteen pounds—viz., six pounds of current money of New England, and ten pounds in good merchantable com, us by bill appeareth,—all the lands lying on the north side of Titicut River, within the bounds of Bridgewater, what lands were mine, or were either my father's or grandfather's or any otherwise conferred on me, excepting those lands expressed as follows, viz. : one hundred acres of land lying up the river to tho eastward of a small brook, given to an Indian called Charles, my brother-in-law, and a certain parcel of land lying against the wear and bounded by the landing-place, running to the head of my field, containing about ten acres at the utmost, I say I, the above-said Pomponohe, alias Peter, have bargained, sold, and by these presents do bargain and sell for myself, my heirs, and assigns forever, unto Nicholas Byram, sen., Samuel Edson, sen., and William Brett, sen., in and for the use of the townsmen of Bridgewater,joint purchasers with them, which persons above mentioned were ordered by the court to make purchase of those lands, as by court record appears, I say I have sold all these lands, with every part thereof, and all the immunities and privileges belonging thereunto, to them, their heirs, and assigns forever, the same quietly and peaceably to possess, without the lawful lot, interruption, or molestation of me, the abovesaid Pomponohe, alias Peter, or other persons whatsoever, lawfully claiming by, from, or under me, them, or any of them. In witness whereof I have hereunto set to my hand and seal.
his mark.
read, sealed, and delivered
in presence of us.
"Joseph Hayward
"John Carr, Sen.
"Acknowledged before Josiah Winslow, Gov., Feb. 20, 1676.
"Recorded by Nathaniel Clark, Secretary, March, 1685."

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts: with biographical sketches of 
many of its pioneers and prominent men, Part 2 , Duane Hamilton Hurd, ed.
(J. W. Lewis & co.,  Philadelphia 1884) p541

But only a few years later Deacon Samuel was appointed to a town Council of War
as tensions rose with the Indians under King Philip. When war came, it was marked
with savagery on both sides. The theater of war ranged through most of southern New
England, and even spread into this area where I live now just south of Boston. There
would be need for the Irish donation funds in Samuel Edson's  Bridgewater:

"April 9th, 1676, being Sunday, the enemy burnt a house and barn, and rifled several other houses in the town; but they soon fled and were not to be overtaken, though closely pursued. May 8th, about three hundred Indians with Tispaquin for their leader made another assault on the east end of the town on the south side of the river, and set fire to many of the houses ; but the inhabitants, " issuing from their garrison houses," fell Upon them so resolutely, that the enemy were repelled; and, a heavy shower of rain falling at the same time, the fires were soon extinguished. The attack was then renewed on the north side of the river, but the enemy was soon defeated, and the next morning entirely disappeared, after having burnt two houses and one barn. On this occasion thirteen houses and four barns only were burnt, and but five of these were in the village. The rest were on the borders of the settlement, and deserted at the time. There is a tradition that, excepting the garrison houses, every house but one in town was burnt. This was probably true as it respected the out-houses or dwellings on the borders or skirts of the town only, and not those in the centre or village, which were considered in some degree as fortified or garrison houses. This is the more probable, as the house excepted is said to have belonged to Nicholas Byram, which was in the easterly part of the town, and quite distant from the principal settlement. It stood where Capt. Isaac Whitman now lives. July 14 and 15, a party of Indians came upon the north side of the town, but, after killing a few cattle, retired. July 18, 19 and 20, the inhabitants pursued the enemy and took sixteen of them, of whom two only were men."
-"Description of Bridgewater 1818" by Nahum Mitchell in Collections of the
Massachusetts  Historical Society  Massachusetts Historical Society
(Society Press, Boston, 1818) pp156-157

So while there was damage to some buildings, and other attacks, Bridgewater never
suffered destruction on the scale of the towns west of Boston, such as the town of
Lancaster where others of my ancestors were entirely burned out.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


Rev. James Keith's wife was Susannah Edson, and her father (my 9x greatgrandfather) was immigrant ancestor Samuel Edson, who was among the first settlers of Bridgewater, Ma. William Richard Cutter has a long description of his life in another of his genealogical collections:

Deacon Samuel  Edson, the immigrant ancestor, was an early settler in this country, being found in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1639, when he was acknowledged as an inhabitant and was granted a half an acre of land near Catt Cove and four acres of planting ground. In 1642 he was granted twenty-five acres of land in Mackerel Cove and two acres of meadow. About 1650 he moved to Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and was called an inhabitant there in a deed dated December 10, 1652, and died there in 1692, aged eighty years. He and his wife were buried in the old buryingground, and the oldest monument in the grave-‘ yard is erected over their graves. Deacon Samuel Edson, and Rev. James Keith, of Scotland, the first minister of Bridgewater, were given grants of land after the fifty-four proprietors had taken their shares, making fiftysix shares. He erected the first cornmill in the town in 1662, on Town river, and later he deeded this mill to his five daughters; the deed was recorded April 19, 1636. His will was dated January 15, 1688-89, proved September 20, 1692. He was made freeman before 1657. His home was on the south side of the river, near his mill. It is not known that he was a millwright by trade, but it is known that he was a good farmer and had mechanical ability. In 1660 he owned three shares in the town, and he very likely conveyed two of these to his sons Samuel and Joseph, as in the great division of 1683 he had only one share. He acquired a large estate by his industry and thrift, and was well to-do. He held several town offices; in 1666 appointed a member of the council of war; in 1676 representative to the general court at Plymouth, and in the same year was on a committee to distribute the town share of the Irish contributions for the distress of the Indian wars; in November, 1672, was on a committee which received the deed of conveyance from Chief Pomonoho of the Titicut purchase, “in and for the use of the townsmen of Bridgewater joint purchasers with them." In December, 1686, he with Ensign John Hayward and Deacon John \Villis, agents for the town, received a confirmatory deed of the Indian Chief W'ampatuck for the purchasers and the town of all the lands previously conveyed to them by Massasoit, on March 3, 1649. In 1667 was foreman of the jury to lay out roads, as well as in 1672; in 1680 was on a committee to settle the Bridgewater and Middleborough boundary line, and the same year to settle the Bridgewater and Taunton line. He was one of the first deacons of the town and served from about 1664 to the end of his life. Was associated with very prominent men and influential in town affairs. He is said to have been of a large, athletic frame, of medium weight and with a fine constitution which could endure almost every hardship; dignified and grave in manner, active and keen in argument and very firm in his ideas, but he was not an obstinate man and would cheerfully admit the accuracy of a different judgment. It is said that he was more inclined to listen than to debate, but when he did speak at town meetings he generally suc— ceeded in convincing his audience that he had carefully considered his subjects. The strength and vigor of his intellect, the quickness of his perceptions, the extent and accuracy of his memory and the struggle of mental enterprise, supplied in no inconsiderable degree the deficiencies of education. While he was respected for these attributes of his mind and character, it was to his constant practice of the christian virtues and the influence of his example-that his pre-eminence was greatly due. '

He married, about 1637, in England, Susanna Orcutt, probably an elder sister of William Orcutt, who came from Scituate and settled in Bridgewater before 1682. “Her education and natural abilities were said to be full equal to his, and this coupled with an expressive modesty of deportment and unaffected piety, gave to her person an elevated position and to her character a high rank among the matrons of the town. She exhibited a majestic figure, rather above the medium height, an elegant and majestic mein, with a countenance happily combining graceful dignity with cheerful benignity.” Children: Susanna, born probably in England in 1638; Sarah, born in Salem about 1640; Elizabeth, born in Salem about 1643; Samuel, mentioned below; Mary, born in Bridgewater about 1647; Joseph, born about 1649; Josiah, born in Bridgewater, 1651; Bethiah, born about 1653

New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 1  Lewis historical publishing Company,   New York, New York 1913

Thursday, March 07, 2019


  Along with the details of the construction of Rev. James Keith's house, Williams Latham also wrote about the history of its ownership:

In the case of the inhabitants of Bridgewater versus the inhabitants of West Bridgewater, reported in the seventh volume of Pickering Reports, page 191, and in the ninth volume of Pickering, page 55, in the years 1828 9, brought for the support of Daniel Keith, a pauper, then aged years, a great.grandson of the Rev. James Keith. This pauper, with his father, Daniel Keith, and grandfather, John Keith, son of the Rev. James Keith, lived and died in the plaintiff , town. It became necessary to prove where, in old Bridgewater, minister Keith lived and died; and sundry old people were witnesses of, and sundry depositions of ancient people were then, 1828.9, taken for that purpose, as well as to prove the genealogy of the pauper; and some of said deponants and witnesses well remembered the house, then, 1828, owned and occupied by Aarrabella, daughter of said Amasa Howard, deceased,and widow of Benjamin Eaton, deceased, as far back as 1750, and said it was then, 1750. an ancient looking house, and had always appeared the same as it then, 1828.9, appeared. That case was tried, and before the whole court, twice; and the fact that the Rev. James Keith, lived and died in that house, was then well and satisfactorily established.

The homestead of Rev. James Keith consisted of two house.lots of six acres each, with a ten acre lot at the head of said house lots, and with a house thereon, built by the town, conditionally given by the town to him, in consideration of his future services as their minister, and remained entire until about 1800. And though this house and a portion of the homestead on which it stands, has been owned and occupied by many persons, as tenants in common and otherwise, yet the title to this house and portion of the homestead ns always remained in, and been confined to four persons and their families, to wit;

James Keith and his children, down to 1723,. . . 61 years;
Ephraim Fobes, brother and son, down to 1792, . 69 years;
Amasa Howard and daughters, down to 1834, . . 42 years;
Thomas Pratt and son, George M., down to 1882, . 48 years

Epitaphs in Old Bridgewater, Massachusetts: Illustrated with Plans and Views  Henry T.Pratt, Publisher, Bridgewater, Mass. 1882

 Ephraim Fobes is my 8x great granduncle, and Amasa Howard and Thomas Pratt are distant cousins. All are connected to Rev. James Keith by blood and marriage. So for two centuries the Keith House was in the family, albeit different branches,

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


I did some more searching on the Keith House in West Bridgewater and hit the jackpot. I found information in of all things a book of epitaphs written by Williams  Latham, including illustrations
of the evolution of the house over its first200 years:

Here is some of what Mr. Latham wrote about the Keith House:

The house was built 1662. It fronted south, was two stories high in front, one story high back side, posts, sixteen feet high, fifteen feet wide in front, thirty.four feet deep, with front entry, five feet wide; chamber stairs and chimney back of front door, in the southeast corner of the house, one front room, about ten by twelve, with a bed-room back of that, and a kitchen, with pantry, back of and chimney. In the second story was an entry, a front room, and a bed-room corresponding to the rooms below. No cellar under this part of the house. 

In 1678, the house was enlarged by an addition of eighteen by thirty.four feet, to the east side of the house; two stories high in front one story high back side, making one large front room, eighteen by eighteen feet, with a, back stairs, and an enlargement of the kitchen, in the back part. The rooms in the second story to the front room and belov;. The back part of the second story of the old and new part of the house remaining unfinished. A cellar under a portion of this new part, with a stone drain across the road to the Town river.

The house remained in this condition, without material alteration for 159 years, from 1678 down to 1837, when Thomas Pratt, father of said George M. Pratt, cut off about fourteen feet of the north side of the house, so as to leave the north side of the same height as the front side of the house, thereby making the south. roof thirteen and one.half feet long, and the north roof only twelve feet long; building a new chimney in the place of the old one, then taken down, but much smaller; and leaving the rooms in the front and middle parts of the house as they were before this amputation. The brick in this old.chimney were much larger than modern brick, and were laid in clay. The shingles upon the walls were taken off, and clapbiards put on in place thereof. This house now (1882) being a two story house, thirty.two feet front, and twenty feet back„with a porch annexed to the back side. The windows upon the three sides of the house being the same ever since the memory of man, except such as were cut off as aforesaid, and except square glass in place of the old diamond glass and bull.s eyes.
The annex or addition of eighteen by thirty.four feet, made in 1678, was quite fully developed and apparent on a personal examination of the inside of the house, a few years ago, by the writer; and the, timber, doors, materials, and inside construction of lite house exhibit strong marks of antiquity.

Epitaphs in Old Bridgewater, Massachusetts: Illustrated with Plans and Views  Henry T.Pratt, Publisher, Bridgewater, Mass. 1882

There is more information about the court case involving Bridgewater and West Bridgewater, as well as about the ownership of the house. I'll discuss that in Part 2

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 05, 2019


While researching my ancestor the Reverend James Keith I discovered a courtcase from October 1828 involving a Keith cousin who was a paper and the towns of Bridgewater and West Bridgewater. This is from   Oliver Pickering's Massachusetts Reports: Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts:

The Inhabitants of Bridgewater versus The Inhabitants of West Bridgewater.

Before the town of West Bride water was formed out of a part of the town ol Bridgewater, the great-grandfather of a pauper gained a settlement in Bridgewater by a residence in that part of the town which is now West Bridgewater; the pauper, his father, and grandfather, resided in that part of the town which is now Bridgewater, and the pauper owned and was taxed for real estate in the part of the town which is now Bridgewater, so that he would have gained a settlement therein if il had been a separate town. By the Si. 1821, c. 82, creating the town of West Bridgewater, it is provided, that 11 all persons who may hereafter become chargeable as paupers to the said towns of Bridgewater and West Bridgewater, shall be considered as belonging to that town on the territory of which they had their settlement at the time of passing this act, and shall in future be chargeable to that town only." Held, that the pauper's settlement was in West Bridgewater.

This was assumpsit for the support of Daniel Keith, a pauper. At the trial of the case, before Morton J., the only question was, whether the settlement of the pauper was in West Bridgewater, all the other facts necessary to the maintaining of the action being admitted.

It appeared from the evidence, that the pauper, his father, and his grandfather, (so far as the memory of the witnesses extended,) always lived on the territory now included in the town of Bridgewater, and that the pauper, previous to the St. 1821, c. 82, establishing the town of West Bridgewater, and when of full age, owned real estate of sufficient value in the territory now Bridgewater, and was taxed for it sufficiently to have gained thereby a settlement therein, in his own right, had either territory been a separate town. But the plaintiffs offered evidence tending to show that the pauper's great-grandfather, James Keith, was settled as minister of Bridgewater in 1664 and resided on that part of the town now West Bridgewater until his death, which happened between 1718 and 1720. The plaintiffs contended, that if the jury were satisfied of these facts in relation to James Keith, he thereby acquired a settlement in that part of the town now West Bridgewater, and that consequently, by virtue of the above statute of 1821, c. 82, the pauper's settlement was in West Bridgewater. 

The defendants, on the other hand, contended that by the statute the legal settlement of the pauper was in what is now Bridgewater. They also contended that James Keith could not, by reason of his being minister of Bridgewater, and his The defendants, on the other hand, contended that by the statute the legal settlement of the pauper was in what is now Bridgewater. They also contended that James Keith could not, by reason of his being minister of Bridgewater, and his residence as above mentioned, have acquired a settlement in Bridgewater previous to 1692, and that even on the plaintiffs'' construction of the act of 1821, they were bound to prove that the pauper's grandfather was under twenty-one years of age at the time when James Keith could have acquired a settlement under the provincial act of 1692.

The judge, in order to reserve the questions of law which had been raised, for the whole Court, instructed the jury, that if they were satisfied that James Keith was minister of Bridgewater, and resided in that part of the town which is now West Bridgewater, they should find a verdict for the plaintiffs. The jury accordingly found a verdict for the plaintiffs; which was to be set aside and a new trial granted, or judgment was to be entered thereon, according to the opinion of the Court.

Massachusetts Reports: Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Volume 26  Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Ma. 1864

Sunday, March 03, 2019


7x great grandfather James Keith was one of the leading citizens of Bridgewater, Ma. and judging by the value of his estate, a prosperous one.  Here's his brief biography in Nahum Mitchell's history of Bridgewater:  

3. Joseph (s. of James 1) m. Elizabeth, D. of Dea. Edward Fobes, and had Anna 1695, Susanna 1697, Joseph 1699, Jemima 1701, Eleazar 1703, Abigail 1705, Ephraim 1707, Ichabob 1709, Martha 1711, Mary 1713, Elizabeth 1715; his will 1730; her's 1757; she made Constant Southworth her ex'or. Anna m. Capt. Ebenezer Alden 1717.—Susanna m. Jonathan Cary 1717, and d. young.—Jemima m. Dea. James Packard 1722.— Eleazar m. Keziah, -D. of Henry Kingman, 1726, settled in Easton, and had Lemuel, Seth, and perhaps other children.— Abigail m. Robert Howard 1725.—Martha m. Constant Southworth 1734.—Ichabod left a wid. Lydia, but no children.—She m. a Dr. Jones of Abington for her 2d husband.—Mary m. Jonathan Kingman 1732.—Eliz. m. Samuel Lathrop 1731. He was ex'or. of his father's will, and had his homestead, and was Representative 1726.-p214

History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater in Plymouth County, Massachusetts,  Henry T. Platt, Printer Bridgewater, Ma 1897

I have found his probate file and will transcribe it.

Thursday, February 28, 2019


I've finally gotten around to transcribing the will of my 8x great grandfather the Reverend James Keith of Bridgewater, Ma. As I said in a previos post it is neatly written and this made transcribing it easier that has been the case with the wills of other ancestors. There are only two words I could not figure out at all and these are shown by (unknown word). A few others have (?) after them which means I guessed at the word.

The three witnesses are my 7x great grandfather Edward Fobes and his sons Ephraim and Benjamin.

I James Keith minister of the town of Bridgwarer in the County of Plimouth in New England being through gods goodness intire in my understanding & memory, but expecting my departure, and relying on the mercyof god in Christ for eternal life, do make my last will & testament with respect
to my outward estate, in manner &form as followeth.

Imprimis I appoint my executors mentioned upon this my will to receive all that may appear to be due to me & to pay all my just debts & to discharge my funeral expenses.

Besides what I have already given to my children, I do further give & bequeath to my five sons James Keith, Joseph Keith, Samuel Keith, Timothy Keith, John Keith, & my two daughters Margret Hunt & Mary Howard the produce (?) of my home being (?) housing and lands consisting of two & twenty acres, be it more or less, when said housing & lands are sold, & I do hereby appoint my executors, or such as they shall import(?) to make sale of said housing & lands in time convenient & the produce thereof to be equally divided among my said five sons and two daughters above mentioned to them, their heirs, or Asignes.

I give & bequeath to my son James Keith my best (nknown word) & (unknown word) my brown cloak, my boots, my best hat & best shirt to him, his heirs or Asignes. All the rest of my wearing apparelI give to my four sons Joseph Keith, Samuel Keith, Timothy Keith, John Keith to be equally among them, to them, their heirs or Asignes.

I give to my son Josiah Keith ten pounds to be paid to him his heirs or Asignes by my executors or such they shall appoint.

All the rest of my effects which shall be leftat my decease for that which is and by content to my loving wife Mary & what else(?) I am now posest of I may have occasion to dispose of before my departure & leave to my five sons James Keith, Joseph Keith, Samuel Keith, Timothy Keith, John Keith, & my two daughters Mqrgaret Hunt & Mary Haward to be equally divided among them, to them, their heirs or Asignes.

I do appoint my two sons James Keith & Joseph Keith to be joynt executors of this my will, which I declare to be last will & testament this thirteenth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand  seven hundred & eighteen & in the fourth year of the reign of our gracious sovereign King George.
James Keith

Signed & sealed & declared
to be his last will & testament
in the presence of us
Edward Fobes
Ephraim Fobes
Benjamin Fobes

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


((First posted in 2011))

I've written here before about my 8x great grandfather the Reverend
James Keith of Bridgewater, Plymouth, Ma. Apparently he was a
friend and colleague of the famous Cotton Mather, who gave this sermon
on the occasion of my ancestor's death. I found it in a free Google
edition of "New-England historical and genealogical register, Volume 
19, page 245:

On The Death or Rev. James Keith, From The Text

*' Alas, The Angel of the Church of BRIDGWATER has this Last Week
heard that Voice from Heaven unto him, Come up hither! And he's flown!
A Desirable Man, if any among us were worthy to be Esteemed so !
Yea, you now know, whom I had in my Eye, while I was describing, A
Man Greatly Beloved: It was HE who Satt, for my Pencil to take the
Features from him! The Desireable and very Venerable JAMES KEITH,
who Preached his First Sermon in the Place where I am now* Standing,
more then Fifty Years ago, and sweetly Entertained - us again a Few
Months ago, is this Last Week Expired: That Silver Trumpet has done
Sounding. And it were a Fault in me, if I should not in this Place take
Notice of a Man who had so much of GOD in Him, and who deserves
so much to be had in Everlasting Remembrance." .... "Discharging
both Publickly and Privately, the Work of his Ministry, even to the Last,
and for Seven Years after he had passed thro' a Jubilee." ....
"He was the First Pastor of Bridgwater;" .... "'Twas then a Sett of Pious
and Praying People: A Town that stood in a Land of Unwalled ' Villages,
when there were Armies of Bloody Indians, destroying round about them,
not very long after their KEITH was come to be, their Decus ae Tutamen;
a Glory and a Defence unto them. It was Remarkable that tho' the Town
was often Assaulted by formidable Troops of Salvages, yet in all the sharp
Assaults it never lost so much as one of its Inhabitants. They wanted not
for Solicitations to desert their Dwellings; But having a KEITH to animate
them, they Resolved, that they would keep their Stations; and Stand still
to see the Salvation of God. Once the Indians began to Fire the Town;
but, they had a KEITH, with his Faith, to Turn to Flight the Armies of the
Aliens. The People with a noble Courage issued forth from their Garrisons,
to Fight the Enemy. But God at the same time Fought for them, with a
Storm of Thunder and Lightning and Rain, whereby a considerable part
of their Houses were preserved. 0 Man Greatly Beloved! Of whom it
might be said Cui Militat Aether!—After that Memorable Time, the Town
went on, Prospering and Flourishing under the Care of their Faithful
Shepherd; until anon they became Two Bands; Their Pastor did
generously Approve and Assist, the Peaceable Swarming of a New
Assembly from him; and on the Day when they First Met in their New
Edifice, he preached unto them, that Savoury Sermon, which was
afterwards Published under the Title of, A Case of Prayer, handled
on a Day of Prayer. A Sermon worthy to be their Perpetual Monitor.
And, which Two Years before his Death, he Concludes with minding them,
This Exhortation is given you, by your Aged Pastor, who hath served
you in the Gospel now full Fifty-Four years, and I hope, by the Grace
of God in some measure of Sincerity, tho' attended with much Weakness,
great Infirmities, and manifold Temptations."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


In 2012 on the 344th anniversary of my 8x great grandparents Rev,
James Keith and Susanna Edson of West Bridgewater, Ma,  I
decided to celebrate by finally tracking down the location of
their tomb. Imagine how chagrined I was to find I'd visited the
Old Burying Ground in West Bridgewater the previous year and hadn't
found it there back then!  So I was bound and determined to
locate iton this visit.

When I arrived at the cemetery on South St there was some
roadwork being done and I had to drive past it, then turn
around and drive back to find a safe parking spot on that side
of the street. Then I walked back to where there was an entrance
through the stone wall. From pictures I'd seen online I thought
the grave would be a large vault which is probably why I
missed it on my first visit.(That, and the fact that there is no
sign with the name "Old Burial Ground"  there which on my
first visit made me think I had gone to the wrong location. Duh!)
Since then I've seen many family tombs which are under small
mounds so I knew better what to look for this time around.
And there it was, at the front of the cemetery behind the stone
wall, right next to the street. I'd have seen it earlier if the
view hadn't been blocked by the construction truck.

The inscriptions read:

Here lies the                                          Here lies the
body of the Rev.                                     body of Mrs          
Mr. James Keith                                    Susanna Keith
Died July 23, 1719                               Died Oct. 16 1705
Aged 76 years                                        Aged 65 years

                                  Mr. James Keith  
                       First Minister in Bridgewater
                    Educated in Aberdeen Scotland
                   and laboured in the Ministry in this
                                       town 56 years

Just to the left of the Keiths' tomb is the one belonging to Susanna's
parents(and my 9xgreat grandparents) Samuel Edson and  Susannah

So, mission accomplished!

Monday, February 25, 2019


((This was first posted back in August 2010> I found the graves a bit later and will repost
that story next. I  also have found some new information about the house which I will write a 
new post about.))

Now that I'm in better shape and the same true for Ping the Wondercar,
I decided to try to get out of the apartment more on my days off and do
some genealogy legwork. Today's inaugural adventure was a trip down
to West Bridgewater to try to find some of my ancestors' final resting
places. I'd made a unsuccessful try at this last Thursday but had left the
Googlemaps I'd printed out at home but this week I brought them with
me and set out optimistically.

After a short stop at CVS in Whitman to get some prescriptions filled
I continued down Rte 18 to East Bridgewater and then cut across to Rte
106 in West Bridgewater. I turned left on Howard St, drove past the
West Bridgewater Historical Society building, and then turned right onto
River St. According to the directions, the parsonage of my ancestor
Reverend James Keith should have been a little ways down on the right
but I drove to the end of River St without spotting it. A quick turnaround
in a driveway and I went back down the way I'd come, and there now on
my left, was the building. 

I pulled over to the side of the road and took a picture with my digital
camera(which once more insists it's October). It was a beautiful, warm
afternoon. The parsonage seems to sit in the middle of farm property,
with a barn on the left and a field with cows seeking shade under some
trees to the right. Across the street, on the other side of my car, a flock
of Canadian geese were foraging along the banks of a small river. Except
for the occasional car passing by on the blacktop road, it could have been
a typical summer day from Rev. Keith's time in the 17th century.

The building was closed so I resolved to find out when it might be open
and come back to see the inside. Then I drove on down River St, crossed
the bridge by the Canoe Club and continued on until I came to the Alden
Cemetery on my left. I parked across the street on Cross St and walked
over to the graveyard.

I was dismayed by what I found. While most of the markers are upright
and intact, some of them are beginning to lean over or sink into the grass.
And with the exception of perhaps fifteen or twenty markers, most are
unreadable. Inscriptions have worn away from the weather or obscured
by fungus. The stonewall at the front is so close to the first row of
markers that it surely must run over the graves themselves.The grounds
were obviously cared for and the grass mowed, but I had to wonder how
long  it would be before all the gravemarkers were unreadable and Alden
Cemetery was no longer cared for.

I have no ancestors at Alden Cemetery(that I know of, anyway) and I'd
intended to try to find the graves of Reverend Keith and  Deacon Samuel
Edson but it was already late afternoon and I knew the traffic on Rte 18
would be getting heavy. So I decided to call it a day and return to find
them another day.

So ended my first genealogy daytrip of the year.

Sunday, February 24, 2019


 ((This was originally written in February 2015, during the winter we called Snowmageddon))

It's been a somewhat exciting month of February here in New England  weatherwise
as we're setting all sorts of regional records for snowfall. Since road trips and Find A
Grave activities are not possible for awhile I've been keeping myself busy working on
my family tree and uploading photos I already had taken to Find A Grave.  I've also
been looking for more family documents  on and FamilySearch,
and last night I found a pair of wills belonging to my ancestors James and Joseph Keith.

James Keith is my 8x great grandfather, He was born in Scotland, attended the University
of Aberdeen, and came to Massachusetts around 1662, becoming the first minister at
Bridgewater, Ma.  He married Susannah Edson, the daughter of his deacon. I'm descended
from them through their son, Joseph. Last night I found the Probate Files for both James and
Joseph in the Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Estate Files, 1686-1915 collection on
FamilySearch I've got to say both wills are probably the most legibly written I've found so far
for my ancestors from that era of colonial history.

Here's James' will. Looking at the signature and comparing it to the body of the document
it is obviously the same handwriting. it's very neat, and the lines across the page mostly straight. 

Joseph married Elizabeth Forbes and had a very large family. One of their children was
Jemima Keith, my 6x great grandmother, who married James Packard. Joseph Keith was a
farmer, soldier, and a town Representative to the colonial government. The signature to
his will is different handwriting from the will itself so someone else wrote it for him.
Still, it's neat and readable, and on the second page Joseph leaves Jemima one sixth
of the fifty acres he was dividing up among his children.   

I'm very grateful to grandfather James and to whoever wrote Joseph's will because when
trying to read the writing on colonial documents a legible hand makes my life easier.

In handwriting, neatness counts!


My 8x great grandfather the Reverend James Keith is one of my ancestors who, while not a major figure in New England history in general, is of some note in history of this part of Massschusetts. He was a protege of Increase Mather who recommended him for the first church position in Bridgewater, Ma.

Here's what Nahum Mitchell wrote about him in History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater in Plymouth County, Massachusetts:

KEITH.—Rev. James Keith, a Scotchman, was the first Minister of Bridgewater; was educated at Aberdeen, in Scotland; came over 1662, at about 18 years of age; ordained Feb. 1664; m. Susanna, D. of his deacon, Samuel Edson, and had James, Joseph, Samuel, Timothy, John, Josiah, Margaret, Mary, Susanna. He m. a 2d wife, Mary, wid. of Thomas Williams of Taunton, 1707; d. July 23, 1719, as. 76.—Margaret m. a Hunt. —Mary m. Ephraim Howard.—Susanna m. Maj. Jonathan Howard, and d. young without children. It is said that his first sermon was delivered from a rock in Mill Pasture, so called, near the river.-p214

History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater in Plymouth County, Massachusetts,  Henry T. Platt, Printer Bridgewater, Ma 1897

I'm descended from James' son Joseph Keith.

I've written earlier postd about Reverend Keith and will now be reposting them.

Monday, February 18, 2019


On 14 Aug 1878 some descendants of my 9x great grandfather Thomas Hayward gathered in Easton, Ma. to celebrate the centennial of the construction of a Hayward family mansion. George Washington Hayward gave a commemorative address in which he had this short description of our common ancestor:

Thomas Hayward and his wife Susanna were born in England; were last there at Aylsford in the county of Kent; came over in the ship Hercules of 200 tons, John Weatherby, master, with 5 of their children, in the early part of the summer of 1635. He first settled in Duxbury, and was one of the original proprietors, and one of the earliest and eldest of the settlers of Bridgewater. His will is dated in 1678, and he died in 1681, his wife not living at the date of his will. His children were Thomas, Nathaniel, John, Joseph and Elisha, born in England, and who came over with their father in 1635 ; Mary and Martha, probably born in Duxbury. Mary married Ensign Edward Mitchel; Martha married her cousin John Haward, (Hayward). -p5

Centennial Gathering of the Hayward Family with Address, John S. Sampson,  Printer, 1879, Taunton, Ma

Now Thomas' daughter Martha married my 8x great grandfather John Haward, which family name later became Howard. I don't know for sure if they were cousins.It might simply be another instance of the confusion between the various spellings of the Hayward and Howard family names.

Friday, February 15, 2019


John Howard and his wife Martha (Hayward) Howard had seven children. It is with them that the
complicated  relationships with the Packard, Fobes and Keith familes start:

JOHN m. Sarah Latham. John Jr. owned land in an area of Bridgewater known as Joppa, which is now part of East Bridgewater. It is near Route 18 and there was a restaurant located there called the Joppa Grill. When I went to college in Bridgewater I went through that area every day and never knew it was connected to my family.

JAMES. m. Elizabeth Washburn. James died in 1690 during the New England colony's attack on Canada.

JONATHAN. m. Susannah Keith

ELIZABETH, m. Edward Fobes. Their daughter Elizabeth would marry Joseph Keith.

SARAH, m. Zacheus Packard. Their son James married Jemima Keith, daughter of Elizabeth Fobes  and Joseph Keith

BETHIAH, m. Henry Kingman

EPHRAIM, m. Mary Keith

I'll be discussing Martha (Hayward) Howard's father Thomas Hayward next.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


I'm descended from two  of John Howard's daughters: Sarah, who married Zacheus Packard, and Elizabeth, who married Edward Fobes. I'll be dicussing the Fobes line later. Both they and their husbands are mentioned in the division of John Howard's estate. Heman Howard's book has a transcription of the document:

A true copy of the division of the estate of Lieut, John Howard, late of Bridgewater, who died intestate, as it was mutually agreed and consented to by all the several heirs apparent to said estate, on the fifteenth day of Oct., Anno Dom. 1701, which division is made according to the appraisement in the inventory taken of the said estate:—

To the widow, one hundred and seven pounds out of the moveable estate, and her thirds in the improved lands and housing.

To John Howard, the eldest son, as followeth :—Ninety-one acres of land, lying part of it at John's bridge where he now lives and near thereunto, (£45, 0 s., 0 d.), and the rest at Satucket river and Black brook; more, the house and barn and the land between the river and the highway that goes directly toward the meeting house, and ten acres joining to the said highway, on the north side, lying the whole breadth of the said lands, (£60, 0 s., 0d.) ; more, ten acres toward West meadow, (£05, 0 s.,0d.); half a lot of meadow in Flag meadow, (L04 Os., 0d.); the land at Tetaquat, (£02, 0s., 0d.); more, a quarter part of the undivided lands, and a quarter part of his right in the Cedar swamp, (L1, 07 s., 06 d.); more, a quarter part of a purchase right in the North purchase, (£5, 0 s. 0 d.) ; more, two lots of meadow, one of them in Poor meadow and the other at Black brook, (£10, 0 s., 0 d.). His whole proportion being 146 pounds, he hath given out of it also.. —£5 to his brother Jonathan, and £5 to his brother Ephraim.

To Jonathan Howard, the second surviving son, the land where his house stands, 49 acres, (£30, 0 S., 0 d.); more, 35 acres in the neck of land beyond James Keith's, (£17, 0 s., 0 d. ); more, 35 acres at Lathrop's swamp, (£17, 0s., 0d.); more, 25 acres near the same place, (£12, 10 s., 0d.); more, a quarter part of undivided lands, and a quarter of his right in the Cedar swamp, (£01, 07 s., 06 d.); more, a quarter of a purchase right in North purchase, (£5, 0 s., 0 s.).

To Ephraim Howard, the youngest son, the land on which his house stands, (£60, 0 s.  0 d.); more, 35 acres in the neck (£17, 10 s., 0 d.); ten acres near Bimeleck's hill, (£05, 0 s., 00 d.); one lot of meadow in Flag meadow, (£08, 0 s., 0 d.) ; more, ten acres at Lathrop's swamp, (£05, 0s., d..); more, a quarter part of undivided land, and a quarter part in the Cedar swamp, (£01, 7 s. 0 d) ; more, a quarter part of a purchase right in North purchase, (£05, 0 s., 0 d. ); more, a share in the north lands, (£02, 0 s., 0 d.).

To James Howard, the only son of James Howard, deceased, to be divided, the one moiety to him and the other moiety to his two sisters. The land where his house stands, and the land adjoining thereunto, being 45 acres, (£45, 0 s., 0 d.) ; more, half a lot of meadow in Flag meadow, (£04, 0 s., 0 d.) ; more, 40 acres of land above the stone house, (£08, 0 s., 0 d.); more, in moveables as per inventory, or 

money, (£14, 12 s., 06 d.); more, a quarter part of undivided land in Cedar swamp, (£01, 07 s., 06 d.).

To Edward Fobes, his wife, in money and moveables, (£68, 0s, 0d.); to Zacheus Packard's wife, in money and moveables, (£68, 0 s., 0 d.); to Henry Kingman's wife, in money and moveables, (£68, 0 s ., 0 d.); the said three daughters to have their part as appraised and as set in the inventory; and for as much as the above-mentioned lands divided to Ephraim, amounts to one hundred and three pounds, seventeen and six pence, he is to return to the estate £18, 07 s., 0d 

This above written is the mutual agreement of the sons, sons-in-law, and daughters of the above-named Lieut. John Howard, late of Bridgewater, deceased, made and agreed on the sixteenth day of October, 1701. In testimony whereof they have hereunto sealed and subscribed.
Signed, sealed and declared by the subscribers to be their agreement, in the presence of  

Elisha Wadsworth.
Thomas (T. S.his mark) Snell

Martha^ Howard, [Seal.]
John Howard, [Seal.]
Jonathan Howard, [Seal.]
Ephraim Howard, [Seal.]
Edward Fobes,
E. mark of Elizabeth Fobes, [Seal.]
Zacheus Packard,
In behalf of himself and Sarah his wife, [Seal.]
Henry K1ngman,
In behalf of himself and Bethiah his wife, [Seal.]
 Edward Mitchell,
As guardian of the children of James Howard, deceased. [Seal.]

Memorandum, that on the sixteenth day of October, 1701, the abovenamed parties to this agreement, who have hereunto sealed and subscribed, all of them came personally before me, the subscriber, Judge of Probate for the County of Plymouth, and acknowledged the before written instrument to be their act and deed.

William Bradford. Recorded, October 24, 1701.
Per Samuel Sprague, Register. 


The Howard Genealogy: Descendants of John Howard of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, from 1643 to 1903 Standard printing Company, Brockton, Ma  1903

To be continued ...


((This was first posted on 7Jul 2008. It's a nice story with probably a
little truth to it, but true or not it makes a good Valentine's Day story)).

I mentioned in my previous post about John Prescott that
there is a romantic (and probably romanticized) story about
his son Jonas Prescott's courtship of Mary Loker. I've found it
recounted in several different books on Google Books, and
while I'm not entirely sure it's true, it does make for another
interesting family tale.

The story is that Jonas and Mary fell in love but her parents
John Loker and Mary Draper had other plans for their
daughter. They wanted her to marry a lawyer, a man of
prospects, not the son of a blacksmith who was following his
father in the family trade and they forbade Mary from any
more contact with Jonas. One version told by Caleb Butler in
"The History of the Town of Groton" says the Lokers even
went so far as to install gratings on the windows of her room
and would lock her inside if Jonas was nearby. But even this
drastic measure didn't stand in the way of love:

"He (Jonas) took opportunities when the cold wind blew
and the
pelting storm raged when no listener could overhear
the soft
whispering of true lovers to place himself beneath
her grated window and
there enjoy sweet communion
with his dearly beloved ."

But eventually Mary's parents found out about this trickery.
Perhaps Jonas' idea of a whisper in a storm was a bit too loud?
At any rate, Mary's parents next decided to send her away to
a secluded village so Jonas could not find her while they looked
for a more suitable prospect for Mary's hand in marriage.
They sent her off to the small frontier town of Chockset which
is now Sterling, Massachusetts.

Jonas searched for Mary until one day while traveling near
Chockset he met some men of his own age and asked if they
knew of any pretty girls in the area. They told him there was
a quilting and a dance that night in Chockset and invited him
to come along.

You can see where this is going, I bet!

Jonas found Mary Loker and they continued to meet in secret
for some time until her parents once more found them out.
Mary's stubborn insistence that she would never marry any
man but Jonas Prescott at last forced her parents to give in,
although they did so with the angry condition that they would
provide no dowry for the bride. Legend says that the young
couple set up their household with so few essentials that
Mary used a large hollowed out pumpkin shell for a washpot!

I'm a bit skeptical about that pumpkin part but I think the
opposition of the Lokers to Jonas Prescott pressing his suit for
their daughter might have some truth to it. After all, although
Jonas' father John was well off, he was not exactly in the good
graces of the Puritan government, and the Lokers might have
had their hearts set on young Mary marrying someone who
could eventually rise to a position of power. Ironically, the
Prescotts eventually became one of Massachusetts' most
distinguished families.

I am descended from Elizabeth Prescott b 23Jan 1676,
d. 18Mar 1744.

She married Eleazer Green about 1694 or 1695. Their daughter
Elizabeth married John Ames(Eames), and their descendant
Arvilla Ames married my ancestor John Cutter West