Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Thomas Lewis Jr.'s father in law was my 9x great grandfather William Lewis, another of the founding fathers of Lancaster, Ma. William Richard Cutter has the following description:

William Lewis, the immigrant ancestor, born in England, embarked for New England, June 22, 1632, and made his home at Roxbury. Massachusetts. He was an early member of Rev. John Eliot’s church, and was admitted a freeman May 18, 1642. His name appears in the Roxbury land records as the owner of a house. barn and five acres of land abutting on land of William Heath on the south, heirs of John Graves, on the west, on a highway to the north and eastward. He was also owner of thirty-five acres bounded by the lands of Peleg Heath. north; the heirs of William Heath, east; Arthur Gary, south, and Hugh Prichard, west. In May, 1653, he sold his house lot to Stephen Hopkins and removed to Lancaster, Massachusetts, with his family. He and his son John signed the town covenant there March 13, 1653-54. In the entries of the first inhabitants of Lancaster, William Lewis is rated for two hundred and eighty-five pounds, the eighth estate in point of value. His son John’s estate was placed at eighteen pounds ten shillings. His lands are described in H. S. Nourse’s “Early Records of Lancaster,” page 254; also the lands of his son John. William died December 3, 1671, leaving a widow Amy. His will, dated November 21, 1671, bequeathed to wife Amy; sons Isaac and John; daughters Lydia, Mary and Hannah. He was a weaver by trade, and in 1671 secured land in Boston, and was preparing to build when he died. He was a friend and associate of Governor Bellingham. He married Amy Wells. Children: 1. John, born November 1, 1635; mentioned below. 2. Christopher, born 1636; received by deed from his father, April 19, 1662, the eastern half of the homestead in Lancaster. 3. Lydia, born December 25, 1640; married, January 13, 1670-71, Mordecai McLeod, of Lancaster; was killed with husband and two children by Indians in Monco’s raid, August 22, 1705. 4. Josiah, born July 28, 1641. 5. Isaac, baptized April 14. 1644. 6. Mary, baptized August 2, 1646: married Josiah White. of Lancaster: parents of Captain John White, the Indian fighter. 7. Hannah, baptized March 18. 1648-49

Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Volume 1  Lewis historical Publishing Company,  New York, New York,1908

Monday, July 29, 2019


Image result for Nahant town seal

Now it was my ancestor Thomas Dexter's turn to press his claim as owner of Nahant and refute the town of Salem's arguments:

Again, from the History of Lynn:

And it is fair to give Mr. Dexter's own statement of his case, on the appeal. It was evidently drawn up by one skilled in legal proceedings:

1. The Plaintiff pleadeth his right therein and thereto by purchase of the Indians, above 26 years now past, who were then the lawful owners thereof, as by the testimony off Jno. Legg, Wm. Witter, George Sagamore, Sagamore of Aguwame. 2. The Pit. pleadeth his possession yroff by fencing and other improvement, as by the testimony of Wm. Witter and John Legg, Capt. Traske and Mrs. Whiteing. 3. The Plaintiff humbly comendeth to the consideration of the Honoured Court, (4) That the purchase was by no law then prohibited or made voyd, but hath since, by act of the General Court) Octo. 19, 1652, written lawes, ben confirmed as being according to God's word; . . . .
also divers examples that might be instanced of sundry persons y* do enjoy those lands, which, in the infancy of these plantacons, they came by their possessions in like manner. (2.) That as yet no act or instrument made or signed by the Plaintiff hath appeared to manifest any alienacon thereof to the defendants. (3.) That they are parties which testify against the Plaintiff, and that for and in their owne behalfe, and many of them such as have in a disorderly manner ingaged themselves in a special manner against the Plaintiff and his right; as may appear by the testimony of Ri. Woodey; their combinacon of assaulting his person, &c, (4.) That if there be no remedy but what they will swea" must passe as truth, (although the Plaintiff conceives it to be very false,) yet nevertheless the Plaintiff conceiveth himself to be wronged in that he had no part found for him, whenas, by yr owne oath and confession, as he was an inhabitant of Lin, so he had a share with them, the which as yet they have not sworn, as he conceiveth, that he either gave it them or any other, and therefore seeing he sued but for his interest therein, whether more or less, he marvelleth y* such a verdict should be^brought against him, and humbly entreateth relief therefrom by this Honored Court.
24 (6) 57. [24 Aug. 1657.] Thomas Dexter.]

Mr. Dexter was afterward granted liberty to tap the pitch pine trees on Nahant, as he had done before, for the purpose of making tar.-p243

HISTORY OF LYNN, Essex County Massachusetts Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscot, and Nahant, Volume 1 John L.Shorey pub. Boston, Ma. 1865

Needless to say, Thomas was not pleased by the verdict in favor of  Salem. He and his heirs would continue to claim that the area that now is the town of Nahant belonged to Thomas, bringing the case back to court several times. The decision was never overturned.

But the story survived over the years, which is why, nearly 400 years later, my ancestor Thomas Dexter is depicted on the Nahant town seal.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


My ancestor Thomas Dexter Sr, was not happy when the town of Lynn decided to assign land to settlers in the area known as Nahant. This was because he had purchased the land from an Indian Sagamore some years before. So in 1657 he took his case to the Essex County Court. The History of Lynn contains the testimony from witnesses in the case which started on 3Jun 1657:

1. "Edward- Ireson, aged 57 yeares or there abouts, sworn, saith, that liveing with Mr. Thomas Dexter, I carried the fencing stufFe which master Dexter sett up to fence in Nahant, his part with the rest of the Inhabitants, and being and living with mr. Dexter, I never heard him say a word of his buying of Nahant, but only his interest in Nahant for his fencing with the rest of the inhabitants; this was about 25 yeares since; and after this fence was sett up at nahant, all the new comers were to give two shillings sixpence a head or a piece vnto the setters up of the fence or inhabitants, and some of Salem brought Cattell alsoe to nahant, which were to give soe."

2. "The Testimony of Samuel Whiting, senior, of the Towne of Linne,, Saith, that Mr. Humphries did desire that mr. Eaton and his company might not only buy Nahant, but the whole Towne of Linne, and that mr Goblet and he and others of the Towne went to mr. Eaton to offer both to him,v.and to commit themselves to the providence of God; and at that time there, wa&jaone that laid claim to or pleaded any interest in nahant, Save the, town, and at that time farmer Dexter lived in the Towne of Linne."

The person to whom Lynn was thus offered for^sale, was Theophilus Eaton, afterward governor of Connecticut. He came to Boston, 26 June, 1637, and went to New>Haven? in,August?,, of the same year.

3. "The Deposition of Daniel Salmon, aged about 45 years,, saith, that he, being master Humphreyes servant, and about 23 yeares agon, there being, wolves in nahant, commanded that the whole traine band goe to drive them, out, because it did belong to the whole towne, and farmer Dexter's men being; then at training, went with the rest"

4. "This I, Joseph Armitage, aged 57; or there abouts, doe testifie, that: about fifteen or sixteen yeares a goe, wee had a generall towne meeting in Lin;: at that meeting there was mucL( discourse about nahant; the men that did! first fence at nahant and by an act of generall court did apprehend by fencing that, nahant was theires, myself by purchase haveing a part therein, after much, agitation in the meeting, and by persuasion of Mr. Cobbit, they that then did] plead a right by fenc^g, did yield up all their right freely to the Inhabitants of the Towne, of which Thomas Dexter, senior, was one."

5. "We, George Sagomore and the Sagomore of Agawam, doe testify that Duke William, so called, did sell all' Nahant unto ffarmer Dexter for a suite of Cloathes, which cloathes ffarmer Dexter had again, and gave unto Duke William, so called, 2 or 3, for it again." [Signed by the marks of the two sagamores.]

6. "This I, Christopher Linsie, doe testifie, that Thomas Dexter bought Nahant of Blacks Will, or Duke William, and employed me to fence part of it when I lived with Thomas Dexter."

7. "I, John Legg, aged 47 years or thereabouts, doe testifie, that when I was Mr. Humphreys servant, there came unto my master's house one Blacke Will, as wee call him, an Indian, with a compleate Suit on his backe; I asked him where he had that suit; he said he had it of ffarmer Dexter, and he had sould him Nahant for it."

HISTORY OF LYNN, Essex County Massachusetts Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscot, and Nahant, Volume 1 John L.Shorey pub. Boston, Ma. 1865

My ancestor will give his side of the story in the next post.

To be continued...


A few weeks ago I posted here about my 9x great grandfather Thomas Dexter Sr. of Lynn, Ma. I mentioned that he seemed to be a rambunctious character. But he was also one of the leafing citizens of the young colony and one of the wealthiest. In fact, at one point, he owned a large part of the land in eastern Essex County and might have owned a larger portion if not for a court case.

The case involved Thomas Dexter buying a large area of land from an Indian chief in return for new suit. That land is now the town of Nahant and the purchase is depicted on the town seal.

The details are as follows from the book History of Lynn:

Having purchased Nahant of the Indian Sagamore, for a suit of clothes, Thomas Dexter was not disposed to sit down in unconcern, when the town made known their intention of dividing it into lots for the benefit of all the people. ' At a town meeting, held 24 February, 1657, the following order was taken: "It was voted that Nahant should be laid out in planting lotts, and every householder should have equal in the dividing of it, noe man more than another; and every person to clear his lot of wood in six years, and he or they that do not clear their lotts of the wood, shall pay fifty shillings for the towne's use. Alsoe every householder is to have his and their lotts for seven years, and it is to be laid down for a pasture for the towne; and in the seventh, every one that hath improved his lott by planting, shall then, that is, in the seventh year, sow their lott with English corne; and in every acre of land as they improve, they shall, with their English corne, sow one bushel of English hay seed, and see proportionable to all the land that ig improved, a bushel of hay seed to one acre of land, and it is to be remembered, that no person is to raise any kind of building at all; and for laying out this land there is chosen Francis Ingals, Henry Collins, James Axee, Adam Haw ekes, Lieut. Thomas Marshall, John Hathorne, Andrew Mansfield." (Mass. Archives.)

This record is valuable, as it exhibits several interesting particulars. It shows that the purchase of Nahant, by Mr. Dexter, was not considered valid — it exhibits the most impartial specimen of practical democracy in this country, the lots being apportioned to each householder equally, "noe man more than another "— it furnishes an explanation of the cause and manner of Nahant being so entirely cleared of the beautiful wood which once grew upon it — and it shows that Nahant was early planted with English corn, that is, with wheat. On the passing of this order, Mr. Dexter commenced a suit against the town for occupying it. The people held a town meeting, in which they appointed Thomas Laighton, George Keysar, Robert Coats, and Joseph Armitage, a committee to defend their right. At the Salem Court, which began on the third of June, the following depositions were given:-

HISTORY OF LYNN, Essex County Massachusetts Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscot, and Nahant, Volume 1 John L.Shorey pub. Boston, Ma. 1865

Among those mentioned as being responsible for dividing up the land are my other ancestors Adam Hawkes and Francis Ingalls.

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


((Edited from a post I wrote in 2008))

Mary (Prescott)Sawyer's father was my 9x great grandfather and
immigrant ancestor John Prescott, one of my favorite ancestors.

 John Prescott was born in Lancashire, England and came to
the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1640 after trying his hand
as a landholder in Barbadoes. He was married to Mary
Gawkrogers Platt with whom he had a total of seven children,
and he initially lived in Watertown close by Boston. But John
soon found himself embroiled in a dispute between the Puritan
leaders of the colony and a man named Robert Childe.

Robert Childe was a man of learning, a medical doctor as well
as an alchemist, of all things, in Puritan Massachusetts. But it
wasn't his learning that set him in a collision course with the
colony leaders so much as his protests that the only people
allowed to enjoy religious and political rights were members
of the Puritan Congregationalist establishment. If you weren't
admitted as a freemen, you couldn't vote or hold office and if
you were an Anglican it was difficult to be admitted. Childe
and six others (including my ancestor Samuel Maverick)
petitioned about this injustice to the General Court of
Massachusetts and sent a copy of the petition off to England
where his brother published it. The Puritan reaction was
swift. Dr Childe was arrested and exiled back to England.

John Prescott hadn't signed the petition but he was known
to agree with Dr Childe so he wasn't too popular with the
government. He'd been one of three men to purchase land to
the west from the Indians and while the other two men never
settled there, Prescott took his family and some others and
traveled there to start over. Along the way he nearly lost his
family while crossing the Sudbury River but they finally
arrived safely at their new home. Prescott started a farm
and built a mill as well as a blacksmith shop. At one point the
settlement had to be abandoned after an Indian attack but
Prescott returned and rebuilt it.

When it became a town the inhabitants named it Prescott in
his honor but the colonial government forced it to be changed
and after a few more changes it became Lancaster in memory
of the home he'd left in England.

I mentioned that Prescott was one of my favorite ancestors
and the reason is he's the only recorded early settler of New
England with a set of armor. The full story is told here in this
quote from The Military Annals of Lancaster, Massachusetts.
1740-1865 Including Lists of Soldiers Serving in the Colonial
and Revolutionary Wars, for the Lancastrian Towns: Berlin,
Bolton, Harvard, Leominster, and Sterling By Henry Stedman
Nourse: (W. J. Coulter, Lancaster, Ma. 1889 pp360-361)
which is also the source of most of this article:

"It is related that at his first coming he soon won the respect
of the savages not only by his fearlessness and great strength
but by the power of his eye and his dignity of mien. They soon
learned to stand in awe of his long musket and unerring skill
as a marksman. He had no doubt seen some military service
in England for he came of a soldierly race his great grandfather
having been knighted for gallantry in battle. He had brought
with him from England a suit of mail helmet and cuirass
probably such as were worn by the soldiers of Cromwell"

"Clothed with these his stately figure seemed to the sons of
forest something almost superhuman. One day some
Indians having taken away a horse of his he put on his armor,
pursued them alone, and soon overtook them. The chief of the
party seeing him approach unsupported met him menacingly
with uplifted tomahawk. Prescott dared him to strike and was
immediately taken at his word but the rude weapon glanced
harmless from the helmet to the amazement of the red men.
Naturally the Indian desired to try upon his own head so
wonderful a hat and the owner obligingly gratified him
claiming the privilege however of using the tomahawk in
return. The helmet proving a scant fit or its wearer
neglecting to bring it down to its proper bearings Prescott's
vengeful blow not only astounded him but left very little
cuticle on either side of his head and nearly deprived him of
ears. Prescott was permitted to jog home in peace upon his

After hostilities began it is said that at one time the savages
set fire to his barn but fled when he sallied out clad in armor
with his dreaded gun and thus he was enabled to save his
stock though the building was consumed. More than once
attempts were made to destroy the mill but a sight of the
man in mail with the far reaching gun was enough to send
them to a safe distance and rescue the property.

Many stories have been told of Prescott's prowess but some
bear so close a resemblance to those credibly historic in other
places and of other heroes that there attaches to them some
suspicion of adaptation at least Such undoubtedly is the story
that in the assault upon the town he had several muskets but
no one in the house save his wife to assist him. She loaded the
guns and he discharged them with fatal effect. The contest
continued for nearly half an hour Mr Prescott all the while
giving orders as if to soldiers so loud that the Indians could
hear him to load their muskets though he had no soldiers but
his wife. At length they withdrew carrying off several of their
dead and wounded."

I'm not sure how much of all that is true but it is fun to read.
In 1664 the General court opened the way for admission of
non Puritan believers as freedmen and John took the oath
in 1669. John Prescott died in 1681 a well respected man
and among his descendants are William Prescott the historian
and Col. William Prescott of Bunker Hill fame.

I'm descended from three  children of John Prescott: Lydia Prescott
and Jonas Prescott on my Barker side of Dad's family and Mary Prescott
on the West side

Sunday, July 21, 2019


American poet Walt Whitman also wrote many prose pieces. He was present in Washington, D.C. at the start of the Civil War, and watched the defeated Union Army return from the First Battle of Bull Run. My 2x great grandfather may have been the soldiers he saw.

This is the first paragraph of the article I found on the website.

Battle of Bull Run, July, 1861
ALL this sort of feeling was destin’d to be arrested and revers’d by a terrible shock—the battle of first Bull Run—certainly, as we now know it, one of the most singular fights on record. (All battles, and their results, are far more matters of accident than is generally thought; but this was throughout a casualty, a chance. Each side supposed it had won, till the last moment. One had, in point of fact, just the same right to be routed as the other. By a fiction, or series of fictions, the national forces at the last moment exploded in a panic and fled from the field.) The defeated troops commenced pouring into Washington over the Long Bridge at daylight on Monday, 22d—day drizzling all through with rain. The Saturday and Sunday of the battle (20th, 21st,) had been parch’d and hot to an extreme—the dust, the grime and smoke, in layers, sweated in, follow’d by other layers again sweated in, absorb’d by those excited souls—their clothes all saturated with the clay-powder filling the air—stirr’d up everywhere on the dry roads and trodden fields by the regiments, swarming wagons, artillery, &c.—all the men with this coating of murk and sweat and rain, now recoiling back, pouring over the Long Bridge—a horrible march of twenty miles, returning to Washington baffled, humiliated, panic-struck. Where are the vaunts, and the proud boasts with which you went forth? Where are your banners, and your bands of music, and your ropes to bring back your prisoners? Well, there isn’t a band playing—and there isn’t a flag but clings ashamed and lank to its staff.


Today is the 158th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, My2x great grandfather Asa Freeman Ellingwood was there and was injured in the retreat of the Union forces, and some years later he applied for a  Civil War Disability Pension. I obtained a copy of his claim and blogged about it back in 2011, and thought I'd repost  part ofnAsa's memories of his experience and injuries for this anniversary.

There are some parts that I wasn't able to make out and other words which are my best guesses
at  meaning, The latter are indicated by (?). Other that that the grammar and
punctuation are as they appear on the original document.

Q: Where, when and how did you incur the two alleged ruptures.
A: While I was a member of Co.I  5th Me. at the first battle of Bull Run on the
21st of July 1861  I was helping a man by the name of Perry who died afterwards
off the field when the Col. Mark H. Dunnell who was riding by the side of us
swung his horse around and knocked me down with the man I was helping
on top of me. We were both knocked over. We were on the retreat from Bull
Run in the woods at the time and when I was knocked over I was knocked
over a log and it was at that time I was knocked down when I was ruptured
on both sides. The right side and the left side.

Q: Is this affidavit  I now show you dated and executed  Nov 12 th 1880 in
which you state that you received one rupture in 1861 and in in March of 1862
signed by you.
A: Yes sir it is

Q: How do you explain the discrepancy in prior(?) affidavit  and your statement
of today.
A:They misunderstood me when they made the affidavit for I never knew that
I had stated any such thing for I never got any rupture in 1862. They were both
(illegible) me in 1861 just after2 injuries by the horse.

Q: Were you sent to Hospital at the time you say you were knocked down and run
over Col Mark Dunnell's horse.
A: No sir I was not in the Hospital at any time. We had no Hospital at that time.

Q: How long after you were run over or knocked down was it before you felt or
knew you were ruptured.
A: I felt it the same day

Q: Who knew of your rupture at the time.
A:I don't know that anyone did only I told Dr Warren and he gave me some
medicine and I reported as sick and they put me onto light duty.

Q: Where was you when Dr Warren treated you for the rupture and disease
of the kidneys.
A: It was at Bush Hill Va. in July 1861'

Q: When and or where did you contract the alleged disease of kidneys.
A: At the first battle of Bull Run in July 1861. We were on a double quick march
on the 20th of July and we had just got to Fairfax and I was very sweaty and
tired and we had no blankets having (illegible) away on our retreat.

(There seems to be a page missing here as the next page starts with Asa
answering a question about him reenlisting.)

A: Yes sir I reenlisted in the V.I.R. C. in September, 1864 and stayed there for
about 16 months

Q: Who knew that you were ruptured when you came home in December 1861
A: My wife and I don't know of anyone else

Q: What was your duties while you were in the V.R. Corps
A :I was a cook

Q: Where did you live in Dec 1861 when you came home from the 5th Maine
A: I lived at Paris Maine

Q Who treated you when you came home in Dec 1861
A: Dr Russell who now lives at Fayette(?) Maine

Q: Where have you lived since you came out of the service in 1865
A: I lived in Dummer in N.H for some 6 years and Dr Meserve of Milan N.H.
then treated me. Then I moved across the lake to Erril N.H. where I lived some
three years.  Dr. Wily of Bethel treated me while I lived  at Erril. I then moved here
near Upton Hill where I have been ever since,

Q: Do you wish to act as your own attorney during this examination of your claim
or do you wish to appoint some attorney to act for you
A: I am poor and have not the money to (three illegible words) my self and cannot
afford to have anyone. Therefore I shall be obliged  to depend upon your honesty.

Q: Then you waive all rights to be present in person or to be represented by an
attorney during said examination of your claims
A: Yes Sir I do.

Q: Who do you wish me to see in behalf of your claims
A: I wish you to see Crosby Curtis of Woodstock Maine also his  wife. James
Barrows and Oliver Pratt of West Paris Me.and those who have testified in my
claim and Mr Bradford Denning at West Paris Maine.

Q: Have you any other testimony to offer in behalf of your claims other than that
which is already mentioned
A:  No Sir

There follow the signatures of two witnesses, C.L. Abbott and A. F. Abbott.
Then the signature of Asa F Ellingwood as deponent.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 3rd day of Apr 1884 and I 
certify that the contents were fully made known to deponent before signing.
F. E. Lawton Special Examiner.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


This is a screenshot from RootsMagic of the pedigree chart of my 4x great grandfather Moses Houghton. I had been struck by how entangled the Houghton and Sawyer families were in his ancestry so I marked all the descendants of Thomas and Mary Prescott (my 8x grandparents) in red 

Then I used the Relationship Calculator to see to what degree Moses' parents Elisha Houghton and Meriah Peirce were related.

Instances like this were quite common in colonial America. Outside of the cities, people lived in small villages and towns established by a few families. Then these early settlers were bonded together when they were forced to share the close quarters of garrison homes during Indian attacks which was the case for the Houghtons and Sawyers. Those ties sometimes continued when family members left for other parts of the country,

I have other lines in my Dad's family like this to a lesser extent.but this is the most tangled.

Friday, July 19, 2019


((UPDATE: It's been ten years since I posted this and since then I've discovered that
I have Moore, Whitcomb, Wilder, and Fairbanks ancestors. So only three names listed below  
are not those of a direct ancestor or a cousin. First posted in  February 2009))

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.

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

Monday, July 15, 2019


My 7x great grandfather Thomas Sawyer Jr. lived in "interesting times" when life in Lancaster Massachusetts resembled that in the American West of a few centuries later. The town, like others west of Boston, was the site of Indian attacks and Thomas was himself held captive for a time in Canada by the French and their native allies. Ellery Bicknell Crane tells the story in this bigographical sketch of my ancestor.

(II) Thomas Sawyer, son of Thomas Sawyer (1), was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, July 2, 1649, the first white child born there. His capture by the Indians forms one of the most familiar stories of the colonial period in Massachusetts. He was, a man of fifty-five when the event took place, and was living in the garrison as described above. Queen Anne's war was making the lives of the colonists unsafe especially on the frontier. Indians made frequent attacks and massacred men, women and children. On October 16, 1705, Thomas Sawyer, Jr., his son Elias. and John Bigelow, of Marlboro, were at work in his saw mill when they were surprises and captured by Indians. The Indians took their captives back 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 French 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 real dangers, and doubtless the friar took care not to specify just 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.

Thomas Sawyer married three times: First, Sarah , 1670; second, Hannah , 1672; and third, Mary White, 1718. He died at Lancaster, and his grave there is marked by a stone. He died September 5, 1736, in the eighty-ninth year of his age (so said), but was probably eighty-seven, if the records are correct. His will mentions four sons and two daughter. He bequeathed twelve pounds to purchase a communion vessel for the Lancaster church. Children of Thomas Sawyer were: 1. William. 2. Joseph 3. Bazalies. 4. Elias. 5. Mary, married Joshua Rice, of Marlboro. 6. Hannah, married Jonathan Moore, of Bolton. 7. (perhaps) Sarah, married Rev. Nathaniel Whitman, of Dcerfield. Massachusetts.

I'm descended from two of Thomas' children, Joseph and Hannah. I believe their mother was Hannah Lewis, Thomas' second wife..

Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts: With a History of Worcester Society of Antiquity, Volume 1 
Lewis Publishing Company,  N.Y., N.Y. 1907

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


My 8x great grandfather Thomas Sawyer, Sr. is another of my immigrant ancestors and one of the original settlers of Lancaster, Ma. Some of his fellow settlers are also my ancestors. Ezra Stearns wrote this description of Thomas for a book on New Hampshire genealogy:

(I) Thomas Sawyer, the American ancestor, son of John Sawyer, of Lincolnshire, England, was born about 1626, in Lincolnshire, and came to Massachusetts in 1636, with two elder brothers, and they settled in Rowley in 1639. As early as 1647, when he was twenty-four years of age, he became one of the first six settlers of Lancaster, along with the Prescotts, Wilders, Houghtons and two other families. In May 1653. the general court, in answer to a petition of the inhabitants of Lancaster, appointed Edward Breck, Nathaniel Haddock, William Kerley, Thomas Sawyer, John Prescott and Ralph Houghton, "prudential managers," "both to see all alotments to be laid out for the planters in due proportion to their estates, and also to order their prudential affairs." During this same year these managers allotted a part of the lands of the town. All divisions of land subsequent to the first, whether upland, intervale, meadow or swamp, were to be "accorded to men's estates," on the valuation of the taxable property which they brought into the settlement. Thomas Sawyer's property was valued at ino, which was about one forty-second part of the property held by the thirty adult male inhabitants of the town. Thomas Sawyer was made a freeman in 1654. He settled near the south branch of the Nashua river, and not far from the junction of that stream with the North branch. Here he built a house which was a garrison, and the scene of the most conspicuous events in the town's history. In 1704 this garrison with nine men was commanded by Thomas (2) Sawyer, and was the place of defense of the families in the vicinity, in case of an attack by Indians. Thomas Sawyer and his family passed through some of the most horrible experiences of Indian warfare in this home of theirs. King Philip's war, which began in 1675, raised a storm which broke in great fury on Lancaster, August 22, 1675 (o. s.), and eight persons were killed in the town that day. February 9, 1676, King Philip, with fifteen hundred warriors attacked Lancaster, and fifty persons, one-sixth of the inhabitants of the town, were captured or killed. Among the latter was Ephraim, the son of Thomas Sawyer, who was killed at Prescott's Garrison, in what is now the town of Clinton. The town included fifty families, and they made a heroic resistance, but overpowered by numbers they could not prevent the enemy from destroying a large number of their cattle and all but two of the houses in the settlement. After having been abandoned four years, the resettlement of the town was undertaken by the survivors of the massacre, one of whom was Thomas Sawyer. He was a blacksmith, and after participating in the struggles and trials of fifty-three years he died in Lancaster, at the age of eighty years. He was buried in the old burying ground on the bank of the Nashua river, and his headstone still stands inscribed: "Thomas Sawyer, Dec'd, September 12, 1706." Thomas Sawyer married, in 1647, Mary, daughter of John and Mary (Plaits) Prescott. John Prescott, blacksmith, was a native of Lancaster, England, and the first permanent inhabitant of Lancaster. He was the progenitor of Colonel William Prescott, of Bunker Hill fame, and William H. Prescott, the historian. The children of Thomas and Mary Sawyer were: Thomas, Ephraim, Mary, Elizabeth, Joshua, James, Caleb, John and Nathaniel.-pp103-4

 Genealogical and Family History of the State of New Hampshire: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 1  Lewis Publishing Company, 1908

Monday, July 08, 2019


((Another post from 2009. I've since determined that Josiah is
my 7x great granduncle))

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 decided the length; did they actually
measure it or was it a rough estimate? And was it actually 16 feet, or did it grow in the retelling?

That Indian might have had a good time telling his friends about how far Josiah jumped.

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!

Sunday, July 07, 2019


((Before I start a series of posts about my Sawyer direct ancestors, I thought I'd first repost a pair of stories involving some Sawyer cousins. This one was first posted in 2009.))

Back earlier this year when I was researching accounts of my ancestors' experiences
in the New England Indian wars I came across an interesting story about some of
my Sawyer relatives. It concerned, of all things, a legend about a disappearing
stone! I bookmarked it to come back to later, or so I thought, because when I
was ready to post about it here I found I'd not saved the site location.

I began googling for the story once more but had no luck. Periodically
I'd renew the search but failed and I'd finally almost come to believe that the
story about a disappearing stone had disappeared itself! But tonight I finally
got lucky!

So here's a story of brothers John and Benjamin Sawyer, my fellow descendants
from Thomas Sawyer and Mary(Marie) Prescott:

"John was a builder, and when he was putting up a house for Charles Buck asked
Benjamin to help him find a big flat stone for the hearth, probably. They found a
stone which by splitting would serve, but left it for another that served without
splitting. Soon afterward, when another such stone was needed for another new
house. John searched for the stone and to his surprise it had disappeared.
Benjamin was sure he could find it, but he also failed in his search. Soon the
stone reappeared, however, in the very spot where it had been first discovered.
The superstitious explained the mystery of the stone that came and went, and the
public came to believe that the stone marked hidden treasure. It was supposed
that the ghostly guards who had to watch over the treasure got tired of their job
occasionally and hid away the stone. At any rate, enough credence was given to
the story of enchantment to cause many parties to dig for the fabled treasure,
and the stories of their experiences add an interesting chapter to the town history."

- Cutter, William Richard, ed. Historic Homes and Places and Genealogical
and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Middlesex County,
Massachusetts, Vol3 (New York, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Co.
1908) p.1377

Benjamin Sawyer lived from 1762 to 1843 and this is the only mention I've
found anywhere of hidden treasure and a magical disappearing stone in Reading.
Middlesex, Ma. It is strongly reminiscent of the folktales of England, I think.

If you're up around Reading some day, look for a stone suddenly appearing in
a field and you might find some buried treasure!

Saturday, July 06, 2019


My 4x great grandfather Moses Houghton and his twin brother Aaron were born in 1781. He married Martha Haskell in Harvard, Ma. on  18 Oct 1803. The couple had the first five of their eleven children in Acton, after which Moses moved his family to Norway, Maine. where he owned a farm. William Berry Lapham's book for the town's centennial has the following information about the family:

Moses Houghton, born in Acton, Massachusetts, March 22, 1781, came to this town from Harvard. He married Martha Haskell, who was born February 15, 1780. Children : —
I. Richard, b. Acton, June 9, 1804; m. Lucinda Barrows, of Hebron. He was a gunsmith, and resided for several years in Norway.
II. Martha, b. Acton, September 4, 1805; m. Nathaniel Knight; s. Paris.
 III. Samuel, b. Acton, September 5, 1807; d. April 9, 1809.
IV. Samuel H., b. Acton, July 20, 1809; m. Betsey G. Tuell, of Paris.
V. Elijah, b. Acton, May 15, 1811; d. September 30, 1830.
VI. Maria, b. Norway, April 6, 1813; m. Gilman Tuell; s. Paris.
VII. Sally, b. Norway, March 1, 1815; m. James Dunham.
VIII. Ruth, b. Norway, February 22, 1817; m. Horatio G. Russ; s. Paris.
IX. Susan, b. Norway, February 22, 1819; m. Henry Russ; s. Paris.
X. Moses, b. Norway, October 16, 1820; m. Lucy Swift; s. Paris.
XI. Aaron, b. Norway, March 25, 1823; m. Martha Farris.


Centennial History of Norway, Oxford County, Maine, 1786-1886: Including an Account of the Early Grants and Purchases, Sketches of the Grantees, Early Settlers, and Prominent Residents, Etc., with Genealogical Registers, and an Appendix  
B. Thurston & Company, 1886 - Norway (Me.)

I'm descended from Sally Houghton who married my 3x grandfather James Thomas Dunham. That was one of the marriages where one of my family lines from Plymouth County, Ma. mingled with one of my lines from Worcester County.

Monday, July 01, 2019


 I've been exploring the  new ancestors I foiund when the John Cutter West brickwall. The families are mostly from Barnstable and Plymouth couties, but yesterday I discovered the immigrant ancestor of one branch originally settled in the Essex County town of Lynn. And it turns out this ancestor, Thomas Dexter, Sr, was quite a rambunctious character. I've found mention of several clashes with church and government authorites. One in particular has been amusing because it involved a clash with another of my ancestors, John Endecott.

 I found the following account in a History of Lynn written by Alonzo Lewis and James R. Newhall over 150 years ago.

At this time, there was no bridge across Saugus river, and people who traveled to Boston were compelled to pass through the woods in the northern part of the town, and ford the stream by the Iron Works, which were near the site of the present woolen factories, in Saugus Centre. The following extract from a letter written by Mr. John Endicott, of Salem, to Gov. Winthrop, on the 12th of April, illustrates this custom. Mr. Endicott had just been married. He says: "Right Worshipful, I did hope to have been with you in person at the Court, and to that end I put to sea yesterday, and was driven back again, the wind being stiff against us;" and there being no canoe or boat at Saugus, I must have been constrained to go to Mistic, and thence about to Charlestown; which at this time I durst not be so bold, my body being at present in an ill condition to take cold, and therefore I pray you to pardon me."

A quarrel had arisen, a short time previous, between Mr. Endicott and Thomas Dexter, in which the Salem magistrate so far forgot his dignity as to strike Mr. Dexter, who complained to the Court at Boston. It was on this occasion that Mr. Endicott wrote the letter from which the preceding extract is made. He thus continues: "I desired the rather to have been at Court, because I hear I am much complained of by Goodman Dexter for striking him; understanding since it is not lawful for a justice of peace to strike. But if you had seen the manner of his carriage, with such daring of me, with his arms akimbo, it wrould have provoked a very patient man... He hath given out, if I had a purse he would make me empty it, and if he cannot have justice here, he will do wonders in England; and ;iif he cannot prevail there, he will try it out with me here at blows. If it were lawful for me to try it at blows, and he a fit man for me to deal with, you should not hear me complain." The jury, to whom the case was referred, gave their verdict for Mr. Dexter, on the third of May, and gave damages ten pounds, (USA) [An error was made in copying from the record, which stands thus: "The jury findes for the plaintiffs and cesses for damages xls." ($8.88). It is evident that the second numeral and s, were mistaken for a pound mark, thus increasing the 40s. to loll Besides the evidence of the blow, Mr. Endicott manifests somewhat of an irascible disposition in his letter; and Mr. Dexter was not a man to stand for nice points of etiquette on occasions of irritability. Some years afterward, having been insulted by Samuel Hutchinson, he met him one day on the road, and jumping from his horse, he bestowed "about twenty blows on his head and shoulders," to the no small danger and deray of his \senses, as well as sensibilities

HISTORY OF LYNN, Essex County Massachusetts Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscot, and Nahant, Volume 1 John L.Shorey pub. Boston, Ma. 1865