Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thankful Winslow (1715-1758) (Week 48) Theme: "Thankful"

The obvious choice for this week's American Thanksgiving theme might have been my 8th great grand-uncle Edward Winslow (1595-1655), Mayflower passenger and early governor of Plymouth Colony. He has long been associated with Thanksgiving because of his famous letter describing the "first American Thanksgiving".

Instead, I have chosen a less well-known Winslow, my 5th great grand-aunt named Thankful. Her name, unusual to modern tastes, was not unusual in her day. Early New Englanders often gave their children names of virtues that they hoped their children would emulate as they matured. Names such as Thankful, Temperance, Resolved, Mercy, Patience, Prudence, and Experience were commonplace. Others sound very odd indeed to modern ears. Imagine being called Silence or Freelove or Hallelujah! All of these are names I've encountered while researching my family tree.

Snippatuit Pond in the Rochester Area
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA

Thankful Winslow was born 2 April 1715 in Rochester, Massachusetts, to my 6th great grandparents Major Edward Winslow (1681-1760) and his wife Sarah Clark (1681-1767). (Edward's father, Kenelm Winslow was said to have been one of the earliest landowners in the Rochester area, but may not himself have ever lived there.) The house of Edward Winslow in Snippatuit was mentioned in 1726. The year prior to that, Major Edward Winslow of Sniptuit had been empowered to set up an iron mill on the Mattapoisett River.

Location of Rochester, Massachusetts
Google Earth Image

Thankful's father Edward was captain, and later major, in the local militia and took an active role in civic affairs in Rochester. He was also both a farmer and a maker/forger of iron.

Edward had married local girl Sarah Clark in the opening years of the 18th century. Their family started in 1703 with the birth of yet another Edward Winslow, followed by Mehitable in 1705, then my 5th great grandmother Sarah Winslow (1707-1771), Lydia, Mercy and Thankful, the youngest. One wonders whether Sarah had had a difficult pregnancy and was thankful for its successful outcome. Perhaps they simply wanted their young daughter to grow up remembering to be grateful for what life had to offer. However, the name Thankful does appear from time to time in this family and could simply be a family tradition.

Thankful would have been just a child when her older sister Sarah (my 5th great grandmother) married Thomas Lincoln and had three children with him prior to his death in 1730. Widowed Sarah then married my 5th great grandfather James Whitcomb and went on to have 10 additional children including my 4th great grandmother Mary Whitcomb. Other siblings would also have married and started their own families leaving Thankful as probably the last to leave home. The family all tended to remain in the Rochester, Massachusetts area.

Snappatuit Brook would have been a familiar sight to Thankful Winslow
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA

At the age of 20 Thankful married Josephus Hammond (1703-1779) and started a family of her own in Rochester. Children were born in 1736 (Parnal), 1738 (Edward), 1740 (another Thankful!), 1742 (Zuriah) and 1744 (Josephus).  She also suffered losses of her brother James Winslow in 1744 and sister Mercy in 1757.

Herring Run - Thankful would have been familiar with this terrain
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA 
The following year Thankful herself died on 2 October 1758. She is undoubtedly buried near Rochester, Massachusetts but her grave site has not been located.

(Bonus) Not Thanksgiving Turkey but Another Feast Story:

Not wanting to be deprived of a Thanksgiving feast story (after deciding NOT to tell the Edward Winslow story of the "first Thanksgiving" at Plymouth Colony) here is another story of a great early American feast that occurred years before the birth of Thankful, during the lifetime of her grandfather Kenelm Winslow:

I discovered this story while researching the early history of the Winslows in the Rochester, MA area. It comes down to us from Church's "Entertaining History of King Philip's War" which is described in Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts on pages 13-15.

In 1676, Awashonks, the female sachem (chief) of the Sogkonate tribe invited Captain Church to join her people in a feast and races being held on the "Sands and Flats." At the supper, "a curious young Bass was brought in on one dish, eels and flatfish on a second, shellfish on a third, but neither Bread nor Salt was to be seen at table."

Even more memorable than the all-seafood feast was the after dinner entertainment.
"A great pile of Pine knots and Tops was fired and the Indians gathered in a ring about it. Awashonks and the oldest of her people kneeling down made the first ring, and all the stout lusty men standing up made the next, and all the Rabble, a Confused Crew, surrounded on the outside. Then the Chief Captain stopped in between the people and the fire, and with a spear in one hand and a hatchet in the other danced round the fire and began to fight with it, making mention of all the several nations and companies of Indians that were enemies to the English; and at every tribe named he would draw out and fight a new fire brand, at finishing his fight with a fire brand he would bow to him and thank him." 

When he finished, another chief would step in to repeat the performance, and then another and another. They told Captain Church that they were making soldiers for him and the ceremony was a swearing in of all the young able men. This was obviously, then, not so much an entertainment as a significant ceremony. At the close of the performance, Awashonks presented Captain Church with a very fine firelock and in return received assurances of protection of the English. As a result, her tribe was protected by the English during the subsequent King Philip's War but her leadership among the Native Americans also suffered for being seen as too closely allied with the English. The feast may well have been a turning point in the eventual outcome of King Philip's War, something for which the English settlers of Rochester would no doubt be very thankful indeed.


  • "Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts: Being a History of These Towns", New York: The Grafton Press 1907
  • "The New England Historical & Genealogical Register", 1851
  • Scott, Henry Edwards (ed.), "Vital Records of Rochester, Massachusetts to the Year 1850", Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1914;
  • "Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Jan 2014), Edward Winslow in entry for Thankfull Winslow

Friday, 20 November 2015

Joseph Wilkinson (1683-1740) and Martha Pray (c1693-1784) (Week 47) Theme: "Sporting"

Not remembering a single ancestor who was much involved in sport, I did recall one male ancestor who was known to have used a hunting lodge near Providence, R.I. Another story I recalled was about a female ancestor who had saved the family's apple harvest by shooting a bear. Whether or not hunting to provide food for the family qualifies as "sport" or was simply a question of survival, I went looking for these ancestors in my family tree. Imagine my delight at finding that the two were husband and wife! This is their story.

Joseph and Martha, my 7th great grandparents, both came from solid Rhode Island stock. He was born there 22 January 1683 to Samuel Wilkinson and Plain Wickenden. She was born there about a decade later to John Pray and Sarah Brown. Both families had been well settled in the Providence area since at least the mid 1650's. Both of their mothers were granddaughters of some of the earliest Baptist settlers who founded Providence - William Wickenden and Chad Brown.

Earliest Providence settlers include Joseph's great grandfather William Wickenden
 and Martha's great grandfather Chad Brown
Joseph and Martha were married in Providence in 1713 and would go on to have a large family of 15 children. (I descend from daughter Susannah born between 1720-1725; she would marry Oliver Westcott, great grandson of Stukely Westcott whose lot is also shown on the map above).

As the population of Providence increased over the generations, new settlements were set off from the old. Joseph had already moved to the northwest part of the nearby town of Scituate, R.I. by 1703 before it was officially set off and when it was known by the name of Chapumiscook. He had been granted 137 acres of land there in 1700. There was just a crooked trail leading to his property from Providence at the time and travel would have been done on horseback.

Joseph was a prominent man in the early years of Scituate, often elected to town council and chosen deputy. He erected the first barn there, brought the first cow to town, and was a surveyor who was kept very busy in town activities. His home was on the most northern turnpike and was considered to be a very good farm. When the barn was erected, a barn-raising bee had been held and a fermented honey beverage called metheglin (mead with herbs or spices added) was consumed by the happy barn-raisers. One relative named Hopkins who attended the barn-raising could still recall his enjoyment of the event several decades later when he was a very old man!

Locations of Scituate and Providence, R.I.
Google Earth

Joseph was known to have used the hunting lodge that was built at Scituate for the convenience of hunters from nearby Providence. The lodge was situated near a brook and in an area with  tender grass and berries that attracted deer and other game, plentiful in the region at that time.

Early in their married years, Joseph and Martha often had to keep guard over their sheep at night to protect them from bears and wolves. The sheep were kept in log enclosures near their house and one night Joseph and Martha were awakened by the sound of logs being rolled away. The couple had to get up to rescue their sheep. (The sheep would have been vital to provide the wool for Martha to spin and weave into cloth for the family's clothing needs.)

Another time, a bear came to visit when Martha was home alone. She had just one much-valued apple tree full of ripe fruit that the bear was shaking from the tree. As this was their only source of apples (probably for pies and, even more importantly, for the cider that was a mainstay beverage among these early settlers), Martha knew she had to act. She took her husband's loaded shotgun (kept handy for just such an eventuality), aimed and took one shot to frighten away the bear. This so frightened Martha herself that she dropped the gun and raced back into the house and shut the door. When her husband returned home, he found the bear dead under the apple tree. Not only had she saved her fruit, but she provided the family with a good supply of meat. As far as we know, however, this one shot was Martha's one and only attempt at hunting.

Joseph must have been away working his land quite often for another story is also told about Martha's adventures when she was home alone. A large party of Native Americans arrived at her doorstep. Although she didn't understand their language, she understood that they wanted food, so she obliged. They returned in a few days with some nice fresh venison for her. After this, they were frequent welcome visitors at the Wilkinson household where there would be friendly bartering of moccasins and other leather goods for food.

Joseph died 24 April 1740 in Scituate, leaving Martha with several children still at home. She would outlive him by 44 years, dying 22 May 1784. The site of Martha's grave is unknown, but Joseph is buried in the Westcott-Wilkinson Lot also known as Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Scituate #14 on the Hartford Pike. Only 14 burials were made here including Joseph and Martha's grandson Reverend John Westcott and his wife Amey Clarke Westcott, my 5th great grandparents.

Westcott-Wilkinson Lot
Photo courtesy Gene Kuechmann from

Much of the town of Scituate as Joseph and Martha would have known it is now submerged under the Scituate Reservoir, built in the early years of the 20th century to provide water for Providence. Driving through the area leaves one with an uneasy sense of quiet foreboding, perhaps a reflection of the tragic consequences for many displaced residents. Although some were happy to resettle, many left unwillingly. Some were said to have committed suicide as a result of their homes, farms, barns, schools, churches and numerous cotton mills being destroyed for the project. Many cemeteries were also flooded. Although no Wilkinsons could be found in the list of displaced landowners, the unfortunate consequence for descendants of these early Scituate settlers is that it is challenging to find surviving subject matter for photographs of ancestral locations.

Scituate Reservoir, RI
Google Earth Image

Sources and Further Reading:

  • "The History of Scituate, RI" accessed online on 13 November 2015 at this link
  • Beaman, C.C., "An Historical Sketch of the Town of Scituate, RI" published by order of the town council and delivered at Scituate, RI on 4 July 1876 accessed online here
  • Wikipedia article for "Scituate Reservoir"
  •, Rhode Island Births 1636-1930; Rhode Island Vital Extracts 1636-1899; Rhode Island: Find a Grave Index 1663-2013
  • Yates Publishing, U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
  • Find A Grave website: Westcott-Wilkinson Lot on
  • Roberts, Gary Boyd, "Genealogies of Rhode Island Families volume 1", New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 1989
  • Scituate Reservoir Condemnation Map Index accessed online 19 November 2015 at this North Scituate Public Library website.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Charles F Edwards (1869-1941) (Week 46) Theme: "Changes"

The suggested theme for this week in Amy Johnson Crow's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" is "Changes - Highlight an ancestor that went through many changes or that you had to change your research strategies to find." Either way you look at it, my great grandfather Charles F. Edwards fits the bill.

Charles F Edwards, age 27
Born 22 February 1869 in Keokuk, Iowa, Charles changed both residence and career numerous times over his 72 year life.  We know that he lived in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Washington, and in Saskatchewan, Canada. Before his marriage license and certificate were issued for his Great Falls, Montana, marriage to Mary Jane Wescott on 01 October 1896, records for his early life in Iowa and Kansas remained elusive.

The details that Charles divulged to his family about his early history included the following:
  • His mother was named Rachel Hoover and she had been married 3 times: once to another Hoover, once to an Edwards and finally to a Payton.
  • He had a half-brother named Sam Hoover and twin sisters named Minnie and Grace Edwards.
  • The family were strict Quakers.
  • His mother was a relative of President Herbert Hoover.
  • He was orphaned young and raised by his sister Grace in Coffeyville, Kansas.
  • He started working on the railroad when he was 17, starting as a call boy and later a brakeman
  • It was while working on the railroad that he met his future wife who was working at a restaurant in Great Falls, Montana.

I spent more than 10 years following up on these clues, searching rolls of microfilm for census records in both Iowa and Kansas, searching microfilm and microfiche Quaker records for logical locations for the family and researching the family history of President Herbert Hoover to see if I could find Charles and his mother Rachel. Online searches were conducted. Letters were written. Nothing. This was a true brick wall yielding few results no matter what was tried.

When the 1880 US Census was available online in a searchable format, I was able to find a family grouping with distinct possibilities located in Howard, Elk County, Kansas:

1880 US Census for Kansas
We had been told that Charles's mother had married a Payton and here was a Payton family grouping with 3 Edwards stepchildren: Martha and Mary (not Minnie and Grace) both 14 and Charles 11, all born in Iowa. But the mother of the household was named "Barbary", not Rachel. Had Charles's mother Rachel died by now and had George Payton already remarried?

Another record yielding new clues was the marriage license for the marriage of Charles and Mary Jane.

Marriage License of 1896 marriage of Charles and Mary-Jane

According to information provided in his license application, the names of Charles's parents were Martha Hoover (not Rachel and not Barbary either) and Louis Edwards. Finally I had some documented parental names to work with!

More years would pass without further significant finds regarding his early years, notwithstanding various ongoing attempts. The years following his marriage to Mary-Jane Wescott are easier to follow.  What we know about their family life:

  • They were living in Great Falls, Montana, when first child, daughter Idella Marguerite Edwards (my maternal grandmother) was born in 1897. 
  • Charles headed North to Alaska in 1898 in search of his fortune in the gold fields, but returned home empty-handed.
  • He resumed working for the Great Northern Railroad.
  • Although records consistently report that birth of second child Everett was in Montana, Everett himself had been told that he was actually born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada with his birth recorded later when the family returned to Great Falls.
  • He returned to Alaska in 1900 for another attempt at the motherlode, but again returned within a few months with no riches to show for his efforts.
  • For the next dozen or so years, they had a comfortable family life in Great Falls with the addition of three more daughters (Ora, Marion and Grace) and one other son (Merton or "Chuck").
  • Charles made good money and they could afford a nice home, a hired girl, and railroad passes that enabled the family to travel. When he returned home from his work on the railway, his family felt as if it were a holiday. 
  • The family lived right across from the school and Charles built a merry-go-round in the back yard for the entertainment of his own children and all their school friends.
  • Wanting to stay closer to his family, Charles changed careers again, trying his hand at fruit farming near Kalispell, Montana.
  • Because freight rates were so high, Charles couldn't afford to ship his fruit so he changed jobs again - back to working on the railroad.
Charles's womenfolk during their settled life in Kalispell, Montana:
wife Mary-Jane ("Mayme") and daughters Idella, Ora and Grace (with Bobbie the dog)
  • When the Great Northern Railroad went on strike in 1914, he went to Canada to work for the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
  • While in Canada that same year, he decided on another change: he took up a homestead to farm near Lancer, Saskatchewan.
Sandy arid prairie land presently show the former site where Charles homesteaded in Saskatchewan
  • Being late on the homesteading scene, the land he was able to get was sandy arid land, but in 1915 Charles moved his entire family there (except for eldest daughter Idella who remained in Kalispell to complete high school). 

Christmas Day 1921 on the Edwards homestead at Lancer, Saskatchewan
Charles Edwards rear left with his family including son Everett and son-in-law Ingwald Anderson
Daughters Marion, Ora (holding baby Bob Anderson), Idella (Anderson), wife Mary Jane and daughter Grace

  • Disaster struck with poor crops and a fire that burned their home to the ground in 1922 (including some original paintings and sketches by his Great Falls artist friend Charles Russel)
  • Charles lost his land in 1922 and changed back to his railroad career in the northwestern states, making a home for the family at Kelso, Washington.
  • In his 1922 "Declaration of Intention" to renounce allegiance to the British Crown, we learn that he was 6 ft. 1 inch tall, weighed 190 pounds and identified himself as "farmer"
  • His wife Mary died in 1926 after extraction of a number of teeth, leaving him a widower.
  • Charles lost a leg while operating a switch on the railroad - his foot became caught and the train wheels severed his leg (apparently he had also lost a thumb at some point). (His granddaughter Helen recalls her horror at being asked to hit him hard in the leg, and, when she demurred, he did it to himself. She hadn't realized he had a wooden leg!)
  • The accident resulted in a railroad pension, enabling him to buy property at Castle Rock, Washington.
  • In the early 1930's, hearing of plans for the building of Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, Charles sold his Castle Rock property and built a service station near the dam site, one final career change for this man who never seemed to permanently settle throughout his life of many changes.
  • He died at Moses Lake, Washington 04 November 1941 of a heart attack.
  • He was cremated in Portland, Oregon - once again leaving no tombstone or other mark for descendants to find.
But what about his early life? Details remained elusive. Maybe I needed to try something different in my searches, make a change of my own. Not being sure whether the "Keokuk, Iowa" where Charles said he had been born was the town of Keokuk in Lee County or whether it was somewhere in Keokuk County, I decided to join the Iowa Genealogical Society to see if I could learn something through membership in a local organization there. I read through their journals and continued my search. One of the benefits of membership was the ability to post queries in their journals so I sent off my inquiry by regular mail as required. Nothing happened and the supply of journals dried up. I asked their webmaster Alice Veen what had happened and was told that financial troubles were at the root of the society's problems. However, she told me that she was working on her professional genealogist accreditation and needed another project. She thought my mysterious great grandfather might be just the project she needed and asked if she could do the research for me, free of charge? Oh, yes, please, Alice!

Although I am sad to report that it wasn't through my own efforts, this significant change in bringing in a fresh set of "almost professional" eyes finally brought results. Alice would painstakingly piece together some of the mystery of those early years. Charles had not been orphaned. He was born in Iowa 3 years after his mother's Edwards husband had died (from tuberculosis contracted during his service in the American Civil War) and 4 years before she married her Payton husband. We have not yet been able to learn who Charles's father was. However, Alice was able to find a mother for Charles: her name was Barbara Hoover (not Martha nor Rachel but apparently one and the same as the Barbary in the 1880 census record). All the name changes and changed family details were no doubt a cover-up for what Charles must have seen as the shameful reality of his birth. How my heart breaks for him! Other things Alice uncovered about those early years:

  • Barbara Hoover had indeed been married 3 times - to William Hoover by whom she had a son Sam Hoover, to Lewis Edwards by whom she had twin daughters Minnie and Grace (sometimes called Mary and Martha) and finally to George Payton.
  • Being just 3 or so years older than Charles, sister Grace did NOT raise him - his mother was still alive until Charles was an adult.
  • There was no evidence that the family were Quakers.
  • There was no evidence that Barbara's Hoover family were related to the President Herbert Hoover family.
Like his mother who seemed to have gone by various names (Barbara, Barbary, and Margaret to name those on official documents, never mind Rachel and Martha that Charles had called her!), Charles himself played a bit fast and loose with his own middle name. His immediate family thought his middle name was "Francis", but his Declaration of Intention (to renounce his allegiance to the British King) has him signing his name as "Charles Franklin Edwards" and his more reliable sister Grace told her family that the name was Charles Franklin Edwards. (Could this be a clue about his father? Did Charles ever even know who his father was?)

One final matter came to light in the obituaries for mother Barbara. Charles had had yet another career, this time in the hospitality industry. He was called "Clerk of the Caldwell House". A bit of a chameleon, my great grandfather! Always looking for the next break that would improve his lot, he made numerous changes throughout his life. Unfortunately, he often seemed to make the changes too late and miss the tide that would have carried him to his much-sought-after fortune.


  • Cascade County, Montana, Marriage License 1141, Charles Edwards and Mary Wescott
  • Various sources, including census records, marriage records, newspaper records, copies of which were provided to me by Alice Hoyt Veen, CGSM, Prairie Roots Research of Bouton, Iowa, now professionally qualified, whose website can be found at 
  • Obituary for Barbara Payton from "The Morning Reporter" for Independence, Kansas, Sunday 23 November 1890
  • Miller, Marion, "My Memories", self-published memoir, a copy of which is in the possession of the author

Friday, 6 November 2015

Chad Brown (c1600-c1650) (Week 45) My Theme: Religious Freedom

For a man with such an ordinary surname, my 10th great grandfather Chad Brown led an extraordinary life.

Born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England in about 1600, the first record that can be found for him is for his marriage there on 11 September 1626 to Elizabeth Sharparowe. Their first son John (my 9th  great grandfather) was born in High Wycombe about 1630. We know this because the three emigrated from England to Boston on the ship Martin in 1638 when young John was stated to be 8 years old. Clearly the motivation for their move was the proverbial desire for religious freedom that led so many of my ancestors to America.

After first arriving  in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it quickly became apparent that Chad's Baptist beliefs were running against the Puritan tide in that colony: no religious freedom was to be found here either. He soon moved with his family to Providence in Rhode Island, recently purchased from the Naragansetts by Roger Williams as a separate settlement for his Baptist group of followers.  Brown and 12 others signed an agreement called the Providence Plantation Compact. He was on a committee of 4 men who compiled the first form of government for Providence Colony - set out to separate church and state and to provide for religious freedom.

As a surveyor, he was on the committee that set out the original lots of the settlers along "Towne Street" in Providence.

Chad Brown's lot (shown in pink 3 lots south of ancestor Stukely Westcott
and a few lots away from another ancestor William Wickenden)
In 1642, Chad Brown was ordained as the minister of the First Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island. There is some dispute as to whether he should be called its first minister or second (after Roger Williams himself) but it is agreed that he is certainly the first ordained minister of the Baptist Church in America. During his pastorship, the congregation worshipped in a grove or orchard and in the homes of its members. The iconic building that stands today wasn't built until later.

First Baptist Church, Providence, R.I.
Chad Brown was a man of cool temperament and was well known as an arbitrator of disputes in the colony. He was a well-respected leader whose advice was often sought.

Chad and Elizabeth had a family of about 9 children, some born in England and some in Providence. Chad continued as pastor until his death, which may have been as early as 1650. (Other records give the date of his death as 1663 or 1665 and that of Elizabeth as being the 1650 death.) First buried on the site at the corner of College and Benefit Streets, his remains were removed later to the North Burial Ground where a memorial was installed in 1792.

1792 Memorial to Chad Brown, North Burial Ground, Providence, RI
Photo courtesy Jen Snoots of
Chad's son John Brown (my 9th great grandfather) ably filled his father's footsteps in being a Baptist pastor in Providence and in involvement in community affairs and responsibilities. John married Mary Holmes, daughter of Obadiah Holmes, another prominent Baptist in early Rhode Island.

Brown University, an Ivy League university named for Chad's descendant Nicholas Brown, is situated primarily upon Chad's original homestead in Providence. It was established in 1784 and was the first college in the United States to accept students regardless of their religious beliefs. Religious freedom here prevailed!

Location of Brown University, Providence, RI
Google Earth Image


  • "The Chad Brown Memorial 1638-1888"
  • Genealogical Publishing Co., "Genealogy of Rhode Island Families", Baltimore: 1983, 2 volume set
  •, "U.S. and Canada Passenger and Immigration Lists"
  • article dated 9 May 2013 for "Rev Chaddus Brown"