Monday, November 24, 2014

Where are the Pilgrims?

I spent some time on Sunday afternoon searching for something to watch on TV related to Thanksgiving.  There were a plethora of cooking shows, with hints on roasting the perfect turkey.  But I was looking for something historical that mentioned the Plymouth settlers.  The only thing I found was the very inaccurate 1952 movie “Plymouth Adventure” starring Spencer Tracy.  And it was on the TCM channel by subscription only.  (So I couldn’t watch)  – Sigh –

Earlier I had gone to several stores looking for a Thanksgiving greeting card.  I really wanted one with a depiction of a Plymouth pilgrim, since it was for one of my Mayflower cousins from the NH Society.  After looking at over 100 cards, I gave up.  There were pumpkins, cornucopias, and autumn leaves but not a single pilgrim.  There was not even a historically inaccurate one with buckles on his hat.  – pout  –

Earlier I had gone looking for some Thanksgiving decorations.  I have a set of beautifully made pilgrim figures with historically accurate costumes, bought at Plimoth Plantation several years ago.  But we have recently moved and I can‘t find where they were packed away.  After much searching, I gave up on decorating for Thanksgiving 2014.  There was nothing out there, just a lot of Christmas stuff, and a few Halloween decorations offered on sale at 75% off.  Where are all the Thanksgiving decorations?   - groan  –

To top this all off, a friend recently showed me her fourth grader’s history book.  This is the year that most students learn about local history and American history.  There was no mention of the Plymouth settlement.  In fact, the book started at about the time of the American Revolution!  No mention of the Native Americans, no colonial settlement, no immigration to the New World?  In what context can you study the American Revolution without understanding the events that led up to the conflict?  - tearing hair out –


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Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

The Kingston, New Hampshire Throat Distemper Pandemic of 1735

On November 13th, on the WMUR TV show “New Hampshire Chronicle” historian Fritz Wetherbee told a scary tale about the “Kingston Pandemic” of 1735 - 1736.  According to Fritz, there is a legend that in 1735 a Mr. Clough of Kingston, New Hampshire butchered a pig that had died of a throat ailment, and that Mr. Clough himself soon died of what was then known as “throat distemper” (what we now call diphtheria).  I don’t know if the story about Clough’s pig is true or not, but the pandemic was absolutely true, and has been well documented.

In 1735 - 1736 the town of Kingston suffered a pandemic of throat distemper and lost 150 children, most under the age of 10.  The disease spread to the seacoast and to Massachusetts.   In Hampton Falls twenty families lost all of their children, and 1/6 of the entire population perished.   Almost 1,200 people in fifteen different towns in the state of New Hampshire were dead by 1737.

Throat distemper raged again in New England several times over the next century. There were several terrible pandemics in which many children were lost.  I looked through my own family tree for victims and expected to find a few families that lost a few children.  What I found was truly chilling.

Instead of losing a child here, and a child there, I found entire families devastated by throat distemper. I found so many examples that I decided to only list those who lost more than two family members – and there were many that fit this description.  And not all were children.

BILL – Phillip Bill (1629 – 1689), my 7th great grandfather, lived in New London, Connecticut and died of throat distemper on 8 July 1689, the same day as his six year old daughter, Margaret.  This left his widow, Hannah Waite, with six children to care for.  She remarried to Samuel Bucknall in 1696.  This incident preceded the pandemic of 1735.

CHOATE – John Choate (1697 – 1765), my 7th great grand uncle, lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts.  According to town records he “lost all his children during the prevalence of throat distemper in 1735”.  I had no idea how many children he lost until I looked in the records.  Two children died early before the pandemic, and then he lost all five surviving children in 1735-1736.  A cause of death was not listed, but the town records about throat distemper filled in the blanks for me.  What a tragedy!

HOLGATE – James Holgate (1692 – 1756) and his wife Jemima Rideout of Haverhill lost five children, too, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, to throat distemper.  James is the stepson of my 8th great aunt, Magdalen Dunnell.  Haverhill was a hotbed of diphtheria cases during the pandemic, and lost a total of 256 children during 1735 – 1736!  An unbelievable number of deaths for a town that was very small at this time period.

LANE- Samuel Lane (1698 – 1776) and Elizabeth Blake (b. 1699), my 7th great grandparents, lost three children in one day, 2 August 1735 in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.  Abigail, Samuel and Elizabeth all died of throat distemper, leaving only two children behind.  The Lanes went on to have two more children and named them Abigail and Samuel.   I descend from this second Samuel Lane (1741 – 1822), who was my 6th great grandfather. A total of 214 people in Hampton Falls died of diphtheria this year, 96 of them were under age ten.

LOCKE- John Locke (1683 – 1774) lost his wife Sarah, and four children to throat distemper in 1736 in the seacoast town of Rye, New Hampshire.  He was left with only one living child (two had previously died as infants). This surviving child was my 6th great grandfather, Richard Locke (1720 – 1804). 

SHATSWELL – Richard Shatswell (died 1772) and his wife Mary Treadwell (1702 – 1787), my 2nd cousin 8 generations removed, lived in Ipswich and lost three of their four children during the throat distemper pandemic in October and November of 1736.   They had only one more child after this disease took their young children. 

Possibly there were more deaths in my family tree due to the throat distemper pandemic of 1735 - 1740, but sometimes young children were not recorded, and usually the cause of death was not recorded.  It takes looking at town and church records, and reading the accounts of the epidemic to trace which lives were lost to this disease. 

This is not all ancient history.  You would be surprised to learn that diseases like diphtheria (throat distemper), pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus are making a comeback because people have stopped vaccinating their children, and adults have stopped receiving their boosters.  This is the DPT vaccine your children should get as infants, but for many misguided reasons it has become “unpopular”.  Now children can catch these horrible diseases, and die, just like these poor children did in colonial New England. And it was entirely preventable.

One of the more famous diphtheria pandemics in the past 100 years was the 1925 outbreak in Nome, Alaska when teams of sled dogs relayed medications to the stricken town.  This was the race that inspired the Iditarod, and Balto, the hero dog of the serum run to Nome, has been honored by a statue in New York’s Central Park, and an animated movie.

The elderly who have not kept their boosters up to date, and unvaccinated children are at the most risk from dying of complications of a modern diphtheria pandemic.  Unvaccinated adults can pass on these diseases to infants who have not yet been vaccinated.  During the 1990s in the Soviet Union over 150,000 people were sickened with diphtheria, and over 5,000 died.  Yes, it can happen in modern times, too.  You can imagine the horror of losing one family member, but now you can see that in some cases all the children and even spouses were taken, too.   These colonial era families could not prevent their children from taking ill .  We have to learn from history that these diseases are not gone.  They still linger, and still terrorize.   And we can prevent children and adults from dying needlessly.

For the truly curious:

History in Focus: Diphtheria Epidemic by Dean Merchant, (courtesy of the Hampton Union, Friday, June 27, 2008) on the Lane Memorial Library of Hampton, New Hampshire website:

The “Throat Distempter” of 1735 – 1740, by Ernest Caulfield, click here to view the PDF file:

History of Kingston NH 1694 – 1994 online, see page V-1 for the throat distemper pandemic:

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Copyright ©2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Surname Saturday ~ COGSWELL of Ipswich and Essex, Massachusetts

Cogswell's Grant, Essex, Massachusetts
John Cogswell arrived in New England with his family aboard the Angel Gabriel in 1635.  This is the famous ship, part of the Winthrop Fleet, that shipwrecked at Pemaquid Point in Maine on its way to Massachusetts from England.  You can read more about the Angel Gabriel HERE .  John Cogswell, and most of the passengers on the Angel Gabriel, made their way to Ipswich, Massachusetts where he was granted 300 acres of land in the part of Ipswich known as Chebacco.

In the 1650s John Cogswell, Jr. went to England and his visit was recorded by relatives in Wiltshire and in a letter from London dated 30 March 1653 [NEHGR 15: 177].   He died on the return voyage in September 1653.  I have seen references of his dying of injuries from a snake bite, but no solid proof.  Why would there be a snake on the ship?  

Cogswell Grant was originally 300 acres in what is now Essex, Massachusetts. It is now a historic house museum on 165 acres along the Essex River. The house was purchased by Bertram and Nina Little in 1937, and donated to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now known as Historic New England.  Bertram Little was the president of the Society for many years.  The home standing on this property was built in 1728 by Jonathan Cogswell, Jr.

Among the more famous COGSWELL descendants are Lady Diana Spencer, mother of Princes William and Henry of England (so they are all Cogswell descendants!); Presidents John Adams,  John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge; Margaret Mead, Tennessee Williams, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Julia Ward Howe.

What is amazing is that this lineage begins and ends in Essex, Massachusetts.  John Cogswell was one of the first settlers in the Chebacco Parish of Ipswich in the 1630s, which became the town of Essex, Massachusetts.  All the generations below lived in Ipswich and Essex, including my own mother, who was born in Ipswich.  John Cogswell's mother-in-law was named Phyllis, and he named one of his daughters Phyllis, and this name was passed on for several generations.  My mother's name is Phyllis, too. 

My COGSWELL genealogy:

Generation 1: John Cogswell, son of Edward Cogswell and Alice Unknown, born about 1592 in Westbury, Leigh, Wiltshire, England, died 29 December 1669 in Ipswich, Massachusetts; married on 10 September 1615 in Westbury Leigh to Elizabeth Thompson, daughter of Reverend William Thompson and Phillis Unknown.  She was born about 1598, and died 2 June 1676 in Ipswich.  Twelve children.

Lineage A:

Generation 2: John Cogswell, born about 1622 and died 27 September 1653 on a ship returning to America from England; married to Unknown.  Three children.

Generation 3: John Cogswell, born 1650 in the Chebacco Parish of Ipswich, died 1724; married on 22 July 1674 in Ipswich to Margaret Gifford, daughter of John Gifford and Margaret Temple.  Six children.

Generation 4: John Cogswell, born 6 September 1683 in the Chebacco Parish of Ipswich, died 3 May 1719 in Ipswich; married in 1708 to Sarah Brown, daughter of John Brown.  She died on 15 July 1752.  Four children.

Generation 5: Martha Cogswell,  born on 1 January 1719 in the Chebacco Parish, and died 23 December 1809 in Ipswich; married on 1 March 1747/48 in Ipswich to John Andrews, son of John Andrews and Elizabeth Wallis.  He was born in 1717 in Ipswich and died 3 May 1779 in Ipswich.

Generation 6: James Andrews, born 13 November 1763 in the Chebacco Parish, died 19 October 1857 in Essex (the former Chebacco Parish), Massachusetts;  married on 15 July 1788 in Ipswich to Lucy Presson, daughter of William Presson and Abigail Sargent.  She was born in May 1763 in Gloucester and died 5 September 1852 in Essex.  Ten children.

Generation 7:  Orpha Andrews, born 3 Feb 1804 in the Chebacco Parish, died 20 April 1869 in Peabody, Massachusetts; married on 28 October 1824 in Essex to Joseph Allen, son of Joseph Allen and Judith Burnham.  He was born 31 July 1801 in the Chebacco Parish and died 2 August 1894 in Beverly, Massachusetts.  Six children.

Generation 8: Joseph Gilman Allen m. Sarah Burnham Mears
Generation 9:  Joseph Elmer Allen m. Carrie Maude Batchelder
Generation 10: Stanley Elmer Allen m. Gertrude Matilda Hitchings (my grandparents)

Linage B:

Generation 2:  Sarah Cogswell, born about 1645 in Ipswich, died 24 January 1733 in Ipswich; married about 1663 to Simon Tuthill/Tuttle, son of John Tuthill and Joan Antrobus.  He was born about 1637 in Ipswich and died 11 January 1691 in Lynn, Massachusetts.  Twelve children.

Generation 3:  John Tuthill m. Martha Ward
Generation 4: Martha Tuthill m. Mark Haskell
Generation 5: Lucy Haskell m. Jabez Treadwell
Generation 6: Nathaniel Treadwell m. Mary Hovey
Generation 7: Jabez Treadwell m. Betsey Jillings Homan
Generation 8: Eliza Ann Treadwell m. Abijah Hitchings
Generation 9: Abijah Franklin Hitchings m.  Hannah Eliza Lewis
Generation 10: Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 11: Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (see above)

For the truly curious:

Cogswell’s Grant website

There is a sketch of John Cogswell and his children at the Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volume II, C- F, pages 137 – 140.

The Cogswells in America, by E. O. Jameson, 1884

Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines, by Mary Walton Ferris, 1943, Volume 1, pages 188 – 189
Cogswell Family Association

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Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, November 21, 2014

Photo Friday ~ Stone Arch Bridge, Stoddard, New Hampshire

Stone arch bridges built completely without mortar were commonly built in the Contoocook region of New Hampshire.  Many still survive, like this one along the side of Route 9 in Stoddard near the townline of Antrim. 

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Copyright (c) 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Proclamation 2014, Concord, New Hampshire

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire signed the Thanksgiving Proclamation at the statehouse in Concord.  This was sponsored by the New Hampshire Mayflower Society, and members of the board were present at the ceremony.  

Thank you to Priscilla E. Theberge for the photograph of Gov. Hassan reading the proclamation.  And thank you to the office of Gov. Hassan for the group photograph at the top of this post.

New Hampshire Society of Mayflower Descendants

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Copyright (c) 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weathervane Wednesday ~ A Schoolbook

Weathervane Wednesday is an on-going series of photographs I post weekly.  I started by publishing weather vanes from the Londonderry area, but now I've been finding interesting weather vanes all across New England.  Sometimes my weather vanes are whimsical, or historical, but all are interesting. Often, my readers tip me off to some very unique and unusual weather vanes, too!

Today's weather vane is from somewhere in New Hampshire.

Do you know the location of weather vane #183? Scroll down to see the answer!

This weathervane was spotted on top of the Town of Hooksett Town Offices, on Main Street, Hooksett, New Hampshire.  It is a two dimensional book, appropriate for a former elementary school building.  This building was the former Village School.

The Old Hooksett Town Hall, built in 1828, was closed in 2008, and the town offices moved to this building.  Hooksett currently has three public school buildings, and the high school students attend classes in Manchester.  Hooksett is currently considering agreements with other towns, as well as looking into building their own high school building.

The Town of Hooksett website  

Hooksett, New Hampshire School District, SAU 15  

Click here to see the entire collection of Weathervane Wednesday posts! 

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Copyright (c) 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday ~ James Bonaparte THORNTON of Merrimack, New Hampshire

The Thornton Cemetery in Merrimack, New Hampshire is the burial site of Dr. Matthew Thornton, signer of the Declaration of Independence and many members of his family.  Dr. Thornton had five children, four grew to adulthood and had descendants.  James Thornton lived across the street in the tavern, and several of his children had unusually interesting lives.  His son James Bonaparte Thornton, born 11 May 1800 in Merrimack,  was a lawyer in New Hampshire, as well as member of the House of Representatives in 1829 and 1830, and was a comptroller of the US Treasury under President Jackson.  He was appointed to be charge d’affaires at Callao  in Peru in 1836, but died there in 1838.  He was married to Sophia Shepard of Litchfield, Connecticut and had two children – Mary Parker Thornton and James Shepard Thornton, naval officer in the Mexican War and the Civil War.

to the memory of
Son of James & grandson
of Hon. Mathew Thornton,
Born at Thorntons Ferry
A.D. 1800 After honorably
filling various posts under
the state and national gov-
ernment, he died at Callao,
A.D. 1838, while representing
the United States as charge
D. affaires to Peru.
    His remains were remov-
ed to this spot by his son and
Interred A.D. 1871.
A memory of his merits still lives
Where he once lived and records his praise.

For more information on the Thornton Family:

The Family of James Thornton, Father of Hon. Matthew Thornton, by Charles Thornton Adams, New York: 1905 – available to read online at

Matthew Thornton’s Family and Descendants at New Hampshire Search Roots by Janice Webster Brown

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Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Top Ten Genea-Mysteries

Several other genealogy bloggers have posted their top genea-mysteries, and have even been led to solutions to some of their top brickwalls through these posts.  Among these bloggers are Diane Boumenot ,  Lorine McGinnis Schulze ,  Brian Massey  .  and Barbara Poole  (who will actually pay $100 for information leading to breaking through her brick wall ancestors). 

If you know some of these mystery ancestors, or if you think there might be a cousin connection, please contact me! 

Here are my Top 10 brick walls:

1. Who is James Phillips?  He was born about 1792, probably in Rowley, Massachusetts (his death record says he was “a native of Rowley”).  He died 5 April 1820 in Topsfield, Massachusetts.   On 6 August 1815 he married Sarah Cree in Topsfield.  They had two children, Sarah, born about 1816 and Hannah, my 3rd great grandmother, born about 1821, both born in in Topsfield.  Were there other children?  Who were James’s parents?  Sarah was previously married to John W. Ham, who died before 1814, and had a daughter, Lucinda Ham, born 27 August 1809 in Topsfield. 

2.  Who is Hannah Smith?  She married my 5th great grandfather, Stephen Cree, on 27 February 1787 in Holden, Massachusetts.  Stephen was born in Topsfield in 1760 and died there in 1821.  All five of their children were born in Topsfield.  Did they elope to be married in Holden, or was Hannah a resident of Holden? Who were her parents?  One clue is in the book Early Massachusetts Marriages Prior to 1800 Worcester County, Southborough, page 72 “Stephen Cree & Mrs. Hannah Smith February 27, 2787”  What is this reference to Southborough?

3. Who is the Mary Hovey who married Nathaniel Treadwell on 17 July 1786 in Ipswich, Massachusetts?  These are my 5th great grandparents.  This is a Mayflower lineage back to Isaac Allerton, but none of the paperwork ever submitted with this couple names her parents. I left it blank and my application was accepted.  I have no birth date for her or place of birth.  She had five children with Nathaniel Treadwell, and she died on 15 January 1832 in Ipswich.  Nathaniel was a Revolutionary War Patriot.

4. What are the origins of Benjamin Gardner, born about 1720 probably in Boston, and died 7 June 1797 in Salem, Massachusetts?  This is my 6th great grandfather, and much has been written about him in Salem records, and in the diaries of Rev. William Bentley who mentioned his wives and his children, and his brother, but Benjamin still remains a mystery.  He was married twice, first to Sarah Randall on 10 October 1751 in Boston at the West Church.  They had three children, including my 5th great grandmother, Mary Gardner born in Boston.  Sarah died in 1781 in Salem, and he remarried to Mary Briers (widow  of Michael Ferguson and John Bassett) on 2 November 1782 in Salem.   Benjamin was a ropemaker in Salem, a partner to Josiah Gaines.  He had a brother, Thomas Gardner, who died on 22 September 1789 in Boston.

5. Benjamin Gardner’s (above #4) wife was Sarah Randall, my 6th great grandmother.  Her parents were Stephen Randall and Sarah Cannon, married 16 January 1728 in Boston.  Who was Stephen Randall?  He died sometime before 18 May 1742 when his widow Sarah was made guardian to Andros Randall, age 4, “deceased, mariner”.  Sarah must have died before March 1749/50 when a John Hill was made guardian to Andrus Randall, age 11, “son of Stephen, mariner & Sarah, both deceased.  Sarah Cannon’s parents were Andros Cannon and Sarah Bridge, married in Boston on 3 August 1711. 

6.  Who is Nancy Thompson (about 1804 – 1847), my 4x great grandmother? She married Jonathan Batchelder on 11 February 1822 in Belmont, New Hampshire.  Her children’s marriage and death records say she was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire.  There are several Thompson families in Gilmanton and Belmont (contiguous towns) but no record of Nancy/Ann/Hannah Thompson.  Jonathan Batchelder died in the Concord State Assylum.   His wife, Nancy Batchelder, was granted guardianship of their children in 1847.  No further trace of Nancy can be found in the New Hampshire vital records or census records.  Did she remarry and change her name?

7.  Who is Elizabeth Lambert (about 1775 – 1834), my 5x great grandmother? She married Owen Jones, a native of Wales and son of a British customs officer, on 11 May 1793 at the Second Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts.  They lived in the North End, and had six daughters all described as debutantes and all married very well.  I’m hoping she is from a well-connected, wealthy family in Boston who left lots of good records, but so far I cannot find her parents or lineage.  There were many Lambert/Lombard/Lumbard/Lamport families in Boston at this time, and I have searched them all for Elizabeth.   One clue-  Elizabeth had a sister, Sarah, who married John Darke/Dargue on 1 December 1793 in Boston.  Elizabeth (Lambert) Jones named her first daughter Sarah Dargue Jones in her honor.  The sister Sarah (Lambert) Dargue died on 3 September 1796.  No parents listed.  Another clue – Elizabeth Lambert was probably born at about the time of the siege of Boston during the American Revolution (many residents fled the city), so she may have been born elsewhere in New England.

8.  Who is Margaret Welch (about 1796 – 1860), my 4x great grandmother?  Her death record in Chichester, New Hampshire does not name her parents or place of birth.  She married Richard Locke on 21 October 1823 in Chichester.  Her children’s marriage and death records say she was born in Kittery, Maine.  Census records say she was born in Maine.  I haven't found her in vital records or in any compiled genealogy. 

9.  Who is Elizabeth, wife of William Homan (baptized 25 July 1725 in Marblehead, Massachusetts)?  She is my 6x great grandmother.  She married William Homan on 5 January 1758 in Marblehead and had only one child, Thomas Homan, born about 1758 (my 5x great grandfather).  Who were her parents? Did she have other children or did she die young? This woman is a complete mystery to me, and so is this whole family!

10.  Who is Thomas Jillings (died 1801 in Newbury), my 5x great grandfather?  He married Hannah Mirick on 18 November 1725 in Newbury and had seven children with her.  Hannah was born in Charlestown in 1702 and died in 1754 in New bury.  If he was born around the same time as her he would have been nearly 100 years old at the time of his death.  Jillings is an unusual name, but I can’t find his origins, parents or any ancestors.  Is Jillings a misspelling or corruption of some other surname?

Click here for a previous post from 2012 of my Top Ten Brickwall Problem Ancestors

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Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo