Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Boyd and Towne Families of Londonderry

The Boyd Farm in Londonderry
is now Rolling Meadows Town Houses

A few years, ago two portraits were donated by a descendant to the Londonderry Leach Library, and their story was printed up in the Derry News. They were primitive style paintings of Robert W. Boyd and his wife, Mary Lund Towne painted by the itinerant portrait painter Horace Bundy in 1851. In the days before photography it was common to hire these roaming self taught artists to capture the family on canvas. Robert Boyd died only one month after sitting for his portrait. The Boyds are buried in the Valley Cemetery on Pillsbury Road in Londonderry.

I was very interested in the story because I live at Rolling Meadows, which used to be the Boyd Family Dairy Farm. As I write this I can look over the pond where they watered the cows. I can see a small cemetery there at the corner of Boyd Road and John Street, but it doesn’t contain any Boyds. Nothing survives of the homestead except for the calving shed, which now our maintenance man’s workshop. And the cows have left a legacy of lush green lawns around each modern building!

When I saw that Mary Boyd’s maiden name was Towne, I said to myself “Hmmmmmm???” Of course, this story set off a night of Googling and researching the Towne family. I knew I had Townes in my own family tree, and that they were linked to some interesting New England history.

Robert Boyd and Mary Towne were married on 24 December 1812 in Londonderry. The Boyds were descendants of some of the original settlers of Londonderry. The Towne family removed to Londonderry from Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts. The first Towne immigrant family from England was William Towne and his wife Joanna Blessing, who were married in Great Yarmouth on 25 April 1620, the year the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower.

William and Joanna had eight children, but their three daughters Rebecca, Sarah and Mary made their mark on history by all being accused of witchcraft in the 1692 hysteria. Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was actually executed on 19 Jul 1692, and her story has been made famous in numerous novels, plays and movies. You can visit her homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts and hear the story about how the elderly, pious Puritan housewife suffered through the trials.

Poor sister Mary (Towne) Estey, was released from prison, only to have her accusers redouble their efforts to slander her name, and she was executed on 9 September 1692. Sister Sarah (Towne) Cloyse, who was also accused, survived the trials and imprisonment, and was awarded a settlement of three sovereigns, one for her and the other two in her sisters’ memory. Three weeks after being released from rotting in jail for two years, and after having her sisters names cleared, she died and was buried with her coins. The fourth grade at South School used to read the young adult novel “Three Sovereigns For Sarah”, and it was made into a 1985 movie with Vanessa Redgrave. A colonial style home built for the movie still stands at the Rebecca Nurse homestead.

Our Mary Lund (Towne) Boyd is descended from the Towne sister’s brother, Jacob Town. Now, I wonder if the Harold Estey Lumber family located down the street from the Boyd farm property is related to accused witch Mary (Towne) Estey?

Generation 1- William Towne b. abt 1598 in England, d. abt 1672 in Topsfield, Massachusetts married Joanna Blessing

Generation 2- Jacob Towne b. abt 1632 in England, 27 Nov 1704 in Topsfield, Massachusetts married Katherine Symonds

Generation 3- Jacob Towne b. 13 Feb 1659/6 Topsfield, d. 4 Oct 1741 Topsfield married Phebe Smith

Generation 4- Jabez Towne b. 15 Jun 1704 Topsfield, d. 1 Apr 1783 in Londonderry married Triphenia Dwinnell

Generation 5- Jabez Towne b. 4 May 1731 in Topsfield married Lydia Perkins

Generation 6- Moses Towne b. 1757 d. 1828 married Charlotte Underwood

Generation 7- Mary Lund Towne b. abt 1791 d. 10 May 1887 Londonderry married Robert W. Boyd

  • The Towne Family Association, descendants of William and Joanna (Blessing) Towne, whose daughters Rebecca (Nurse) and Mary (Esty) were executed in 1692 during the witchcraft hysteria at Salem, Mass., will hold their 29th annual meeting September 25-27, 2009 at the Best Western Wynwood Hotel and Suites in Portsmouth, NH. For more information contact Elizabeth Hanahan ( ) or visit
Copyright 2009, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Thanks so much for your article on the Towne Family. Jabez is my 3rd great grandfather. While I knew that they had lived on Boyd Road, I never realized that there was a cemetery there or that the library has a portrait of Mary.

  2. Dear Gary,
    Thanks for you kind comments. Did you see the post from September 2010 about the Towne Family Cemetery?

  3. William and Joanna Towne are my 8th great grandparents. Just discovered them today.

    1. Barbara, you will want to visit Londonderry to see their portraits hanging in the library, too,

    2. I wish that I would have known that 3 years ago when i visited Londonderry looking up info on my Gregg family.