Friday, January 28, 2011

House built in 1676 by William Woodbury

This report was prepared by the Beverly Historical Society in 1970 for my Great Aunt Janet Wilkinson Blades's house on 111 Essex Street in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1968 her home was sold when she removed to an apartment for elderly residents in another section of Beverly. Janet Wilkinson was born 14 June 1898 in Salem, and died 6 October 1981 in Beverly. She married William John Blades in 1927. He was born 14 June 1894 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and died in 1963 in Beverly. They had no children.

The William Woodbury House
photographed in 2010
Auntie Janet and Uncle Bill bought the house in 1927 from Janet's Aunt Georgia and Uncle Charles H. Marshall, who had previously bought it from his brother, Francis Marshall. It was originally built by William Woodbury and his wife Hannah Haskell, son of Humphrey Woodbury, who was born 1609 in Buddleigh, Devonshire, England and died 11 October 1686 in Beverly. Two of Humphrey's other sons are my 9x Great Grandfathers, Isaac and Humphrey, Jr. Our family has a long history in Beverly! Humphrey's father, John Woodbury, had been granted 200 acres of land in Beverly on 25 January 1635/6.

Inside the William Woodbury House
photograph from a MLS listing
when the house was up for resale
I was born in Beverly, and I was very small when Aunt Janet lived in this house, built in 1675. I remember it was in the old style with very low ceilings and a fireplace big enough to stand in (remember, I was probably in kindergarten!). According to family members, the house was full of antique furniture. Aunt Janet knew she was removing to a small apartment, and asked all the family if they would like any furniture. When no one offered to take the furniture, she had it piled up on the curb to be carted away. Someone told my uncle that it was on the curb, but by the time he and Dad ran over to see what was happening, it had all been taken away by pickers. I can only imagine what that antique furniture would be worth today!

111 Essex Street
Research by Beverly C. Carlman, May 1970
Beverly Historical Society

In 1628, Humphrey Woodberry accompanied his father, John, back to Naumkeag aboard the “Abigail.” It was a momentous trip for the young man who had completed his education in England and for the Massachusetts Colony. Captain John Endicott was also aboard with a rather lengthy letter of instructions for the duties he was about to assume. The efforts of these first settlers are well recorded by history, but Humphrey Woodberry’s will, written in March 1685/6, is the record of his diligence and his children:

“To my loving wife Elizabeth my dwelling house and barne orchard homestead pasture and all my land and meadow adjoining.
To son Richard Woodberry eleven acres and his mothers part after her death.
To son Thomas the lott whereon his house now standeth
To son John that same 40 acre lott which my son now dwelleth upon
To son Isaac the lott of mine which he now dwells upon
To son William other half of middle pasture on the south with the homelott whereupon said William’s house standeth adjoining with my orchard, on the SE by land of John Solace one corner reaching to the land of Mr. Hale.
To son Humphrey my ten acre lot which is now let out to John Drinker
To daughter Susanna Tenny all my land at Bradford that I bought for her
To Daughter Christian, wife of John Trask my two acres of meadow near Longham adjoining eastward to the meadow that was Capt. Lawthrops
To daughter Elizabeth, wife of John Walker 10 shillings having given her portion already
To grandchildren Sarah and Eunice Walker a certain house of mine now rented by Humphrey Horrel.”

His son William had married Hannah (Dodge) Haskell November 20, 1676 and it is probably safe to assume that he built his house at about this time. At his death, his probate was entered February 15, 1711 and his widow Hannah was given the “East room in the dwelling, the west chamber and one-half of the cellar with liberty of the ovens in the other room and her son in law Isaac Gray who purchased ye most of ye real estate shall pay her and provide suitable horse to ride to meeting or elsewhere. He to have ye house, barn, and one-half pasture.”

On March 21, 1759, Isaac and Martha Gray of Beverly husbandman sold “for love and goodwill to my son Isaac Gray, Jr. of Beverly weaver --- my old dwelling house being the same my said son lives in together with land whereon said house standeth also free liberty to use the spring also the right to pass to and from said house to the highway.”

On April 19, 1760 Isaac Gray of Beverly weaver sold to Robert Morgan and John Bond “my brothers in law the west end of the dwelling of my father next to the highway.”

The day before Robert Morgan and John Bond had released to Isaac Gray “all our 2/3 right in estate of Mr. Isaac Gray except the west of the dwelling and the right of our mother Rebeckah Gray.”

In 1763 John Bond and Robert Morgan sold to Thomas Symons of Beverly mariner “the west half of the dwelling of our honored father Isaac Gray.”

On November 30, 1770 Thomas, Mary Symonds mariner sold to Israel Johnson of Beverly fisherman “west half of dwelling and is the half that belonged to Isaac Gray deceased which I bought of Robert Morgan and John Bond.”

On February 9, 1778 Isaac, Abigail Gray of Beverly yeoman, Robert, Hannah Morgan of Spencer yeoman and Lydia Bond of Brimfield sold to William Morgan 2nd of Beverly labourer “east half of dwelling that was formerly our honored father Isaac Gray consisting of one lower room, chamber, and garret and cellar also one acre of land adjoining same.

Westerly on the highway

Southerly on the way to said Gray’s house six poles leaving said way one pole wide

Northerly down to the spring about 2’ westward of said spring 3 poles

Easterly toward Mr. Gray’s house

Southerly Gray’s land 9 poles 15 links

Northerly to Grover’s land 4 poles 17 links

Northerly on said land formerly Grovers 17 poles to the highway.”

In 1785 William Morgan 2nd came into possession of the rest of the house which he bought of Israel and Hannah Johnson mariner. “West half of a certain dwelling in Beverly and cellar and is the one half of the dwelling house that belonged to Thomas Simonds late of Beverly mariner.”

In 1804 William and Mary Morgan 2nd yeoman sold the same to Nathan Dane Esquire though now it was an estate of thirty acres we know that it included the parcel we’re concerned with for it was the same he bought for “Israel Johnson, Isaac Gray, Robert Morgan and others – all the land and buildings in my homeplace where I live.”

Nathan and Polly Dane evidently immediately sold it out to Peter Hill husbandman though the deed was not recorded in 1804 but in 1806. Dane gave Hill another deed “one acre more or less and a dwelling and other buildings thereon
NW by the highway
NE Josiah Woodberry
SE and SW my own
N by a land as wall stands being the same tenement with a small variation of bounds which I gave him by deed May 1804.” However even this was not recorded until 1845.

In 1845 the heirs of Peter Hill sold to Hugh Hill mariner the “remainder of estate. A certain dwelling and land adjoining:
W Essex Street 334’
S Richard Pickett 318’
E Richard Pickett 208’
N Hugh Hill 320’

In 1858 Hugh, Jane Hill yeoman of Beverly sold to Richard Pickett merchant “3 ¼ acres on Essex Street in Beverly with a dwelling house and other buildings – being the estate of Peter Hill.”

Richard Pickett, wood and coal dealer, sold the same to Charles Marshall of Hamilton in 1861 but reserved the right to “the owner of the small dwellings now upon the land to occupy and improve the spot of land until Sept. 15, 1865.”

In 1910 the Marshall heirs sold to Francis Marshall of Hamilton the land on “east side of Essex Street together with buildings thereon
N Essex Street 200’ 12,100 sq. ft.
E 60’
S Poor house farm 200’
W 62’“

In 1922 Francis Marshall sold the same to Charles H. Marshall with the same description.

In 1927 Charles H. and Georgia B. Marshall sold to Janet and William J. Blades “Essex Street Lot A” which was described as
“W Essex Street 84.25’

S land now or formerly Charles Marshall Lot B 65.04’
E John I. Marshall 87.73’
N John I. Marshall 54.78’ “ 111 Essex Street

In 1968 Janet Blades sold to Richard and Nancy Jones the same premises with the same description.

CONCLUSION By deed we can assume that the house now standing at 111 Essex Street is the same that was built by the son of Humphrey Woodberry before 1685. In later years it is interesting to note that three famous privateer Captains made it their home: Thomas Symonds, Israel Johnson, and William Morgan 2nd.

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. My heart sank when I read about the furniture.

  2. I believe the Woodbury's listed here were my forefathers, thanks for posting this.
    Jerald Woodbury

  3. I am currently the home owner at 111 Essex Street in Beverly, MA. I have been living here for one year so far, and am just beginning to delve into the rich history associated with this dwelling. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  4. Comment posted by Douglas McNeish on 12 August 2016, (somehow ended up in the spam) "I am looking for information on ancestor William T. WOODBURY born 17 Feb 1819 in Nova Scotia. He does not.seem to be connected directly to Dr. JoNathan Woodbury, but believe he is descended from one of the New England Planters settled there after 1763. Any Lead much appreciated.
    Douglas McNeish"