Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Mystery Branch of the Wilkinson Family Tree?

a page from the Sullivan, Maine town records
A few years ago I found the following reference to some Wilkinsons living in Maine during a Google Book Search. It was one of the first times I used Google Books, and I was amazed at the references to a branch of Wilkinsons living not near New Hampshire, but way down east near Mount Desert Island. Using these clues, I went to census and vital records to piece the family together to see if they connected to the Thomas and Samuel Wilkinsons of Rockingham County. (see the links above under the heading for these Wilkinson lineages)

Elliott, Charles W., "John Gilley- One of the Forgotten Millions," Originally published in 1899 in the Century Magazine and in book form in 1904 by the American Unitarian Association under the title of "JOHN GILLEY, Maine Farmer and Fisherman".

Part Three
When cold weather put an end to the fishing season, John Gilley, having provided all necessary articles for his house, sailed over to Sullivan, distant about eighteen miles, in his fishing-vessel and brought back to the home on Sutton’s Island Harriet Bickford Wilkinson, the schoolmistress from Sullivan. The grandfather of Harriet Wilkinson came to Sullivan from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1769, and her mother’s family came from York, Maine. The marriage took place on December 25, 1854, when John was thirty-two and Harriet was twenty-five; and both entered with joy upon married life at their own island farm. She was a pretty woman, but delicate, belonging to a family which was thought to have a tendency to consumption. In the summer of 1855 he spent about half his time on this same vessel which had brought home his wife, and made a fair profit on the fishing; and the next year he sometimes went on short trips of shore fishing, but that was the last of his going away from the farm. Whatever fishing he did afterward he did in an open boat not far from home, and he went coasting no more. A son was born to them, but lived only seven months; and soon the wife’s health began to fail. A wife’s sickness, in the vast majority Of families, means first, the loss of her labor in the care and support of the household, and secondly, the necessity of hiring some woman to do the work which the wife cannot do. This necessity of hiring is a heavy burden in a family where little money is earned, although there may be great comfort so far as food, fire, and clothing are concerned. His young wife continuing to grow worse, John Gilley tried all means that were possible to him to restore her health. He consulted the neighboring physicians, bought quantities of medicine in great variety, and tried in every way that love or duty could suggest to avert the threatening blow. It was all in vain. Harriet Gilley lived only two years and a half after her marriage, dying in June, 1857. At this period, his expenses being large, and his earning power reduced, John Gilley was forced to borrow a little money. The farm and the household equipment had absorbed his whole capital.

On April 27, 1857, there came from Sullivan, to take care of Harriet, Mary Jane Wilkinson, her cousin. This cousin was only twenty-one years of age; but her father was dead, and her mother had married again. She had helped her mother till she was almost twenty-one years of age, but now felt free. Until this cousin came, nieces and a sister of John Gilley had helped him to take care of his dying wife. The women relatives must always come to the aid of a family thus distressed. To help in taking care of the farm and in fishing, John Gilley habitually hired a man all through the season, and this season of 1857 the hired man was his wife’s brother. When Harriet Gilley died -there was still the utmost need of a woman on the farm; so Mary Jane Wilkinson stayed during the summer and through the next winter, and before the end of that winter she had promised to marry John Gilley. There were at that time eight houses on Sutton’s Island, and more permanent residents than there are now. Mary Jane Wilkinson was fond of the care of animals and of farm duties in general. She found at the farm only twelve hens, a cow, and a calf, and she set to work at once to increase the quantity of live stock; but in April, 1858, she returned to her mother’s house at West Gouldsboro’, that she might prepare her wardrobe and some articles of household linen. When, later in the season, John Gilley came after Mary Jane Wilkinson at Jones’s Cove, he had to transport to Sutton’s Island, besides Mary Jane’s personal possessions, a pair of young steers, a pig, and a cat. They were married at Northeast Harbor by Squire Kimball, in the old tavern on the west side of the harbor, in July, 1858; and then these two set about improving their condition by unremitting industry and frugality, and an intelligent use of every resource the place afforded. The new wife gave her attention to the poultry and made butter whenever the milk could not be sold as such. "

1860 Federal Census, Cranberry Island, Maine
John Gilley, age 38, farmer, b. Maine
Mary J., age 24, b. Maine
Harriet M., age 1, b. Maine
Delphina Bunker, age 15, b. Maine

1870 Federal Census, Cranberry Island, Maine
John Gilley, age 55, eel fishing, b. Maine
Mary J, age 33, keeping house, b. Maine
Hattie M, age 11, at school, b. Maine
Laura A., age 8, at school, b. Maine
Mary E, age 3, at home, b. Maine
Pung, John, age 11, at school, b. Maine

1880 Federal Census, Cranberry Island, Maine
Gilley, John, age 58, farmer, b. Maine, father b. Maine, mother b. Maine
Mary J. age 33, wife, keeping house, b. Maine, father b. Maine, mother b. Maine
Harriet M, age 21, daughter, at home, b. Maine, father b. Maine, mother b. Maine
Laura A, age 17, daughter, at home, bb. Maine, father b. Maine, mother b. Maine
Mary A, age 13, daughter, at school, b. Maine, father b. Maine, mother b. Maine
Pung, John, ae 21, servant, laborer, b. Maine, father b. Maine, mother b. Maine

"and brought back to the home on Sutton's Island Harriet Bickford Wilkinson, the schoolmistress from Sullivan. The grandfather of Harriet Wilkinson came to Sullivan from Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1769, and her mother's family came from York, Maine. The marriage took place on December 25, 1854, when John was thirty-two and Harriet was twenty-five..."  from "The Durable Satisfactions of Life" by Charles William Eliot, Ayer Publishing, 1905.

The Genealogy:

Generation 1: Luke Wilkinson, born 1762 in New Hampshire, died 1845 in Hancock, Sullivan County, Maine; married Abigail Unknown, born 1767 and died 1842. (dates from gravestones at the Simpson Cemetery, Hancock)

Generation 2:
1. Joshua Wilkinson, born 23 August 1795 in New Castle, Maine, died 11 November 1867 in Sullivan; married on 22 October 1823 in Sullivan to Hannah Johnson, born 5 August 1806 in Sullivan, died March 1859 in Sullivan, the daughter of Stephen Johnson and Hannah Bickford.

2. Ruth Wilkinson, born 1791, died 1867, no further information

3. Joseph Wilkinson, born 1801, died 1852; married Mary Unknown, no further information.

4. Harriet Wilkinson, born 1805, no further information

5. Daniel Wilkinson, born 1809, no further information

Generation 3 (Children of Joshua Wilkinson and Hannah Johnson):
1. Abigail Wilkinson born 23 September 1824 in Sullivan, died 1865, no further information

2. Charles Wilkinson, born 1827, died 1853, no further information

3. Harriet Bickford Wilkinson, born 24 January 1830, died 21 June 1857 on Baker’s Island, Maine; married on 25 December 1854 to John Gilley, born 22 February 1822 on Great Cranberry Island, Maine and died on 12 October 1896 at sea, son of William Gilley and Hannah Boynton Lurvey. Four children: Hattie M. Gilley (married a Springer), Laura A. Gilley (married a Donnell), Mary E. Gilley (married Eugene Parker Stanley), and Charles Walter Gilley.   John Gilley married second on 18 July 1858 in Northeast Harbor, Maine to Mary Jane Wilkinson, born about 1830 in Sullivan, daughter of Joseph Wilkinson and Charlotte Ash.  She was described in the Century article as a "cousin" to Harriett B. Wilkinson.

4. Hannah Wilkinson, born 1832 in Sullivan, no further information

5. Daniel L. Wilkinson, born 1835 in Sullivan, died 27 October 1862 while serving in the Civil War at Camp Stetson, Washington DC; married on 23 March 1862 in Sullivan to Huldah Wasgatt, born 4 August 1830, died 9 December 1862, daughter of Unknown Wasgatt and Hulda Buckley. One child: Charles Daniel Wilkinson, born 7 November 1862 in Sullivan and died 29 March 1888 in Reading, Pennsylvania.

6. Joshua B. Wilkinson, born 7 August 1837, died 3 December 1908 in Rockport, Maine; married about 1863 to Edith A. Jellison, born 1845 and died after 1908, daughter of Sylvanus Jellison and Catherine Merchant. Three children: Annie Wilkinson born 1866, Willard A. Wilkinson, born Dec 1868, died before 1944 in Rockport, Maine; married on 31 October 1895 in Rockport to Bertha L. Parsons, and Blanche Wilkinson, born 1873

7. Eliza Wilkinson, born 1843, died 1846.

8. Eleanor Elizabeth Wilkinson, born 11 March 1850, died 7 May 112 in Boston; married on 4 April 1865 in Prospect Harbor, Maine to Allen Moore Cole, son of Abijah Cole and Rebecca Simonton, born 11 March 1830 in Gouldsboro, Maine, died 11 May 1890 in Gouldsboro. Five children: Charlotte Sargent Cole, Jennie Wright Cole, Rebecca C. Cole, Winnefred Cole, and Allen Wilkinson Cole.

Why do I think Luke Wilkinson is related to Thomas Wilkinson? He lived in New Castle where he was enumerated in the 1790 Federal Census. In the New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers I found a reference in Volume 12, pages 696-7 where he and Thomas both signed a petition to raise money by lottery to build a bridge in New Castle, New Hampshire. He was enumerated in Portsmouth in 1800, in Hancock in the 1810, 1820 and 1830 Federal Censuses, which matches up with the story from the Century Magazine. More study is needed on Luke Wilkinson to find the relationship, which could be brothers or cousins to Thomas and/or Samuel Wilkinson.


For more information see:

The Gilley Family of Mount Desert Island, by William Otis Sawtelle, published in Spragues Journal of American History Vol 12 # 1&2. a page from the Sullivan town records listing the Joshua Wilkinson family.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Mystery Branch of the Wilkinson Family Tree?", Nutfield Genealogy, posted May 12, 2011, ( accessed [access date]).

1 comment:

  1. Heather, this is amazing! Don't you love it when you find "narrative" like this, that so beautifully describes what life was really like?!