Monday, December 5, 2011

My Dad's College Paper Part 4

I previously blogged three times about my father's college paper on the Underground Railroad.  You were introduced to Mr. Gerritson and his letter, Dad, and other people he met as he drove around Massachusetts to visit two stations.  I even posted a transcript of the paper itself yesterday.

Part 1 
Part 2 
Part 3 

Read all the way to the end for a surprise ending!

John W. Wilkinson, late 1950s
in his Northeastern University sweatshire

Over the weekend I had fun researching the cast of characters online:

My father, John Warren Wilkinson, was born in Beverly, Massachusetts on 3 January 1934 to Donald Munroe Wilkinson and Bertha Louse Roberts.  As you can see on the front of the report and also on the letter from Mr. Gerritson, he lived at 7 Dearborn Avenue.  I grew up in the same house.  My great grandfather bought the house after he emigrated from England in 1915, and my grandparents were married in the house on Thanksgiving Day, 26 November 1926.  Four generations lived there at 7 Dearborn Avenue, Beverly, between about 1915 and 1969. 

I found Cyrus King Littlefield in Reading, Massachusetts in the 1880 Federal Census.  He was 37 years old, son of Tristram Littlefield and Mary D., living with his brother Oscar, age 34, and a sister Maria, age 20, all unmarried.  All the men were tinsmiths.  The father was born in Maine.  There is an un-named male baby  (probably Cyrus) born to Tristram (tin plate maker) and Mary Littlefield on 7 February 1846 in Reading, Massachusetts according to the Mass. Vital Records, Volume 17, page 70.   According to a genealogy found on, his mother’s maiden name was Mary Dean born in Winchester, New Hampshire.   If you are truly interested in this Littlefield family, Tristram’s lineage can be found in the book The Littlefield Family of England, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine  by Franklin E. Littlefield, 1966, available at the New England Historic Genealogic Society under the call number Mss A 6242. 

Mrs. Berle lived across the street from the Ash Street station of the Underground Railroad, and it was Mrs. Berle who suggested that Dad contact Walter Gerritson, who had grown up in the neighborhood.  Mrs. Berle of Reading, Massachusetts was the wife of Theodore Berle, who lived at 298 Ash Street according to the Reading, Massachusetts Directories of 1938 and 1948.  Once I had found this information, it was easy to look them up in the 1930 census, where she is listed as “Avis W. Berle” age 44, wife of Theodore, age 68.  They had three children.  According to the Social Security Death Index, she was born on 13 June 1885 and died September 1970 in Hobe Sound, Martin, Florida.

Walter Gerritson , born 4 January 1861 in Reading, Massachusetts (Mass. VR, Vol. 142, page 176) , was alive during the Civil War, but probably too young to remember.   He married Mary Ann Arnold of New Bedford on 14 December 1881 in Waltham, Massachusetts (Mass VR, Vol 326, page 249).  He was a watchmaker, and the son of Henry C.  Gerritson and Maria Verrill.  There is a second marriage for Walter, also in Waltham, on 16 July 1889, to Hattie Maria Chase, also of Reading, (Mass. VR, Vol.  398, page 292).

It is interesting to note that Walter Gerritson was a watchmaker in Waltham.  In 1854 the Waltham Watch Company was founded as the first factory to make watches on an assembly line.  It was a major employer in Waltham for over 100 years, and closed its doors in 1957 and reorganized as the Waltham Precision Instruments Company.   The company was sold in 1994 and is now based in Alabama as the Waltham Aircraft Clock Corporation.   After the breakup the watchmaking division was sold many times and now cheap watches are made in China under one branch, and Waltham Swiss Made  (Waltham International SA) manufactures luxury watches.  [see Wikipedia]
The Mrs. Mortimer of Andover, who lived in the Jenkins House station in Andover, Massachusetts was found in the 1953 Andover Directory at Ancestry. com.  On page 225 Reginald and Belinda Mortimer were farmers living at Jenkins Road!   According to the Social Security death index, she was born on 17 Jul 1910 and she died on 23 March 2001 in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  It was Mrs. Mortimer who let Dad explore the hidden place inside the Jenkins house, see the photo below:
John Wilkinson
in the hiding place at the Jenkins house
Andover, Massachusetts
photographed by Ralph Longobardi, 1954

Professor Wallace Putnam Bishop died on February 23 2008 at the age of ninety seven.  He taught American history at Northeastern  University in Boston from 1947 to 1977.  He was a graduate of Brown, Columbia and Boston University.   Professor Bishop also was a World War II veteran who was a Navy Seabee during the second wave of attack on Omaha Beach on D-Day.   This information was found online at the Northeastern Alumni news.

Ralph Longobardi was the friend that accompanied Dad on his research, and took the photographs of the hiding place found in the Jenkins house in Andover.    He graduated with Dad from Beverly High School, and then from Northeastern University in 1957.   He still lives in Beverly.  The 1957 Northeastern University yearbook is available at, if you want to take a peek at his college photo!

Last of all, I was curious about the William Jenkins family of Andover, who were such “ardent abolishionists” according to my father.  He was the host of many famous abolitionists at his home, and turned his home into a station on the Underground Railroad. This is the house where Mrs. Belinda Mortimer was living as a tenant in 1954.  On the Andover Historical Society website I found that it was located on 89 Jenkins Road.  You can read this link for more   I “drove” up and down Jenkins Road via Google Maps Streetview, but didn’t see the house.

Jenkins House, 1954, Andover, Massachusetts
I later found that the house is no longer located on 89 Jenkins Road, it has a new address of 8 Douglass Lane.  Douglass Road was named for Frederick Douglass.  It was built by Samuel Jenkins, the grandfather of William Jenkins.  My father described the house as having a long driveway, which must have become Douglass Lane at some point since 1954.  I was not able to peek at the house with Google Maps Street view since Douglass Lane had not been photographed.   Darn!

Jenkins House 4 December 2011, Andover, Massachusetts
We drove to Andover yesterday to find 8 Douglass Lane and photograph the Jenkins House.  To our surprise it is located off Jenkins Road, off of another new road now called Mortimer Lane.  The land has been developed in to many houses, and is no longer farm land.  The Mortimer's farm and Frederick Douglass all have been honored.   The house looks about the same, with a paved road in front now, and other new houses crowded in all sides.  There was a small family burial ground just two doors down the road. 
A small family burial ground near the
Jenkins House in Andover
What surprised me next were two more family connections between my own family tree and the Jenkins house!  I’ve blogged many times about the Hutchinson Family singers (try the keyword HUTCHINSON in the right hand column of my blog for the many, many posts I have written on this family).  They performed their Anti-Slavery songs at the Jenkins House!   But most surprising of all was to learn that William Jenkin’s mother was Peggy Flint, born in Reading, Massachusetts where my Flint ancestors lived.  With a little investigating online, I was able to match up Peggy Flint to my own family tree. 

Peggy Flint’s grandfather was William Flint (1728 – about 1800), my 6x great grand uncle.  Her great grandparents were Thomas Flint (about 1645 – 1721) and Mary Dounton (abt 1650 – 1721) my 7x great grandparents.   Wiliam Flint’s brother, my ancestor Jonathan Flint, married Mary Collston, daughter of Elizabeth Collston of Reading who was imprisoned as a witch in 1692.   Elizabeth, a teenaged girl,  escaped from jail twice in Cambridge, and was recaptured both times.   Fortunately, the hysteria came to an end before she could be tried.  On an interesting historical note,  Mary Dounton (above) was the daughter of the jailor in Salem during the witch trials! 

I can only imagine that the Flint family who had seen suffering one hundred years earlier during the witch hysteria had perhaps bred a sense of compassion into their descendants.  Did William Jenkins learn to be a compassionate person, and risk his life as an abolitionist, hearing tales told at his mother’s knee?   

The Jenkins Family Tree:

Generation 1:  Obadiah Jenkins,  born 1648 in Braintree, Massachusetts, and died 1 April 1720 in Malden; married Mary Jones born 1653 in Hull. 

Generation 2: Joel Jenkins, born 9 March 1685 in Malden, and died 29 January 1748 in Reading; married on 27 December 1704 to Mary Chadwick, born 2 November 1685 in Woburn, daughter of Samuel Chadwick and Mary Stocker.   Married second to Mary Harvell Harnet, and third to Mary Damon Taylor.

Generation 3: Samuel Jenkins, born 5 December 1709 in Reading, and died 9 March 1787 in Andover; married about 1740 to Rebecca Stuart.  Samuel Jenkins built the "Jenkins House" in Andover. 

Generation 4:  Benjamin Jenkins, born 7 December 1756 in Andover,  and died 12 September 1834 in Andover; married 11 February 1779 to Elizabeth “Peggy” Flint, daughter of Benjamin Flint and Margaret Sawyer, born April 1760 in Reading.  Married second to Sarah Thompson in 1805.

Generation 5: William Jenkins, the abolitionist, born June 1795 in Andover, died 22 February 1878 in Andover; married 21 May 1818 in Andover to Mary “Polly” Saltmarsh.  

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Great sleuthing Heather! Thanks for sharing - we never really know what we will find when we go digging.


  2. Incredible, Heather... this just keeps getting more and more interesting. It would make a fascinating book if you wanted to take on the project...

    BTW, aren't city directories helpful? I've just started searching them, and hadn't realized before the wealth of information they contain.

  3. I've really enjoyed this series. Thank you for sharing.

  4. This is the first post I've read so far. This is absolutely fascinating! My mother emigrated from Nova Scotia to Andover in 1923 with her parents and sisters. Three of them are buried there. My mother is still living. And I lived there for eight years in the late '80s and early '90s. Thanks for sharing this most interesting history. Always love hearing about the Underground Railroad.

  5. Very interesting. Walter Gerritson was my great-great-great uncle. He died in 1959, at the age of 98. He was quite active right up to about two months before his death. I remember him coming to stay with us when I was about 10 years old (1955). He would go on long hikes and come home with interesting plant specimens, etc.