Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday~ Another case of genealogical serendipity!

I photographed these two tombstones while I was wandering around the Central Cemetery in Beverly, Massachusetts looking for my 3rd great grandparent’s gravestones (Peter Hoogerzeil and Eunice Stone).  I never found my ancestors, but I thought that perhaps I was related to these Emersons.

I was right! These are two wives of Rev. Joseph Emerson (he was married three times).  He was called to be the first minister of the Third Congregational Church of Beverly on 21 September 1803.  He was my 2nd cousin six generations removed, born in Hollis, New Hampshire on 13 October 1777.  His grandfather, Daniel Emerson (1716 – 1801) was the brother of Brown Emerson (1704 – 1774), my 6th great grandfather.  This family was full of ministers.  The first Emerson in this lineage was Reverend Joseph Emerson (1620 – 1680) of Concord, Massachusetts, who married the daughter of Rev. Edward Bulkeley (1614 – 1696), Concord’s first minister.   My 4th great grandfather, Romanus Emerson (1782 – 1852) had four brothers- all ministers (Romanus had a speech impediment and never made it to being a pastor).  Even cousin Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), studied to be a minister, too, at Harvard Divinity School and was an assistant at Boston’s Second Congregational Church.



Nancy, the wife of Joseph Emerson
born May 28, 1779. married Oct. 19
1803. died June 15, 1804.

"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband"
What armies of endearments throng the soul!
My Nancy, I'm become thy pupil now,
"Now will I take my leave, so soon to follow."
May her dying counsels live in the hearts of
her surviving friends, may her living virtues
and graces flourish in their lives; and the
sublime serenity of her death prove more
than a pillow for theirs.



The wife of Joseph Emerson was
born Dec. 19, 1777, married July 15,
1805, and died Nov. 7, 1808.

She was remarkable for mental vigor
and bodily infirmities, for animat-
ing cheerfulness under much pain,
for rich resources of mind with
little reading; for performing the 
useful labors of a long life in a few
years; for the most lively and tender
attachment to her connexions and
friends; with the most sublime and
diffusive benevolence to all mankind.
Fond pupil pause, with deep concern receive
The solemn lesson that the dead can give.
What tho for thee, she toils and weeps no more
Nor charms thee now with intellectual store:
[the rest is buried under the sod]

Researching ministers is wonderful.  If you have a minister in your family, you are very lucky because they leave lots of documents and records behind for you to find.  I usually start with Google.  There might be links to sermons, ceremonies, books, biographies and even church bulletins at the Google Book search.  I found the Simmons College thesis that mentioned Rev. Joseph Emerson (see below) via Google.  Most ministers go to a college, university or divinity school, and these places have archives you can search online, visit in person, or call and speak to an archivist.  Many churches have historians or secretaries, and it is worth getting friendly with them by email or in person (bring coffee and cookies). Schmoozing with church staff is perfectly acceptable, especially if you make a donation of any size.   You might find your minister ancestor’s grave right in the church yard, or nearby.  Don’t forget to search WorldCat.org for sermons and papers by or about your minister.

The Third Parish in Beverly, Massachusetts was formed from a dissenting group of Calvinists in 1802.  Most of their members came from the First Parish, which had become Unitarian.  Eventually this parish became the Dane Street Congregational Church in 1837.  This is the same church where my Dad went to Sunday school, and where I was baptized.  This church is located within walking distance of the Central Cemetery, and these tombstones face Dane Street, near the fence on the sidewalk.  Isn’t that serendipity?

Reverend Joseph Emerson graduated Harvard College in 1801.  He was ordained at Beverly as pastor of the Third Church on 21 September 1803 and resigned in 1816 for health reasons. He established the Young Ladies’ Seminary in 1821 (Mary Lyon, who founded Mt. Holyoke College, was his student).  He died at Wethersfield, Connecticut on 13, May 1833.  He married first Nancy Eaton on 19 October 1803.  She died in 1804 (see the tombstone above).  He married second to Eleanor Read in July 1805, and she died in 1808.  He married third to Rebecca Haseltine in 1810.

Rev. Joseph Emerson and Rebecca Haseltine had a son, Luther (1810 – 1867) who was the minister in Amherst and Highland County, Virginia.  You can see his grave, at the Shemariah Church Cemetery in Augusta County,  at this link http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=23261746 .  Reverend Luther Emerson was born in Beverly in 1810.

Another son, Alfred Emerson (1812 – 1896) graduated from Yale and from the Andover Theological Seminary.  He was a professor at Western Reserve College, and then served as a Congregational pastor at South Berwick, Maine and in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.   See this link for a biography: http://wheatoncollege.edu/college-history/1890s/reverend-alfred-emerson/   I told you that the Emerson family was full of ministers, and here is more proof! 

For the truly curious:

If you have New England Puritan or Congregational ministers in your family tree, an invaluable resource is the Congregational Church Library, 14 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts  http://www.congregationallibrary.org/ and telephone 617-523-0470.  Their library is open Monday through Friday, 9am – 5pm and by appointment, free to the public.

Book on Rev. Joseph Emerson, Life of Rev. Joseph Emerson, Pastor of the Third Congregational Church in Beverly, Massachusetts, by Rev. Ralph Emerson, 1834 (Ralph was the brother of Joseph Emerson, also a Congregational minister in Norfolk, Connecticut and a professor of Ecclesiastical History at Andover Theological Seminary).

A Master’s Degree thesis from Simmons College mentions Rev. Joseph Emerson and the history of the Third Parish:   “Congregationalism Divided: A Case Study of Beverly, Massachusetts’ First Parish Congregational Church Split, 1802 – 1834” by Caitlin Lampman, 30 April 2013, online at this link:

The Dane Street Congregational Church website  http://www.danestchurch.org/about/history

For more information on the Emerson family and their many ministers, see the book The Bulkeley Genealogy by Donald Lines Jacobus, 1933.

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Copyright ©2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. I have a colonial New England minister, Rev. John Wise, in my lineage. Thank you for the tips - I plan to follow up looking at the Congregational Church records. I am also including this post on my list of Recommended Reads tomorrow on www.emptybranchesonthefamilytree.com.