Monday, August 3, 2015

The Double Amputee Mystery

Researching this tombstone opened up a whole new can of worms for me…

Born in Lynn
Oct. 20 1795
Oct. 29, 1863

Whilst wandering the Central Cemetery in Beverly for my HITCHINGS ancestors, I found this tombstone.  My maternal grandmother was Gertrude Matilda Hitchings (1905 - 2001), a descendant of Daniel Hitchings (1632 - 1731) an early settler at Lynn, Massachusetts.  I wasn’t looking for James Tyler Hitchings, but I thought I had found a relative when I took this photograph.  The name HITCHINGS is relatively rare, and most of the Essex County HITCHINGS are all descendants of the same family founded by Daniel Hitchings of Lynn.

After searching my family tree, I found many James Tyler Hitchings.  Which one was this James buried in Beverly?  I found several generations of James Tyler Hitchings, but none matched the dates on this tombstone, although the others were very close to the same time period.  What was going on?  Was my family tree research wrong?  Was the tombstone wrong?

It turned out that when I searched the vital records, there was another James Tyler Hitchings born in Lynn who matched this tombstone exactly.  He was the son of Thomas Hitchings (1762 – 1871) and Ruth Burchstead of Lynn, and the grandson of Ezra Hitchings born about 1740 in England.  Ezra was not a descendant of the early colonial settler Daniel Hitchings at all!

Through Google I found a reference to an article in The Essex Genealogist, Volume 15 [1994], page 102, which had this statement “…Ezra Hitchings (Hitchins), b. in England abt. 1740; d. at Lynn bef. 5 Jan 1830.  he arrived late at Lynn and there is no known connection to Daniel and Joseph Hitchings of Lynn (Marcia Wiswall Lindberg, "Hitchings... an Unconnected Family", TEG, 12 [1992]; 108.” 

Or course I went directly to the New England Historic Genealogical Society website to pull up the second TEG article.  This one listed the children of Ezra Hitchings, including the first child, Thomas:  “i. Thomas2, b. 15 Nov 1762, d. at Saugus, age 77 (Amer. Anc, 5:82), m. at Lynn 10 Jan 1787, Ruth Burchstead, bpt. at Lynn, 26 July 1767; d. at Saugus, "of Lynn, wid. Thomas, 1 Nov. 1843, a. 76 y"  (Sau. VR), dau. of Dr. [Henry] & Elizabeth (Newhall) Burchstead.  Children b. at Lynn 1. Thomas, b. 14 Apr 1787.  2. Benjamin Burchstead, b. 8 Jan. 1789; m. at Lynn, 5 Jan 1812, Jane Ballard. 3. Ruth, b. 24 Sept. 1790. 4. Ezra, b. 9 Apr 1793 5. James Tyler, b. 20 Oct 1795.  6. Tura, b. 9 Oct 1797. 7. Mira b. 2 Dec 1799. 8. George, b. 14 Jan 1802 9. Rozzel, b. 2 Dec 1803”.  Here was the James Tyler from the tombstone. 


If there is no known relationship or kinship between the family of Ezra Hitchings and Daniel Hitchings, why did they both live in Lynn, Massachusetts?  Ezra Hitchings of England could have settled anywhere in the New World- why did he chose to live in Lynn with the only other know family in Massachusetts named HITCHINGS?  Why did both families have so many descendants named “James Tyler Hitchings”?   

Also, neither one of the TEG articles nor the American Ancestors journal articles mentioned this little tidbit I found while I was Googling for information on Ezra Hitchings- from The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay: Volume XVI, being Volume XI of the Appendix, containing resolves, etc. 1757 - 1760, by John Henry Clifford, Alexander Strong Wheeler and William Cross Williamson, Boston: Wright & Potter Co, State Printers, 18 Post Office Square, 1909, page 687:

“Order allowing 15 pounds to Ezra Hitchings
A Petition of Ezra Hitchings of Lynn.  Setting forth that he was at the taking of Fort Cumberland in the year 1755 and in January 1756, while in the service of his majesty he lost both his leggs.  Praying an allowance.
Read and Ordered that the sum of fifteen pounds be paid out of the publick Treasury to the Petr. in full consideration for his Sufferings mentions.  Passed January 23
Legislative Records of the Council xxiii, 592, Mass. Archives ixxix, 264
Mass. Archives ixxix, 264.  House Journal pp. 88, 209”

If this Ezra Hitchings of Lynn, Massachusetts is the same Ezra that was the grandfather of the James Tyler Hitchings buried in Beverly, then he was 16 years old at the time he was injured at the Battle of Fort Cumberland, Maryland during the French and Indian War (possibly Braddock’s Defeat?).  He lost his legs soon after the battle (due to injuries?)  He was married on 9 March 1762 in Lynn and fathered 8 children after these devastating injuries.   The only other Ezra Hitchings in the records at that time period is his son, Ezra Hitchings, born 15 April 1765, ten years after the battle at Fort Cumberland.

Were the descendants of Daniel Hitchings, already living in Lynn, close enough kin to assist Ezra with his devastating injuries? (Just imagine how difficult life would be as a double amputee in 1766).

Or was there ANOTHER totally unrelated Hitchings family in Lynn, with another EZRA?  According to all the vital records, the only Ezra Hitchings listed are descendants of the Ezra born in England about 1740.  

According to Wikipedia, the population of Lynn, Massachusetts in 1790 was 2,291 people.  It was a small place in the 1760s, not the large city that it is today with over 90,000 people. 


 Published under a Creative Commons License
Heather Wilkinson Rojo,  "The Double Amputee Mystery", Nutfield Genealogy, posted August 3, 2015, (  accessed [access date]).

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