Monday, March 29, 2021

Horace Seaver, Boston News Editor ( 1810 - 1889)

In my last blog post about the Boston Freethinkers and The Boston Investigator newspaper, I noted how my ancestor, Romanus Emerson (1782 - 1852) was a great friend of Horace Seaver, the editor of The Boston Investigator. Both men were Freethinkers, progressives, and abolitionists.  I decided to research a little more about Horace Seaver, to perhaps shed a little more light on how my ancestor came to become a Freethinker, too.  I enlisted a little help from genealogist Randy Seaver, who is a distant cousin to Horace Seaver, the news editor (see below for the genealogies of both men). 

Horace Holly Seaver was named for the famous Unitarian preacher Horace Holly.  His parents wanted him to go to theology school and emulate his namesake, but his faith was put to the test when he joined a debating club and had to argue in support of Christianity.  He listened to a speech by Freethinker, Robert Dale Owen, and this changed his mind about the ministry.  This was very similar to my ancestor, Romanus Emerson's life change.  He wanted to be a minister like his three older brothers, but also ended up a famous atheist in Boston. 

Seaver joined the staff of The Boston Investigator as a typesetter, but assumed control of editing when the regular editor Abner Kneeland was arrested for blasphemy in 1839.  Many famous freethinkers of the day, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (a cousin to Romanus Emerson), William Lloyd Garrison and Bronson Alcott tried to defend Kneeland's freedom of speech, but he remained in prison for 60 days. After his release he left Boston and started a utopian community out west.  Horace Seaver then became the editor of The Boston Investigator for over 50 years, until his death in 1889.  

When Horace Seaver was still a young editor he joined a meeting of the Freethinkers in New York City on 4 May 1845 where he proposed that the title infidel be used for atheists. He returned to Boston and founded The Boston Infidel Relief Society with my ancestor, Romanus Emerson. Eventually this became a very large, progressive group in Boston.  They built Paine Hall at 490 Washington Street in Boston for meetings, and the offices of The Boston Investigator moved upstairs.  This building was named after Thomas Paine, the famous freethinker. 

The obituary notice for Horace Seaver was published in The New York Times, 22 August 1889:  "Horace Seaver, editor of the Investigator, died yesterday in Boston.  He was born in Boston in 1810, and his connection with the Investigator dates from 1837, when he contributed to that paper a series of articles that attracted wide attention. In 1838 he became editor of the paper and Josiah P. Mendum proprietor, a partnership which had existed uninterruptedly for fifty-one years.  Mr. Seaver devoted a great deal of time to lecturing, his chief theme being "Free Thought".  He was a great anti-slavery man, and was a warm friend of Wendell Phillips, Parker Pillsbury, and William Lloyd Garrison."

The Boston Investigator continued publishing until 1904 when it merged with another Boston newspaper, The Truth Seeker.  Horace Seaver's book was published before his death as Occasional Thoughts of Horace Seaver from Fifty Years of Free Thinking, in 1888.  This book is available to read online through the Google book search.  You can also hear one of the eulogies given at his funeral read aloud at Youtube    This "Tribute to Horace Seaver" was originally written and read by the famous Freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll.  


Below you can see the lineages of both Horace Holly Seaver and the genealogist Randy Seaver.  It is also interesting to note that my 4th great grandfather, Romanus Emerson (1782 - 1852) had a daughter named Emily, who married Melzar Stetson, a 2nd cousin to Horace Seaver.   I am also related to Horace Seaver through his grandmother, Mary May (b. 1657) who is related to me through her own grandmother, Hannah Morrill (my own first cousin 11 generations removed).  

Generation 1:  Robert Seaver born about 1608 in England, and died 5 June 1683 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth Ballard about 1634 probably in Roxbury, Massachusetts. 

Generation 2:  Joshua Sever born 30 August 1641 in Roxbury, and died 27 March 1730 in Roxbury.  He married Mary May on 28 February 1677 in Roxbury.

Generation 3: Lt. Joshua Sever born 18 February 1677 in Roxbury, and died 24 September in Dorchester, Massachusetts. On 27 February 1706 he married Mercy Cooke at Dorchester.

Generation 4:  William Sever born 2 September 1721 in Dorchester, and died 4 March 1782 in Dorchester.  On 1 February 1742 in Dorchester he married Patience Trescott, daughter of John Trescott and Sarah Topliff.  She was born 20 March 1722 in Dorchester and died 15 March 1799.

Generation 5:  William Sever, born 8 May 1743 in Dorchester, died 28 July 1815 in Taunton, Massachusetts.  he married first on 15 October 1767 to Mary Foster, and married second on 21 January 1771 to Thankful Stetson.  She was the daughter of Amos Stetson and Margaret Thayer.  

Generation 6: Nathaniel Seaver was born 7 February 1773 in Taunton, and died 17 October 1827 in Boston.  He marry Hannah Loker, daughter of Henry Loker and Hannah Barber on 29 September 1799 in Boston.  

Generation 7:  Horace Holly Seaver was born 25 August 1810 in Boston, and died 20 August 1889 in Boston at 2727 Washington Street.  He was married on 24 September in Providence, Rhode Island to Celinda Griffin, the daughter of James Griffin.  She was born about 1817 in Pelham, New Hampshire and died 9 April 1858 in Somerville, Massachusetts.  No children. 

Genealogy blogger Randy Seaver's lineage:

Generation 1:  Robert Seaver  (1608 – 1683)m. Elizabeth Ballard

Generation 2: Shubael Seaver (1640 – 1730) m. Hannah Wilson

Generation 3: Joseph Seaver (1672 – 1754) m. Mary Read

Generation 4: Robert Seaver (1702 – 1752) m. Eunice Rayment

Generation 5: Norman Seaver (1734 – 1787) m. Sarah Read

Generation 6: Benjamin Seaver (1757 – 1816) m. Martha Whitney

Generation 7: Benjamin Beaver (1791 – 1825) m. Abigail Gates

Generation 8: Isaac Seaver (1823 – 1901) m. Lucretia Townsend Smith

Generation 9: Frank Walton Seaver (1852 – 1922) m. Harriet Louise Hildreth

Generation 10: Fred Walton Seaver (1876 – 1942) m. Alma Bessie Richmond

Generation 11: Fedrick Walton Seaver (1911 – 1983) m. Betty Carringer

Generation 12: Randy Seaver

My blog post on Romanus Emerson "Was Your Ancestor A Freethinker?":   

Randy Seaver's genealogy blog Genea-Musings:



To Cite/Link to this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Horace Seaver,  Boston News Editor ( 1810 - 1889)", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 30, 2021, ( accessed [access date]). 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Was your ancestor a Freethinker?

The Boston Investigator
Truth, Perseverance, Union, Justice - The Means.  Happiness - The End.  Hear All Sides - then decide.
Devoted to the development and promotion of universal mental liberty

Did you see “Freethinker” describing one of your ancestors in a biographical sketch? Newspaper article? In a flowery Victorian era obituary?
   Did you think it was just an interesting personality trait? A poetic description of your eccentric ancestor? It is time to learn more about the Freethinker Movement, and the entire history of this interesting society!

I had seen my ancestor Romanus Emerson (1782 – 1852) described as a freethinker (or sometimes capitalized as Freethinker) in a compiled genealogy.  I knew he was an atheist and an abolitionist, so I thought that perhaps the author was trying to cover up his controversial, progressive beliefs with a bit of affectation.  But it turns out that this was EXACTLY the proper identification of his beliefs. 

The Freethinkers emerged as a movement in the United States in the early nineteenth century. They took up the cause of Thomas Paine and other earlier deists and atheists at a time when it was still considered blasphemous and sometimes illegal.

In Boston, The Boston Investigator emerged as a Freethinking newspaper, which was founded in 1831 by Abner Kneeland.  Several famous New Englanders such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison and Bronson Alcott all defended Kneeand when he spent 60 days in jail for blasphemy.  My ancestor Romanus Emerson was a friend of Kneeland, and he often wrote for The Investigator. While Kneeland was jailed, the compositor for the newspaper, Horace Seaver, took over as editor, and Seaver eventually ran the newspaper when Kneeland left Boston to establish a utopian community in the mid-West. 

Horace Seaver ran The Investigator for over fifty-one years, and was a best friend to my 4th great grandfather, Romanus Emerson.  It seems that Freethinking ran in families.  My ancestor Romanus Emerson began his career in theology school to prepare for the ministry, just like his famous cousin Ralph Waldo Emerson, but both set aside these plans for more progressive beliefs like Freethinking and philosophy.  Horace Holley Seaver was named for a famous Unitarian minister, and began his career as a minister, too, but turned to journalism to spread his new views through his Freethought newspaper. 

When Horace Seaver’s wife, Celinda Griffin, died in 1858, he held a “social funeral” that was published in The Investigator. It was the pre-cursor to today’s secular memorial services held in funeral homes.  Romanus Emerson had previously died in 1852, and his final wish was to have his friend Seaver read his self-written eulogy instead of having a Christian service and funeral sermon.  These wishes were not kept by Emerson’s family and friends, and so Seaver instead published the eulogy in The Investigator.  Perhaps this cemented his belief in a secular funeral for his freethinking wife.  Today, this is not considered unusual at all. 

In 1836 the Free Thinkers were founded at a national convention in Saratoga Springs, New York.  At the convention of 1845 Seaver brought up the word Infidel to be adopted as a title for all atheists. Seaver and Emerson founded The Infidel Relief Society of Boston.  Seaver even built the Paine Memorial Hall in Boston for the infidels, with offices for his newspaper upstairs, because infidel meetings were not welcome at other theaters.  The Paine Hall became popular with progressive orators of the time, especially with abolitionists like Garrison, and for meetings for woman suffrage. The Infidel Relief Society even hosted dances and social events such as picnics, and met regularly until the Civil War.  From atheist to infidel to Freethinkers, their beliefs were the same, and they continue today. 

Freethinkers definition:  Freethinkers are often defined by their rejection of religion, or at least of any organized form of religion.  The Freedom from Religion Foundation describes a freethinker as someone “who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief”.  Today, freethinking is intricately linked with secularism, atheism, agnosticism, and humanism.

The Cambridge English dictionary: “Someone who forms their own opinions and beliefs, especially about religion or politics, rather than just accepting what is officially or commonly believed or taught”.

The Oxford English dictionary: “…the free exercise of reason in matters of religious belief, unrestrained by deference to authority; the adoption of the principles of a free-thinker”. 

Trivia:  Freethinkers Day is commemorated every year on the birthday of Thomas Paine, January 19th as a day to challenge arbitrary authority and question the status quo.

Famous Freethinkers:

Thomas Paine

Robert Frost

Frederick Douglass

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Benjamin Franklin

Robert Green Ingersoll (famous orator)

Thomas Jefferson

Emma Lazarus

Abraham Lincoln

Albert Einstein


For the Truly Curious:

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby, 2005

Black Freethinkers: A History African American Secularism, by Christopher Cameron, 2019

Annie Laurie Gaylor, “Horace Seaver”, Freedom From Religion Foundation website, (  accessed 13 March, 2021)

A webpage from Boston's West End Museum about Abner Kneeland:   

My blog post about Romanus Emerson’s self written eulogy (that was no read at his funeral) all about his Freethinking beliefs: 



To Cite/Link to this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Was your ancestor a Freethinker?", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 23, 2021, ( accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Circa 1930s, Spain - Photo Friday


Souvenir from the Barracks of Bearzun (Navarra)
Maria Josefa

My mother-in-law was born just before the Spanish Civil War, while her father was stationed in the province of Navarra as a carabinero.  During the war he served in the military and eventually became a Guardia Civil.  She was born in Orbaiceta on the border with France, and this photo was taken when she was very little (maybe about two or three years old), at Bearzun de Elizondo, not far away.  This is a very tiny town with 52 inhabitants today.  I don't know how big the town was during the Civil War.  

I love this little photo of my mother-in-law as a toddler!  She looks very shy, and the doll in the corner is a very sweet part of the image.  This is part of her life I didn't know much about until we took her to Navarra a few years ago to visit the tiny town of Orbaiceta.  I'm very glad she always labeled her photos, too!  

Online I was able to find a description of the "Antiguo cuartel de Carabineros" in Bearzun (Beartzun), which was built in 1913, and is now a ruin.  It must have been a busy place during the war, since it was located right on the French border. Perhaps they were visiting someone at Bearzun, since it was so close to Orbaiceta.  The old Bearzun barrack is up for sale by the government, hoping that it will be renovated in to a hotel.  It is located on a popular hiking trail through the Pyrenees.  [see the website ] 

For another view of the old Bearzun barracks, see the photos of this Spanish blog which document a hike through the region, with photos of the barracks near the middle (scroll down). The views of the Pyrenees are beautiful.   


To Cite/Link to this blog:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Circa 1930s, Spain - Photo Friday", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 19, 2021, ( accessed [access date]). 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Do you know the roots of Margaret (Welch) Locke (about 1796 – 1860)?


wife of
March 1, 1860
Age 64
[poem illegible]

Most of my “Brick Wall Ancestors” are females, usually unknown wives of ancestors.  Some of these mystery grandmothers are missing their maiden names (surnames), which makes it even more difficult to trace them.  Finding a maiden name is usually the key to smashing down the brick wall.  But for some of these mysterious ancestresses I know their maiden name, but nothing else about their background stories.

One of these mystery ancestresses is my 4th great grandmother Margaret Welch Batchelder.  She was born Margaret Welch about 1796 according to her gravestone record.  Her death record in Chichester, New Hampshire lists her birthplace as Kittery, Maine.  Her son William F. Locke was the town clerk of Chichester at the time, so this is probably accurate.  Kittery has excellent records, but no record of my Margaret.

There were many Welch families in Kittery and York County, Maine at the time Margaret was supposedly born there.  They are descendants of Phillip Welch (born about 1638 and died 1700) of Ipswich, Massachusetts.  His son Moses Welch removed to York, Maine. 

On 21 October 1823 Margaret Welch married Captain Richard Locke in Chichester, New Hampshire.  He was a sea captain, and the son of Simon Locke and Abigail Mace of Rye, New Hampshire on the seacoast.  According to the Locke Genealogy compiled by the Locke Family Association, he went to Boston around 1811 to learn to be a blacksmith, was a sea captain, and removed to Chichester as a farmer. 

Richard Locke was enumerated in the Federal Census as living in Chichester in 1850 and 1860 as a farmer.  In the 1860 census Margaret is missing, and Richard Locke was living with his widowed daughter Abigail (Locke) Batchelder and her 11-year-old grandson, George, (my 2nd great grandfather).  He was also enumerated with another widowed daughter, Mehitable (Locke) Brown and her 3-year-old daughter.  Poor Margaret had died about a month before this 1860 census, one son-in-law had died in 1848 (My 3rd great grandfather George E Batchelder) and another (Elihu Brown) in 1859.  At least he had two daughters to care for him before his death in 1864.

I have been researching this family for over 40 years and looking for Margaret (Welch) Locke’s roots just as long.  I searching for any researchers of the Welch family in York County, Maine to assist me with this family history.  

My WELCH lineage:

Generation 1:  Margaret WELCH, born about 1796, maybe in Kittery, Maine, and died 1 March 1860 in Chichester, New Hampshire; married on 21 October 1823 in Chichester to Captain Richard Locke.  Three children.

Generation 2:  Abigail M. Locke born 10 September 1825 in South Boston, Massachusetts, and died 15 January 1888 in Chichester, New Hampshire, married on 7 September 1845 in South Boston to George E. Batchelder, son of Jonathan Batchelder and Nancy Thompson.  He was born 13 August 1822 in Chichester and died 3 April 1848 in Chichester. Two children.

Generation 3:  George E. Batchelder, Jr., born 8 October 1848 in Chichester, and died 28 July 1914 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, married on 28 October 1869 in Chichester to Mary Katharine Emerson, daughter of George Emerson and Mary Ester Younger.  She was born 25 December 1847 in South Boston, and died 23 April 1932 in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  Nine children.

Generation 4:  Carrie Maude Batchelder was born 22 September 1872 in Chichester and died 21 January 1963 at the Sea View Convalescent and Nursing home in Rowley, Massachusetts, married on 1 November 1892 in Essex, Massachusetts to Joseph Elmer Allen, son of Joseph Gilman Allen and Sarah Burnham Mears.  He was born 24 September 1870 in Essex and died 12 March 1932 at the Masonic Home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  Five children.

Generation 5:  Stanley Elmer Allen, born 14 January 1904 and died 6 March 1982 in Beverly, Massachusetts, married on 14 February 1925 in Hamilton, Massachusetts to Gertrude Matilda Hitchings (my grandparents) daughter of Arthur Treadwell Hitchings and Florence Etta Hoogerzeil.  She was born 1 August 1905 in Beverly and died 3 November 2001 at the Pilgrim Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Peabody, Massachusetts.  Seven children.

A blog post about finding the tombstones of Richard and Margaret Locke: 

My LOCKE “Surname Saturday” blog post: 


To Cite/Link to this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Do you know the roots of Margaret (Welch) Locke (about 1796 – 1860)?”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 15, 2021, ( accessed [access date]). 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Peabody Essex Museum's Special Exhibit on the Salem Witch Trials 1692


Last week Vincent and I carefully planned our first museum visit in almost a year.  The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts had their special exhibit The Salem Witch Trials 1692 open since September 26, 2020.  I was thinking I would miss this exhibit due to the pandemic.  We have been very careful about not going into many indoor places, including picking up groceries, staying home, and social distancing.  But this exhibit is closing on April 4, 2021 and we decided to try it as our first indoor excursion.

First of all, we did all the recommendations I heard from Dr. Fauci and the CDC to stay safe.  We double masked, including an N95 mask with a cloth mask over it.  We brought hand sanitizer and used it often, even though I didn't really touch anything in the museum (they had self opening doors in most places - just wave your hand! And tissues inside the elevators for touching the buttons, and hand sanitizer everywhere).   We both had received our first vaccines more than two weeks ago. 

On top of this, we thought carefully about planning a day and time for our trip.  Usually I book a medical appointment for the first opening of the day, and we go mid week if I have to go into a store to avoid crowds. So we planned to go on a Thursday morning to the Peabody Essex.  I discussed this with a staff member after we saw the Salem Witch Trial exhibit, and they said that Thursdays and Fridays were very slow (the museum is open Thursdays to Sundays 11am to 5pm).  And March is a good time to visit Salem if you want to avoid people.  It's too blustery and chilly to attract a lot of tourists.  And the exhibit is winding down.  If you want to go, go soon but plan the day and time carefully. 

As you can see from the photo below, the museum was almost empty, except for staff wandering here and there.  We were the only people inside the exhibit hall for almost 30 minutes, when another two people entered.  The photo below is the two of us in the main lobby, with no one else in sight!  It was very easy to social distance.  Tickets are timed to ensure that occupancy levels remain low, both for museum entry and the tickets to the special exhibits. 

The Salem Witch Trials 1692 is divided into many galleries, with a great introduction in the beginning about the history of witch trials in Europe, and included many famous old books I had only read about in accounts of Salem history. There were some fine original copies of Malleus Maleficarum and Cotton Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World.  The map below includes Salem, Salem Village and nearby towns, and I found the locations of three homes of ancestors who were hanged in 1692 - Bridget Bishop, George Jacobs, and John Proctor.  Also highlighted on this map was Beadle's Tavern, where some of the examinations for the trials took place, owned by another ancestor, Samuel Beadle (1643 - 1706). 

One gallery blew me away, with some artifacts I didn't know existed at all!  And every artifact had been owned by an ancestor.  There was a window from the Towne family home (Edmund Towne, my 8th great grandfather was also the brother of three accused witches).  There was an account book from Joshua Buffum (8th great uncle).  A brass sundial owned by John Proctor, hanged in 1692 (my 9th great grandfather).  A valuables chest owned by accusers Joseph and Bathsheba Pope (my 7th great grandparents) I previously blogged about HERE  along with the actually testimony of Joseph Pope against John Proctor.  Every article on display in this little niche touched one of my ancestral families. 

This sundial was owned by John Proctor, and was a valuable item
for it's time in 17th century Salem. 

The next gallery in this exhibit had many documents, including accounts submitted by the jailkeeper Wiliam Dounton (my 8th great grandfather) and items from the jail.  Dounton was a cruel man, and the descriptions of the jail are hair raising.  There was an actual bill for the board and food for prisoners, and a census of prisoners which included many family members.  The wall planks from the jail have been preserved and are on display here.  Prisoners accused of being witches were chained to these walls, including small children. 

I could go on describing items, but that would fill a book!  I enjoyed seeing George Jacobs's two walking sticks on display here.  They used to be in an exhibit on the first floor of the Phillips library when it was located across the street.  I hadn't seen them in a long, long time.  George Jacobs was my 9th great grandfather, hanged as a witch on 19 August 1692 along with John Proctor (described above with the sundial).  They also had the famous painting of Jacobs's trail done by Tompkins Harrison Matteson in 1859 and featured in almost every account of the witch trials.  This was displayed next to the document showing the examination of Jacobs by the magistrates which describe his two canes. 

One of the most moving items to me was the document with the red wax seal below.  It is the warrant for the execution of Bridget Bishop (my 9th great grandmother).  The bottom of the document has a note by the sheriff George Corwin who reported that he did his appointed job "I have taken the body of the within named Bishop... to the place for her Execution and Caused to be [hanged] by the neck until She was dead."   This gave me shivers to read the actual document. 

The last room of the exhibit hall names and remembers 25 victims of the Salem Witch Trials on the wall, and it also includes a wall called "Reckoning and Reflection".   The last part of the exhibit is called "Reaction and Impact" with documents and books written after 1692.  I liked especially a quote from Thomas Maule, 1695, on the wall that read "For it were better that one hundred Witches should live, than that one person be put to death for a Witch, which is not a Witch."   Maule was an outspoken critic of the trials.  His book, on display here, was the first condemnation of the trails published under its author's own name.  

If you don't want to visit in person, or if you can't visit the museum because of the pandemic or if you live at a distance, try this link from the PEM website and watch the 360 degree tour of The Salem Witch Trials 1692.  You can zoom in and out and move through the space using your mouse or finger.  There is a second video on this page, with a tour of the galleries in the exhibit.  At the bottom of this page are links to related articles about the exhibit.  

There are two other exhibits currently at the PEM - Stories of Salem, From A to Z, and Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion.  We had tickets to the Stories of Salem, and I enjoyed it very much. There are many items, documents and ephemera from Salem history from pre-colonization to the present representing history, famous residents, art, design, industry, and pop culture.  If your family lived in Salem recently or long ago, you'll find lots of interesting items in this exhibit! 

This dollhouse belonged to a wealthy Salem Family over 100 years ago

Do you remember when Parker Brothers made their board games in Salem?

An exhibit of witches in pop culture in Salem contained this
weathered old weathervane!  I loved it! 

For the truly curious:

The Peabody Essex Museum:   

The museum is located at East India Square, 161 Essex Street, Salem, Massachusetts

Admission to the museum is $20 (seniors $18, students with ID $12, youths 16 and under and Salem residents are free)  The Salem Witch Trials 1692 is FREE but requires a timed entry ticket.  

Two links to blog posts about the Pope Valuables Chest:  

My lineage from Bridget Bishop:  

My lineage from George Jacobs:    

My lineage from John Proctor:  


To Cite/Link to this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The Peabody Essex Museum's Special Exhibit on the Salem Witch Trials 1692", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 9, 2021, ( accessed [access date]). 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Accident Prone? Aaron B. Wilkinson (1827 – 1897) of Portland, Maine


Aaron B. Wilkinson was born about 1827 in Madbury, New Hampshire, the son of Rufus Wilkinson (1800 – 1868) and his wife Catherine Bunker.  He is my 2nd cousin 4 generations removed. Our closest common ancestor is James Wilkinson (born about 1730 in Berwick Maine) and his wife Hannah Mead. My third great grandfather was also named Aaron Wilkinson (1802 – 1879). 

Cousin Aaron B. Wilkinson was married twice, first to Elizabeth Edwards in 1852, and to Caroline Waterhouse on 3 November 1873.  His marriage to Elizabeth ended in October 1873 due to divorce (he wasted no time in marrying Caroline!) I could not find records of children from either marriage. 

During the Civil War Aaron served in the 5th Maine Regiment, Company B from 24 June 1861 to 17 September 1861 when he was listed as deserted two days after he was reported sick in Alexandria, Virginia.  This was about a month after this company fought in the First Battle of Bull Run in nearby Manassas, just 30 miles from Washington, D. C.  The newspaper of Saco, Maine The Maine Democrat, ran an article on 10 September 1861 where members of the Biddeford Company of Volunteers (Company B) ran a statement “We, the undersigned, members of the Biddeford Company of Volunteers, having been present with the 5th reg't of Maine during the whole time it was under fire at Bull Run, and having seen a statement repeated in the Union and Journal, printed at Biddeford, to the effect that Capt. Goodwin did not have command of his company on the battlefield, do wish most emphatically to deny that statement.     We wish to assert that Capt. Goodwin did command his company at Bull Run, and that Lieut. Stevens did not.  Lieut. Stevens was present and did his duty.  Capt. Goodwin was also present and did his duty well and bravely as commander of the Company.”  Aaron B. Wilkinson was one of the 22 names listed under this statement.

After I found this news clipping above, I had a lot of fun finding other information about Aaron B. Wilkinson in newspapers.  There was little about his life in other sources.  Censuses and city directories list him as a railroad employee, but the news clippings were fantastic and full of fun details!

Portland Daily Press, Thursday, 25 April 1867, Portland, Maine, Volume 6, page 3

"Municipal Court

Judge Kingsbury Presiding

Wednesday..... John Henderson, for assault and batery on Aaron Wilkinson, was found [sic] $5.00 and costs.  Committed"

The next news notice was in the Daily Eastern Argus, Wednesday 29 July 1868, Portland, Maine, Volume 36, Issue 147, page 3

"Shocking Accident - Aaron Wilkinson, a watchman at the P.S. & P. R. R., was engaged in firing up a locomotive, Monday, and used a can of naphtha to ignite the wood more quickly.  His foot slipped and the fluid flew up on his bare arms and at the same time took fire.  He screamed for a bucked [sic] of water and at the same time with his hands scraped the flames from his arms, taking the flesh at the same time, laying the cords and muscles bare to the wrists.  He was at once attended by a physician, who dressed the injuries as best he could under the circumstances, and had the man carried to his home.  It was a terrible accident, which may result in permanent injury."

Then this notice of another accident in the train yard was run in the Boston Herald, Saturday, 5 April 1873, Boston, Massachusetts, page 6.

"Portland, April 4, Aaron Wilkinson, employed as a switchman for the Eastern Road at the company's grounds on Turner's Island, near this city, as he was attempting to block a freight train going slowly at that spot, Wednesday afternoon, was struck by the stick of timber he was using in such a way that he was fatally injured.  He vomited blood when he was taken home.  He was about forty years of age."

Of course, we know that it was not a fatal accident, and soon after this accident Aaron was divorced, remarried, and lived to be enumerated in the 1880 Census with “Carrie” his wife. And then a third accident in the train yard was reported in the Portland Daily Press, Saturday 27 November 1886, Portland, Maine, Volume 24, page 2.

"Cape Elizabeth...

The hoisting gear of an engine used in hoisting coal for a Maine Central engine gave way and a large tub filled with coal fell and struck Mr. Aaron Wilkinson of Cape Elizabeth, inflicting serious wounds on his head and one shoulder, and slivering the bone of the right leg."

Aaron B. Wilkinson died in Portland, Maine on 8 November 1873.  The last news clipping I found recorded the death.  No cause of death was given.  Let's hope that poor Aaron was retired from railroad work and died peacefully at home! 

Portland Daily Press, Thursday 9 December 1897, Portland, Maine, Volume 35, page 6


.... In Pleasantdale, Dec. 8, Aaron Wilkinson aged 70 years 11 months.  [Funeral on Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock from his late residence, Kelsey Street.]"


Immigrant Ancestor Thomas Wilkinson "of London" (about 1690 – Before 1739) m. Elizabeth Caverly

Gen. 2                            James Wilkinson  (1730 – about 1800) m. Hannah Mead

Gen. 3     Daniel Wilkinson m. Hannah Weymouth                William Wilkinson m. Mercy Nason

Gen. 4     Rufus Wilkinson m. Catherine Bunker         Aaron Wilkinson (1802 – 1879) m. Mercy Wilson

Gen. 5     Aaron B. Wilkinson (1827 – 1897)                Robert Wilson Wilkinson m. Phebe Cross Munroe

Gen. 6                                                                               Albert Munroe Wilkinson m. Isabella Lyons Bill

Gen. 7                                                                        Donald Munroe Wilkinson m. Bertha Louise Roberts

                                                                                                              (my grandparents)

Aaron B. Wilkinson (1827 – 1897) was my 4th great grandfather’s (Aaron Wilkinson (1802 – 1879) 2nd cousin one generation removed.  These are only two Aaron Wilkinsons in my notes about the descendants of Thomas Wilkinson, so it was not a common first name.


To Cite/Link to this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Accident Prone?  Aaron B. Wilkinson (1827 – 1897) of Portland, Maine", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 2, 2021, ( accessed [access date]).