PLAISTOW - The following is the first of a three-part series of stories whose foundation is based on known genealogical facts that at first glance might be, to some, boring. Surnames are purposely left out at this juncture. I tell this story because it was right here just a few miles from us that this story unfolded and is part of our rich New England heritage.
Nathaniel was the youngest of four puritan children. His birth came forth on a crisp fall day of October 21, 1743 to John and Mary, a Newbury family that had three children already. John was the oldest at 11 years and named accordingly after his Father. As is customary in English families, the first male born is the heir to the estate when the father passes away. John the son, was likely told by his father of his great fortune while he was in boyhood, thus giving him a place of importance amongst his siblings.
John the father, genealogical records point out, was a master housewright (a master carpenter) who married previously. John’s first wife, Patience, a loving wife, died due to sickness that so often inflicted itself on colonial Americans.
The first marriage, records say, left 2 children, Abigail who died after the 17th day of birth, and Patience (mothers namesake) born in Newbury in 1719 and survived to marry in 1739.
Patience the daughter married a young Doctor fresh out of Harvard Medical School and moved to Falmouth, Maine to begin what later is deemed a “celebrated” practice.
Patience is half-sister to Nathaniel, as they both had the same father. Interestingly, Patience was, at the age Nathaniel’s birth, now 24 years, old enough to be Nathaniel’s mother.
It was around 1768 when John the father passed away at the long lived age of 84. As a backdrop, it was the same year 1768 that British troops occupied Boston. The troops were there to enforce taxation and control radical elements. Civil unrest was visible and spreading. It was, at that time, when Patience, now 50 years old, and her husband the doctor and six older children came down from Maine along the Kings Highway (Route 1) to the puritan funeral service in Newbury near their home by the Lower Green (still there today). The home was just a stone’s throw from what is now the Parker River; formerly known by its Indian name, the Quascagunquen River, where the first settlers of Newbury came ashore in 1635 (A large stone is inscribed there on the shore)
At his father’s death, Nathaniel was around 28 years old, and yet unmarried, an Englishman with steel blue eyes, strong of body, trained by his father to build homes and perform his skills of carpentry.
Father was gone, but in the midst of their sorrow the whole family perhaps realized the fullness that was brought forth in the midst of his death, with five children from two marriages and six adult grandchildren from Patience seeing each other perhaps for the first time.
I suspect it was both a sad yet joyous gathering that took place despite John’s death. The prayer service, burial and the reading of the will took place. As we expected John was proclaimed heir to the estate. Patience received 3 pounds British from the estate. Nathaniel received the same 3 pounds in addition to what John had already given him (unknown), and in addition Nathaniel was entrusted with his father’s Musket a .75 Caliber Brown Bess Flintlock Rifle, a cherished possession to hunt, protect and defend the family and town. Patience went back to Falmouth with her husband and children. There was nothing left for Nathaniel in Newbury as his elder brother John was master of the estate. Patience had a son, also named Nathaniel, among others who were just a year older than Nathaniel of Newbury.
After that gathering, Nathaniel of Newbury vanished without a trace from any local records whatsoever.
End of Part 1
(Editor’s Note: Ed Hale resides in Plaistow, with his family. He is a lifelong genealogy enthusiast. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org).