Saturday, January 14, 2012

Surname Saturday - Wilson of Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts


WILSON

Robert Wilson was born about 1630, and lived in Salem, Massachusetts.  It is unknown where he came from before he arrived in New England, and it is unknown when he arrived.  However, he left some very interesting, yet sad and sorrowful, records during his life. 

His first wife was Deborah Buffum, daughter of Robert Buffum and Tamosen Ward.  In 1662, as the mother of two infant children she professed to being a Quaker, which was dangerous in Puritan Salem, Massachusetts.  Not only that, she went naked to the Puritan meetinghouse to protest the “spiritual nakedness”.  She was sentenced to be tied to a cart and whipped until she came to her own house.  Daniel Rumball, the constable “was loathe to do it, but was ordered to do his duty.  Robert Wilson (it may be presumed in collusion with Rumball, though neither was a Quaker) followed after, clapping his hat sometimes between the whip and his wife’s back.”   (from the book The Peabody Story by John A. Wells, 1973, Essex Institute, Salem, MA, pages 136 -7)

Although kindhearted Robert Wilson helped his wife, she died soon after in 1668.  Robert remarried to Anna Trask, the widow of Joseph Perry Foster, in 1674. They had one child together before he was called to join the Essex County militia with Captain Thomas Lothrop to protect Deerfield, Massachusetts.  Seventy men, along with Robert Wilson, were killed at in a massacre at a brook near Deerfield on 18 September 1675.  Only seven or eight men escaped this massacre.  The brook was renamed “Bloody Brook”.

From the Essex Quarterly Court Records, volume 6, leaf 19

Administration upon the estate of Robert Wilson, intestate, was granted 28, 4m, 1681 unto Ann, the relict, who brought in an inventory amounting to about 150 pounds, and whereas there is some legacy or something of an estate of Tamosen Buffum's which of right is to belong to Robert and Deborah, children of the deceased, the court ordered that Ann should pay out of this estate into the inventory, to Robert the eldest son 14 pounds, and to Deborah aforesaid, children by his first wife, and to Anna, John, Mary and Elizabeth children by Ann, 7 pounds each, at age or marriage, the house and land to stand bound by security.

If you look at the genealogy below, you will notice a lot of Robert Wilsons, and the Essex County records are full of even more Robert Wilsons.  How did I manage to figure out which Roberts belonged to what lines?  Not without help! I was at the New England Historic Genealogical Society library one day, and when I had trouble finding a book on the shelves the librarian, David Dearborn, asked me which surname I was researching.  When he heard I was looking for Salem, Massachusetts Wilsons he introduced me to a series of books written by researcher Ken Stevens of Walpole, New Hampshire.  Ken Stevens wrote all his books about Wilsons from all over New England.  I wrote to Mr. Stevens (it was before email) and he sent me all his research notes on the Salem Wilsons.  He had not included these particular Wilsons in a book yet.   He confirmed my line, too!   The NEHGS library has his papers on Wilson research in their manuscript collection.  Kenneth C. Stevens passed away in 2010.

My Wilson lineage (note the five Robert Wilsons and one Robert Wilson Wilkinson in the first eight generations!):

Generation 1:  Robert Wilson, born about 1630, died on 18 September 1675 in Deerfield, Massachusetts at the Bloody Brook Massacre; married first to Deborah Buffum, daughter of Robert Buffum and Tamosen Ward, on 12 August 1658 in Marblehead, Massachusetts.  She was born about 1639 and died about 1668 and had two children including Robert Wilson, Jr. (see below).  He married second to Anna Trask, daughter of Henry Trask and Mary Southwick, widow of Joseph Perry Foster, and had one child.

Generation 2: Robert Wilson, born about 1662, and died before 17 January 1717; married about 1685 to Elizabeth Cook, daughter of Isaac Cook and Elizabeth Buxton. Four children.  He is listed in his grandmother’s will (Tamosine Buffum, Essex County Probate #30139).  He was the first Wilson to own property near the Wilson Square area of what is now Peabody, Massachusetts.

Generation 3: Isaac Wilson, born about 1691; married Mary Stone, daughter of Samuel Stone and Mary Treadwell, on 9 January 1718 in Salem, Massachusetts. Six children. He was a carpenter.

Generation 4: Robert Wilson, born about 1724, died before 10 July 1782 in Danvers, Massachusetts (now Peabody); married to Elizabeth Southwick, daughter of John Southwick and Mary Trask on 26 May 1744 in Salem, Massachusetts. Four children.  He was a prominent potter who lived where Route 114 now crosses Route 128 in Peabody.  The Wilson family burial ground still exists there behind the Kappy’s Liquor Store.  The Wilsons were known for black pottery that can be seen on exhibit at the Peabody Historical Society.

Generation 5: Robert Wilson born about 1746 and died 4 June 1797 in Danvers (now Peabody); married on 23 March 1775 in Danvers to Sarah Felton, daughter of Malachi Felton and Abigail Jacobs.  Nine children.  He is buried at the Wilson burial ground, and Sarah was buried in 1836, forty years later, across the street at the Felton burial ground.

Generation 6: Robert Wilson, born 5 September 1776 in Danvers, died on 9 November 1803 in Danvers; married on 8 May 1800 to Mary Southwick, daughter of George Southwick and Sarah Platts.   Two children. Robert and Mary Wilson are buried at the Wilson burial ground.

Generation 7: Mercy F. Wilson, born 17 June 1803 in Peabody, died on 9 October 1883 in Peabody; married on 23 June 1829 in Danvers to Aaron Wilkinson, son of William Wilkinson and Mercy Nason, born in South Berwick, Maine on 22 February 1802, and died on 25 November 1879 in Peabody, Massachusetts. Eleven children.

Generation 8: Robert Wilson Wilkinson m. Phebe Cross Munroe
Generation 9: Albert Munroe Wilkinson m. Isabella Lyons Bill
Generation 10:  Donald Munroe Wilkinson m. Bertha Louise Roberts (my grandparents)

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This Wilson family has not been written up in any compiled genealogy or articles in any genealogical journals.  Ken Stevens had notes on this lineage, but had not finished his research on the other lines of the Salem/Danvers/Peabody Wilsons for a book or article.   Most of what I put together here was gleaned from vital records and probate.  There is a bit of information on the Wilson potters to be found in books on the subject, such as this excerpt from Early New England Potters and Their Wares by Lura Woodside Watkins, Harvard University Press, 1950, pages 65-66.

"The Wilsons were a prominent family of artisans.  Their homestead included the land near 141 Andover Street and eastward where 128 now crosses it.  The first two potting Wilsons were sons of Robert, a farmer.  They were Robert, known as Robert, Jr. who remained in Danvers, and Joseph, who went to Dedham and thence to Providence, Rhode Island.  When Robert, Jr., died in 1782, he left property worth 627 pounds, including six lots of land, his house, barn, potter's shop, and cornhouse, a riding chair, and a large personal estate.  He seems to have done well in his trade.  His son Robert, known as Robert 2d, and a younger son Job were potters.  By an order of the court, Robert 3d, as administrator of his father's estate, was obliged to sell a large part of the elder Robert's property to pay certain debts.  This was not done until April 9, 1793, when two thirds of the land and buildings, and an interest in the business was aquired by Isaac Wilson 3d.  He, too, was a craftsman in clay.  The three Wilsons ran the shop together for a time, but Robert 3d, and Job both passed away before 1800, while Robert's son Robert, who had worked but a short time as a potter, died three years later at the age of twenty-seven.  Upon Isaac's decease in 1809, this early pottery must have come to an end."

For more information on Robert Wilson’s wife, Deborah, and her “Naked Protest” see my blog post about this story at this link:

For more information on the Wilson Burial Ground in Peabody, see this link:

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Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

4 comments:

  1. Heather, I have a Robert Buffum married Tasmasin with son, Caleb Buffum married to Hannah Pope; they had a son Benjamin Buffum; who had a son, William Buffum who married Lydia Arnold; who had a daughter Patience Buffum born May 1770 who married my 1st cousin, 7 times removed, Phiny EARLE b. 17 Dec 1762.

    I was wondering if there is a connection to your Robert Buffum? I have very little information on the Buffum family. They are not a direct line, but I do include many collateral lines. Great post lots of information! Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Dear Grandma,
    Yes, this is the same Buffum family. As a matter of fact, I am writing up a sketch of the Buffums, starting with Robert and Tamosin, for next week's "Surname Saturday". I hope to post it for January 21st. Watch for it here at "Nutfield Genealogy". Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, too!
    Heather

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  3. Have you read the Naked Quaker by Diane Rapaport? You should.

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  4. Hello, Martin,
    Yes, I've read the Naked Quaker. It's not about Deborah Wilson, but a similar case elsewhere in Massachusetts. I had quite a conversation about it with Diane Rapaport when she was writing the book, because she had just written two other articles about another ancestor, William Munroe.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete