back Middlesex Pioneer Ancestors back
In the 400 years since the Pilgrims first sank our family’s roots prayerfully in the New World, we have settled and scattered our people and our memories abroad. Many of our 17th-century immigrant ancestors settled first in Middlesex County, in His Majesty’s Province of Massachusetts Bay. Maybe even most of them, although my perceptions may be skewed because that’s where we lived, after our “ honeymoon year” on Beacon Street (in Suffolk County, across the River).
However the statistics work out, many of our pioneering people settled for a time in either Cambridge or Watertown and then formed or joined the original settling parties of other frontier communities, in Middlesex and beyond. I’ve underlined and bolded the names of Middlesex communities in these summaries:
  • 11GGF Ellis Barron (c.1605-1676), with 11GGM Grace (1605-1650), immigrated from Ireland in time to be listed on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown. They have descendants (including some named Coolidge, with remote presidential connections, I’ve been told), in the Old Cambridge Burial Ground at Harvard Square, and a house still stands in present-day Belmont (then Watertown) bearing a sign that reads, “Ellis Barron House circa 1668.” Hearsay has it that no part of the house visible from the outside survives unaltered from Ellis’ day

  • 10GGF and 11GGF John Warren (1585-1667), with 10GGM and 11GGM Margaret Bayly (1587-1662—widow of William Fowle) immigrated 12 June 1630 aboard the ship Arbella, with the Stearnses and the Winthrops. Their son 10GGF Daniel Warren married 10GGM Mary Barron, daughter of Ellis and Grace Barron; their daughter Mary Warren became our 9GGM by marrying 9GGF John Bigelow, making the Warrens both our 10GGP and our 11GGP. Grandpa John’s name appears on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown.

  • 11GGF Isaac Stearns (1598-1671), with 11GGM Mary Barker, immigrated 12 June 1630 aboard the ship Arbella. Grandpa Isaac’s name appears on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown.

  • 10GGF Isaac Learned (c.1620-1657), immigrated as a child, first to Charlestown,* then to Woburn, where he married 10GGM Mary Stearns. Their daughter 9GGM Hannah Learned entered our Plantagenet line by marrying 9GGF Joseph Farwell.
    *Originally in Middlesex County, annexed to Boston and to Suffolk County in 1874

  • 10GGF “Goodman James” Adams was the first white man to settle in the northern part of Concord. His home, which he built around 1650, is still occupied as a dwelling in Carlisle.

  • 10GGF John Prescott came with 10GGM Mary Gawkroger (Platt) from Lancashire; his name appears on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown; he led the founding party of Lancaster. They wanted to name it Prescott, but the Council wouldn’t let them. His descendant (our cousin) Colonel William Prescott said famously at Bunker Hill, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

  • 9GGF Richard Wheeler came from Bedfordshire and married 9GGA Sarah Prescott, daughter of 10GGP John and Mary (making her also, of course, our 9GGM). He apparently settled first in Dedham and then came to Lancaster about 1662, where he was killed by Indians in King Philip’s War in 1676. His son 8GGF Abraham would die twenty years later, also in an Indian massacre, in the same place. Our distinguished Wheeler line from Richard through Abraham passes also through all three Olivers; our last ancestor to bear the name was Harriet Page Wheeler Decker Young.

  • Immigrants 10GGP John and Johanna King Ball settled in Concord. Their son 9GGF John Ball’s name appears on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown, but he perished in an Indian massacre in Lancaster. His daughter 8GGM Mary Ball Munroe had her rocky start* in her native Watertown but ended up as a honored pioneer citizen of Lexington. In addition to her father’s name, by the way, the Monument bears those of two of Grandma Mary’s uncles: Anthony Pierce, a brother of her mother, 9GGM Elizabeth Pierce Ball; and Joseph Morse, the husband of Elizabeth’s sister Hester Pierce.

  • Her husband 8GGF William Munroe immigrated involuntarily from Scotland in chains, served his seven years as a “redemptioner” in Menotomy, then pioneered in Cambridge Farms, later Lexington, across the Woburn Road from…

  • …10GGP William and Martha Russell, whose descendents (1) were instrumental in the founding of Lexington; (2) died in the Lexington-Concord Alarm; (3) are buried in the Old Hill Cemetery in Concord and in the Old Burying Ground at Harvard Square in Cambridge; and (4) are still prominent in Arlington (originally and properly Menotomy).

  • 8GGP Henry and Olive Farwell brought our Plantagenet descent to Massachusetts; left their family name on a short street in Harvard Square; stayed a while in the early New Towne and then joined the original settlers of Chelmsford.

  • 9GGP Samuel I and Alice Rushton Woods settled first in Cambridge, where 8GGF Samuel II was born in 1660/1, but then removed to Groton to produce their next six children. Their last, John, arrived in 1676/7 in Watertown and died young. Samuel II married 8GGM Hannah Farwell in 1685.

  • When the Massachusetts Bay Colony chartered the New Towne in 1635, the original homesteaders included at least four of our direct ancestors, representing three ancestral lines. The map on Page NewTowne-4 of the NewTowne Section indicates the locations of their homestalls relative to the Harvard Square neighborhood as it appeared in the year 2000. Figure 2, on the next page, shows more of the modern Square, for the sake of context.
    • Our eighth great-grandfather the Reverend Thomas Hooker, was the community’s first preacher and a charismatic and controversial character. Having immigrated on board the Griffin in 1633 with our 8GGM Susanna Harkes Garbrand, he set up housekeeping in Homestall #4. That original homestead is now occupied by part of Wigglesworth Hall, near the southwest corner of the present Widener Library, in Harvard Yard.

    • Two doors to the west, James Olmstead, another 8GGF, had Homestall #2. He and 8GGM Joyce Cornish immigrated on the Lyon in 1632.

    • Grandpa James’ son, our 7GGF Nicholas Olmstead, with 7GGM Sarah Loomis, set up in Homestall #44, a block away, near the current location of the Lampoon Castle. They had been shipmates with his parents on the Lyon. Our most famous cousin with the family name, Frederick Law Olmsted (as he spelled it) designed over a hundred public parks, including Central Park in New York City and Boston’s “Emerald Necklace.” And subsequently died in Belmont at our neighboring McLean Hospital, where Erik would spend many months.

    • 9GGF John Benjamin’s estate, in Homestalls 52, 53, and 54, on the other side of the original Towne, extended over six river-front acres, notably larger than those of our other pioneer ancestors there. He immigrated with Grandma Abigail Eddy on the Lyon 16 Sept 1632.

  • The next year, 1636, the Colony chartered Harvard College (they called it “The College,” of course) and put its headquarters in Homestall #3, between Hooker’s and James Olmstead’s. The pedigree chart in Figure 3 shows how we are descended from these four pioneers and their consorts.

  • Grandpa Benjamin’s name appears on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown, although he served as the New Towne’s first constable in 1633, before it was chartered. In 1636, the press reported “Mr. Benjamin’s house burnt, and £100 in goods lost.” He subsequently removed to Watertown.

  • Wadsworth House, a former official residence of the Presidents of Harvard College and briefly the home and headquarters of Washington in July, 1775, still stands in Grandpa James Olmstead’s Homestall #2.

  • 9GGF John Bigelow is listed on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown, where he served as a Selectman. In that capacity, alas, he warned pregnant Grandma Mary Ball out of her native town. His sister 9GGM Elizabeth (married to 9GGF Richard Butler, whose name appears on the Hartford founders’ obelisk) went with the Hooker exodus to Connecticut. In contrast to our other Middlesex founding families, Bigelows have continued to call Watertown home ever since Grandpa John came; Our Uncle Brigham Young married a couple of them.

  • The name of immigrant (apparently from London) 9GGF John Child doesn’t appear on the Founders’ Monument, although the records refer to him as “John Child of Watertown.” The Monument does display the name of Ephraim Child, though in a curious manner: the others are all in alphabetical order, and Ephraim’s is tacked on at the bottom, out of sequence. I’ll bet there’s a story there, but I haven’t encountered it. I’m not sure how Ephraim and John are related, but John’s our ancestor by his marriage to 9GGM Mary Warren. HER parents, by the way, if you’re not yet sufficiently confused, were 10GGP Daniel Warren and Mary Barron; Daniel’s a son of 10GGF- and-11GGF John, mentioned above, and Mary’s parents were Ellis and Grace Barron. Whew! Guess there were few enough of them around, so that they had to intermarry…
    A diligent descendant may be moved, some day, to check into our kinship to Abijah and Sarah Child(s), whose family tragedy I’ve documented. Not pioneers in the immigrant sense: they lived and suffered at the time of the Revolution.
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