Great-Grandfather Thomas Francis Atwell I: Beyond the Navy

I’ve already touched on my great-grandfather’s life with respect to his time in the navy and partly through writing about his wife (my great-grandmother), Eva Christina Lipsett. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper.

Thomas Francis Atwell I was born on October 4, 1891 in Providence, Providence County, RI. He was the fifth child and third son of William Armstrong Atwell and Altie May Williams. I don’t know much about his childhood, other than that his schooling ended with a ninth grade education and that his parents divorced sometime between 1900 and 1905. I’m told that Thomas’ father William could be difficult to get along with, but in spite of that, all the children seemed to remain with him as opposed to Altie after the divorce. When William re-married to Ethel Fane in 1905, Thomas got along well with her and later his half-brother Wallace.

There is a family story that says that things were so bad at home that Thomas lied about his age to join the navy. However, from what I can tell, he enlisted in 1909 when he was eighteen, so I don’t know about the part about lying about his age. Perhaps joining the navy was Thomas’ best option for leaving home once he turned eighteen? In any case, he seems to have begun his naval time at the academy in Newport, Newport County, RI.

We already know that Thomas married Eva on June 30, 1920 in Salem, Essex County, MA. I would love to know how they met; perhaps he had some shore leave in Boston and ran into her somehow? Whether he had any prior relationships, I do not know. I’m sure it would have been difficult to maintain a relationship for very long, being stationed on a ship for great lengths of time. In any case with Eva, it was love; this was obvious in the way my great-grandfather spoke of her even after her death.

Eva + Thomas Atwell in Swampscott, MA, 1959. Author's Collection.

Eva + Thomas Atwell in Swampscott, MA, 1959. Author’s Collection.

As I’ve written before, Thomas and Eva started their family in the 1920s. After a brief time out of the navy in the 1930s, he worked as a superintendent in an office building. Then after his time back in the navy during World War II, Thomas again returned to civilian life and began working for the Lynn Institute for Savings (a bank) in 1947 and continued there until retirement in 1967. Since Eva had died in 1963, the house on Timson Street in Lynn must have seemed too big for him, so he put the house on the market in November 1964 and bought the tiny home on Bulfinch Road that I remember. A few months later, the house on Timson Street was sold.

Although he was retired and downsized, Thomas in no way checked out of life. He still drove around town, and attended Christmas and other family parties that his daughter Eugenie threw. One thing that I discovered was that during the 1970s, he wrote a few letters to the editor of the Boston Herald-American. (I suppose that he also must have written to the Lynn Daily Item, but those archives are not yet online.) Many of the short, pointed letters had a political bent to them, such as properly addressing the President of the United States and anti-union sentiments. One outlined eight ways to “save the U.S.A.”, which would be seen as very conservative (and probably politically incorrect) today. He also wrote about his beloved Boston Red Sox, who he often watched on the TV set in his living room. Mind you, this was deep in the years during the “Curse of the Bambino”.

Thomas lived on his own for many years, but spent the very end of his life in a Lynn nursing home, passing away at the very respectful age of 96. He is buried with Eva at Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn.

Atwell-Pleau grave, Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn, MA. Author's collection.

Atwell-Pleau grave, Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn, MA. Author’s collection.

Vienna Fingers and Ginger Ale

Vienna Finger.  Courtesy Wikimedia.

Vienna Finger. Courtesy Wikimedia.

What in the world does this strange snack have to do with genealogy? To me, everything!

I was lucky to grow up knowing my great-grandfather, Thomas Francis Atwell I; in fact, I was 23 years old when he died (though sadly I did not see much of him after we moved away when I was 11). When we lived in Massachusetts, my family would often visit with Grampy Tom. Inevitably, my sister and I would ask him for a snack and he’d give us what were probably the only sweets in the house: Vienna fingers and ginger ale.

Grampy Tom’s house in Lynn was very small, only four rooms as I recall, but that was all he needed after the death of his wife, Eva (Lipsett) Atwell. Besides the kitchen (where the snacking occurred), we spent most of our time in the sparse living room. Grampy would always sit in a fanback Windsor chair (I don’t think it even had a cushion!) as he spoke with my parents. I don’t remember much of the decor, but I do know he had some pieces of the USS Constitution from when it was refurbished in the late 1920s.

Grampy Tom was partly deaf; whether it was from age or some other reason, I don’t know. We always had to shout to be heard, and even then, it was difficult for him to understand (he never did get my youngest sister’s name right, despite numerous corrections). Another thing that made Grampy unique was the tattoo on his arm. I don’t even remember exactly what it looked like (an eagle?), but I remember staring at it, wondering how old he was when he got it. If memory serves me correctly, he got it sometime during his navy years.

Me & Grampy Tom at my first Christmas.  Author's collection.

Me & Grampy Tom at my first Christmas. Author’s collection.

I remember on one of our visits, my mom told me I should really listen to the stories Grampy Tom told; after all, he was in two world wars and he’d seen a lot of history! That sounded like a good idea to me. I liked stories! So I tried – I really tried to sit and listen. But I didn’t understand, and the little girl in me would rather go outside and play. How I wish that I could go back now and absorb some of the things he said!

So now, nearly thirty years after his death, I have to satisfy my curiosity by searching for Grampy Tom’s stories as I’ve done for my other ancestors, as well as talking to the very few relatives left who knew him personally. From here, we will look into my great-grandfather’s life, family and ancestors, based on my findings.

Paine and Bass: Braintree Beginnings

In my last post we looked at the lines of Stephen and Hannah (Bass) Paine. In this post, I’d like to take a look at both sets of parents. In both cases, I’m not sure of their towns of origin in England (though there is some sketchy information on some online trees).

Moses and Elizabeth Paine had three children that I know of:

  • Moses, born 1622/23; married Elizabeth ____; died December 15, 1690 in Boston.
  • Elizabeth, born circa 1625, married Henry Adams of Medfield on November 17, 1643; both Elizabeth and Henry were shot in their own home by natives during King Philip’s War on February 21, 1676. Henry died immediately and Elizabeth died one week later (perhaps this event provided motivation for Stephen to serve his second stint during the war).
  • Stephen, whose information can be found here.

The Paine family immigrated from England and were living in Braintree by 1632. Over time, Moses also acquired land in Mendon, Cambridge, Concord and Piscataqua. In 1641 he became a freeman.

I’m not sure of the date that Elizabeth passed away, but in 1642, Moses had re-married widow Judith (Pares) Quincy. On June 17, 1643, Moses made out his will, leaving Judith with a mere 20 shillings. The authors of the books I’ve read about this fact wonder why this could be. My guesses are perhaps Judith was already well off from her previous marriage, or perhaps Moses’ children had something to say about her inheritance. Regardless of the reason, Moses was close to death at the time of his will, for his date of burial was only four days later on June 21.

Moses and Ann Bass (both born circa 1600) arrived in America about 1632, but first settled in Roxbury. They acclimated quickly, becoming members of the First Church of Roxbury under Rev. John Eliot, who would go on to become “the Apostle to the Indians”. They seemed to have the first two children – Samuel and Mary – in England. Their remaining children (John, Hannah, Ruth, Thomas, Sarah and Joseph) were likely born in Roxbury. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of information on most of them.) On May 14, 1634, Samuel became a freeman.

In 1640 the family moved to Braintree and became involved at the First Church there. In July, Samuel was “received into communion” and soon became the church’s first deacon, a position he maintained until his death. In 1653 he became the ruling elder of the church. Before his death in 1694, he, William Veasey, John Ruggle and David Walesby gave a gift of an inscribed silver communion cup to the church, which remains in its possession. (I would LOVE to see a picture of it!)

First Congregational Church of Braintree as it appears today.  Courtesy Google Earth.

First Congregational Church of Braintree as it appears today. Courtesy Google Earth.

Samuel’s position was prominent in civic matters as well. Between 1641 and 1664 he sat in twelve General Courts. He was also appointed for various causes, such as improving the town marsh, settling small legal matters, and looking into the building of a cart-bridge over the Neponset River. I even found that he and Moses Paine were among those who signed an acknowledgement of the sale of a schoolhouse by a Mr. Flint in 1648, so they certainly were acquainted with each other.

Ann Bass died on September 5, 1693 and Samuel on December 30, 1964. His will indicates that he thoughtfully provided for each of his surviving children. Both Samuel and Ann are buried in Hancock Cemetery in Quincy, MA and their headstones remain there today.

Tenth Great-Grandparents: Stephen and Hannah (Bass) Paine

Continuing along the various maternal lines in my ancestry, we come to Sarah (Paine) Billings‘ parents, Stephen Paine and Hannah Bass.

Stephen Paine was the youngest child and second son of Moses Paine (sometimes spelled Payne) and Elizabeth Sheafe. He was born in England sometime between 1626 and 1628, and the family had immigrated to Braintree, Massachusetts by 1632. In 1649, he became part of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, as his older brother Moses had done.

Hannah Bass was the second daughter and fourth child of Samuel Bass and Ann (whose maiden name is commonly thought to be Saville). She was born circa 1633; since it is believed that her family immigrated from England to Roxbury, Massachusetts about 1632, she was probably born in Roxbury. The family then moved to Braintree in 1640.

I suspect that Stephen and Hannah must have met at church, or maybe they were neighbors. In any case, they were married on November 15, 1651. Two years later, Stephen became a freeman. And as couples do, Stephen and Hannah proceeded to have a family. All their children, listed below, were born in Braintree:

  • Stephen, born March 8, 1652; married Ellen Veasey on February 20, 1682; died May 24, 1690 of smallpox.
  • Samuel, born June 10, 1654; married Mary Penniman on April 4, 2678; died December 10, 1739.
  • Hannah, born October 28, 1656; married late January 1673 to Theophilus Curtis; died April 1742.
  • Sarah, born January or September 1, 1657; married Roger Billings, Jr. on January 22, 1697; died September 19, 1742 in Dorchester.
  • Moses, born March 26, 1660; married Mary _____, circa 1688; died 1746.
  • John, born August or September 21, 1666; married Deborah Neale on January 20, 1689; died 1706.
  • Lydia, born 1670; married Benjamin Neale (Deborah’s brother) on either January or June 20, 1689 (might it have been a double wedding?).

Like many others, Stephen served in King Philip’s War. I find him listed twice: once in 1675 under Captain Thomas Prentice and Lieutenant Edward Oakes, and again in August 1676 under Captain Jonathan Poole. I can’t ascertain the exact actions Stephen may have been involved with under Poole (though it seems that Poole was often assigned to Western Massachusetts). But it is clear that he was part of the Mount Hope campaign under Prentice and Oakes. According to King Philip’s War, by George W. Ellis and John E. Morris, the campaign was as follows:

On the evening of [June] 29th which was spent skirmishing with the Indians, came Major Thomas Savage, accompanied by Captain Paige and sixty horse and as many foot, to take over the command of the Massachusetts forces. The force assembled at Swansea now numbered over five hundred men, and, at noon on the following day, leaving a small guard in the garrison, the little army, with Major Cudworth in command, crossed over the bridge, and, throwing out horsemen on the flanks to prevent an ambuscade, pushed on toward Mount Hope.

Here and there, within the boundaries of the Indian country, they saw groups of empty wigwams and fields of corn, the smoking ruins of what had once been the homes of the settlers, and “Bibles torn in pieces in defiance of our holy religion,” while ghastly heads and hands stuck upon stakes bore witness to the fate of the occupants. But, while Philip’s wigwam was discovered and the trail of his warriors followed to the shore, not an Indian was to be seen.

Throughout the day the rain had fallen steadily, soaking the troops to the skin, and as evening drew on the Plymouth men, passing over the strait, found shelter on the island of Rhode Island, but Major Savage, with the Massachusetts division, bivouaced in the open fields amid the storm.

With the dawn came rumors that the Indians were in force near Swansea, and Savage, after laying waste the fields of growing corn, hastened back over the route of the day before, but though the force met many Indian dogs deserted by their masters, and saw at times burning dwellings, they came upon no Indians, and the infantry, tired and discouraged, made halt at Swansea. The cavalry, however, under Prentice, proceeded to scour the country towards Seekonk and Rehoboth, but discovering no trace of the enemy finally encamped for the night.

The next morning Prentice, having placed a portion of his command under Lieutenant Oakes with orders to march parallel with the main force along another road in order to cover a wider extent of territory, set out on his return to Swansea. They had advanced only a short distance when they came in sight of a party of Indians burning a house. Prentice was unable to reach them on account of several intervening fences, but Oakes, continuing along the road, charged upon and put them to flight, killing several, among them Phoebe, one of their leaders, and losing one of his own men, John Druce.

Information in the meantime had reached Swansea that Philip had been discovered at Pocasset, but Savage, instead of marching directly toward this point with his whole force, divided his command, sending Henchman and Prentice to scour the woods and swamps along the mainland, while he himself with the commands of Captains Paige and Moseley, marched down to Mount Hope. No signs of Indians were discovered at Mount Hope, and leaving a party to build a fort, despite the earnest entreaty of Church that the whole force should go over to Pocasset and drive Philip from cover, Savage again returned to Swansea.

from "King Philip's War" by George William Ellis & John Emery Morris; Grafton Press, New York; 1906; Google Books, 2007.

from “King Philip’s War” by George William Ellis & John Emery Morris; Grafton Press, New York; 1906; Google Books, 2007.

Stephen went on to see all his children grow up and most get married. He finally died on July 29, 1691. Hannah re-married Shadrach Wilbur of Taunton in 1692. She predeceased him by two years in 1696.

Back From Vacation! (And a Tip)

Yes, I took a little time off of everything, though I couldn’t totally get away from genealogy. As we visited my husband’s hometown and planned on seeing some of his ancestors’ graves, I got a little carried away on Find-a-Grave then proceeded to map out some good chunks of his own ancestry!

We also visited the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, where we were able to enter the research room (my favorite part, of course). This reminded me of my recent trip to Guilford, CT when we visited the Henry Whitfield House. They, too, had a research room, available by appointment. I have to wonder how many museums out there have research rooms or something similar. These rooms most likely will not be featured prominently on the museum website, if at all. So my tip is: ask! Find out if there is such a room, how it can be accessed and what its holdings might be. Who knows? You may find something you’ve been looking for.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum!  Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum! Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Next week, we’ll return to exploring my ancestors; I’ll be much more refreshed by then!

The Redman Legacy

I last touched on the Redman name in this post about Seth Billings and Jerusha Redman. Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about Jerusha’s heritage. I’m going to start from the earliest known Redman, because it’s going to get really confusing!

The first Redman I know of was named Charles (we’ll call him Charles 1), who lived in Dorchester, MA. He made a will on December 30, 1668, which was probated on January 31, 1669, so I imagine he was on death’s door when he wrote his will.

Charles 1 had a son named Robert (he will be Robert 1), who in 1662 laid out 200 acres of land in newly-formed Milton for the ministry of the church. Robert 1 died in 1678.

Robert 1’s youngest some was named Charles (we’ll call him Charles 2–I said this would get confusing!). Charles 2 lived in Milton and on February 10, 1688, married Martha Hill of Dorchester. Just two years later, Charles 2 was among many soldiers from the Dorchester area that served under Captain John Withington in an ill-fated expedition to Canada (likely as part of the many French and India skirmishes). At least forty-six of his regiment, including Withington, were lost at sea. Fortunately Charles 2 himself survived the entire experience.

Charles 2 and Martha had at least six children by 1700, listed in Huntoon’s History of the Town of Canton…: Robert (he’ll be Robert 2) (born March 30, 1694), John (born May 8, 1696), Mary, Martha, Mercy (born July 8, 1698) and Thankful.

March 1, 1704/05 was a significant date in Redman family history: Charles 2 began a lease of land from the Native Americans, who had been granted an area of land called Ponkapoag (also spelled Punkipog and other various spellings, as you can imagine) in what is now Canton, MA. (There was a five-year period from 1715 when Charles 2 did not lease this land, but it was back in his hands in 1720.) Apparently Charles 2 cultivated some apple trees here.

Robert 2 grew up and took on the responsibilities of a man of his time: he married his wife, Mary Kennee (or Keeney) on August 1, 1722 in Boston by Samuel Checkley, Esq. By March 22, 1725, Charles 2 had passed away, as referenced in a deed of Ponkapoag land from the natives to Robert 2 and the other heirs of Charles 2. Exactly how much land went to the others, I am not sure, but Robert 2 was appointed the administrator of Charles 2’s estate on June 14 of that year, so he probably was the one to make that decision.

Robert 2 continued to improve his land by building a sawmill along Ponkapoag Brook, one of the first mills in that area. In 1726, he opened his home for use as the community’s first school. I have to wonder who taught at the school–was it Robert himself, or maybe someone in the church?

Redman Farm was not the only land that Robert owned. In 1737 he received a grant of land in the “Dorchester Canada” settlement, which is now Ashburnham, Worcester County, MA. This grant was among many that were given to the descendants of Withington’s 1690 Canada expedition. It seems that Robert 2 must have sold this grant, since it is not mentioned in his December 18, 1657 will.

Robert 2 passed away on November 8, 1760 and his will (which is meticulously written) was proved on December 19, 1760. Half of his land passed to his living son Robert, and the other half to his wife Mary, to be divided later among their remaining children. (Mary seems to have died sometime between 1768 and 1780.) All their children were:

  • Robert; died in childhood, October 6, 1731.
  • Sarah; died in childhood, March 19, 1725.
  • John, born September 20, 1730, died unmarried June 6, 1761. Robert 2’s will implies that he must have had issues with this son: firstly, he left him just five shillings, then stated that, out of is wife’s Mary’s half of the estate, John could have “two fifths of [the] remainder if he behaves well and dutifully to his mother during her life”, otherwise she could distribute it as she saw fit. These statements and seeing how soon John died after his father’s death makes me wonder about John’s lifestyle. However, John did make a will that left everything to his mother, so I suppose that in the end, he was “dutiful”.
  • Robert, married Mary Dunbar on April 23, 1767; died 1778 with no children.
  • Sarah, born August 10, 1732; married Jonathan Kinney; died before December 1757. She had two children.
  • Martha, married Nehemiah Liscom on October 9, 1761; died before September 1763 with no children.
  • Jerusha, born January 31, 1735; married Seth Billings (probably in early 1750), then Nathaniel Pitty on March 15, 1789. She had four children. I had wondered how she had carried on after Seth’s death in 1766; now I know that her inheritance must have helped.
  • Mary, married Thomas Spurr, Jr. on August 15, 1744; died early 1780. She had ten children.

As a final note, the location of the lands of Redman Farm is at the Ponkapoag Golf Course in Canton, MA and includes part of the Ponkapoag Trail, which is open for public hiking. In fact, the left portion of the trail is called “Redman Farm Path”. I would love to walk on this trail some day and think about my ancestors who may have walked here as well!

The grounds of Redman Farm today. Courtesy Google Earth.

The grounds of Redman Farm today. Courtesy Google Earth.

A Trip to the New York Public Library

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a genealogy stay-cation, particularly to do those “little things” I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. One of those things was to visit the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library, which houses their amazing US History, Local History and Genealogy resources (in other words, “paradise”). The NYPL has a ton of stuff online, but I wanted to see what offline resources they have. I had the perfect opportunity when I found out that they held some books that I couldn’t access elsewhere.

Preparing to Go

I originally found my books via Google Books, which sometimes shows a snippet view, just to tease you! (Actually, it is very helpful, or else I wouldn’t know if the book is relevant or not.) Clicking on the “Find in a Library” link brings you to, which lists the libraries where the books are available. And did you know that you can sign up for a free WordCat account, where you can create your own lists that are annotatable? That’s exactly what I did — I made a “NYPL” list to capture each book. Then I looked up the call number in the NYPL (just by clicking the book’s NYPL link in WorldCat) and noted it under each book on my list. I just printed the list to take with me; I suppose I could have saved the list as a pdf into Evernote as well.

Another way I prepared for the trip was obtain a temporary NYPL card, which is necessary for any pull requests. If you are not a New York City resident, then you can get a temporary card that is good for three months. First I registered on the website, which set me up with a patron account. When I arrived at the NYPL, I had to go to a room on the second floor (Customer Service? Customer Relations?) to finish the process. If you’ve already started the process, all the staff has to do is look you up and issue your card!

A Few Words About the Library

First, the library is so convenient to get to — just two blocks from Grand Central Station! And there is a Starbucks right between the two, which I hit afterwards.

I’ve walked past the library before, but I’ve never stopped just to look. It is gorgeous! Too many architectural details to take in at once, inside and out; I probably could have spent days doing so. (In fact, there are tours of the library.)

Welcome to the New York Public Library!  Author's collection.

Welcome to the New York Public Library! Author’s collection.

After going through a well-moving security line, I was in! After finding out where to complete my library card process and taking care of that, I checked the big map in the lobby and found out where the Milstein Division was — Room 121. (Meanwhile, I was still ogling over all the beautiful details inside the building…)

The Best Room

You are about to enter the Genealogy Zone... Author's collection.

You are about to enter the Genealogy Zone… Author’s collection.

First let me describe just what is here. This room holds books and boxed papers. Some of the papers seem to be donated collections, which probably need to go through the request process (I just skimmed through the box titles). The variety of books amazed me. There are years’ worth of publications from NEHGS, NYG&B and more. There are directories, ship manifests and civil war indexes. There are sections on African-American, Latino and other ethnic genealogies. And of course, there are books on history.

What interested me most, however, were the surname books, which were on my list. Unlike the other books mentioned above, they needed to be requested to be pulled by a librarian. For each book, I had to fill out a little faux-carbon form with the book information and call number (thank you, WorldCat list!), and the librarian gave me the yellow copy as she pulled the books.

I soon had all the books I wanted and identified what I wanted to copy from them. You need to ask permission to copy each book; basically the librarian just assesses the age and condition of the book. (Mine were all good to go.)

The Worst Part

If I were to win Powerball, I would buy the NYPL Milstein Division a brand-new copier with a new credit card reader. Although the copier made fine copies, the cover was almost falling off and the card reader kept timing out on me so often that my credit card stopped working. (It’s supposed to make up to $5 worth of copies, but I never got that far.) Fortunately my debit card worked and the librarian helped me out a little (with plenty of empathy…and by the way, the library staff was SO helpful at every juncture in the process). Once I hit my stride, I stopped timing out so often.

There is a note on the copier that says it does take USBs and digital copies are free (I didn’t think to bring a USB beforehand), but it doesn’t accept all USBs. Either way, I’m glad I made hardcopies so I could write notations for myself.

Other Parts of the Library

There is actually a very nice book store on-site that sells all kinds of books and gift-type things like mugs and tote bags. And there happened to be an exhibit about Alexander Hamilton that included original documents in his own handwriting; I figured since I was there, I’d take advantage of the opportunity.

There are so many other departments at the NYPL: the Microform Room, the Manuscript and Archives Division, the Rare Book Division and the Map Division, to name a few. Someday I may get to visit these as well!