U-Turn: Fifth Great-Grandmother Anna (Capernaum) Taunt

This particular story begins at the end of Anna (Capernaum) Taunt’s life, because it raises many questions for me.

The end came on January 29, 1856 in Braintree, Norfolk County, MA. Anna died of old age as a pauper. Being a widow, this did not raise any flags for me; but the 1855 Massachusetts Census, taken just six months before, did. On July 13, 1855, Anna is listed separate from any family members and boarding with the Albert and Eliza Howard family with about a dozen other boarders. Albert’s occupation was listed as a “keeper of poor house”. The 1860 Census notes that this was an alms house that was supported by the town. (Thank you, meticulous census-taker!)

The question I ask is: why wasn’t Anna with any of her family? Her husband Seth died on April 7, 1837, so he was out of the picture. The 1840 Census showed her living next door to her son Seth and his family, but she was head of her own household and living alone.

I wondered how long Anna lived apart from her children, so I looked at the 1850 Census for each of her children:

Cynthia (Taunt) Savil had been widowed in 1846 and was living with her two surviving children in Braintree, being supported by her son Elisha, who worked as a bootmaker.

Seth Taunt lived next door to his sister with his wife and two youngest children. He also worked as a bootmaker.

Jerusha (Taunt) Goodwin lived in Berwick, York County, Maine with her own family, as she had since her 1824 marriage to Ivory.

William Taunt was living in Braintree with his young wife and month-old baby.

Anna was not in or very near any of these homes. In fact, I could not find her on the 1850 Census. Albert Howard did not yet run the alms house, so I wonder if there may have been another alms house where Anna could have boarded. It is possible that she may not have been living in Braintree, but I strongly doubt it, since she lived there since birth and all but one of her children lived there.

So I am left wondering why Anna did not spend her widowed years living with her children, as so many women of her generation did. Was she especially independent-minded, in spite of her poverty? Did her children not have sufficient means to support her (which is possible)? Or was she difficult to live with? Whatever the answer, there is a story here!

Taunt: A Short But Fruitful Branch

Remember Jerusha Taunt? I wanted to document her lineage as well, starting with her paternal line. Sadly, I only had it going back two more generations. Little did I know that there was a surprise waiting for me as I prepared this post!

Let’s start with the basics, beginning with Jerusha’s father, Seth Billings Taunt. He was the son of Levi Taunt and Jerusha Billings, born on September 26, 1772 in Stoughton, Plymouth County (now Norfolk County), MA. On March 11, 1794 he married Anna Capernaum in Braintree, Norfolk County, MA. One source, The Record of Births, marriages and Deaths and Intentions of Marriage in the Town of Stoughton… noted that the intention of marriage was filed in March 1794 between Seth Taunt and “Mrs. Anna Copernaun”. This brings two questions to mind: Which is the correct spelling of her surname (which I know is very subjective back then)? And “Mrs.” — was Anna really married before? If so, what is her maiden name?

The following are Seth and Anna’s children, the facts of whom all took place in Braintree unless otherwise noted:

  • Anna, born August 3, 1794 (by this date you can see why the intention of marriage was filed!); died September 5, 1811.
  • William, born after 1794; died July 15, 1797.
  • Cynthia, born May 21, 1798; married Elisha Savil on December 20, 1818; died April 23, 1876.
  • Jerusha, born February 7, 1801; died October 12, 1803 (obviously not my Jerusha).
  • Seth, born December 16, 1804; married Mary J. Holbrook on January 19, 1825.
  • Jerusha B. (as I stated before, I suspect that “B.” is for Billings), born May 28, 1807; married Ivory Goodwin on January 25, 1824; died October 20, 1870 in Lynn, Essex County, MA.
  • William, born August 24, 1809; died before January 15, 1817.
  • William, born January 15, 1817.

Seth died on April 17, 1837 and Anna on January 29, 1856, both in Braintree. I have no burial information on them at this time.

Going back a generation, we come to Seth’s father Levi, who lived in Stoughton. There are other Taunts in Stoughton around Levi’s time, and I suspect they are related, but I don’t know how. (Again, a job for an in-person research trip to the town!)

On December 7, 1767, Levi and his future bride Jerusha Billings (born August 3, 1750 to Seth Billings and Jerusha Redman) filed their marriage intention with George Crosman, Stoughton town clerk. They were married on February 25, 1768 by Reverend Samuel Dunbar, a long-time minister there.

Although the 1790 census shows more people in Levi Taunt’s home, I’ve only uncovered two children attributed to him and Jerusha:

  • Charlotte (also listed as Charity and Charlety), born December 10, 1768; married Ebenezer Holmes on February 10, 1789.
  • Seth, born September 26, 1772; outlined above.

Now for the interesting part. Normally before I write a blog post, I review what records I have and maybe do a quick second look in Google. Under a spelling variation of “Tant”, I came across Levi’s name in the History of the Town of Canton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, by Daniel Thomas Vose Huntoon. Though published in 1893, Huntoon wrote the book in the 1860s after having been Town Clerk in Canton (which had been part of Stoughton) and desiring to preserve the history from its records. Under Appendix XX, “Levi Tant” was listed as a private who was in the First Company under Captain James Endicott, among a contingent of minutemen who marched from Stoughton on April 19, 1775 upon hearing news of the Lexington alarm. Under Appendix XXI, “Levi Taunt” is listed among the “Soldiers who served in the Revolution after the Lexington Alarm”. So my sixth great-grandfather was a minuteman and a Patriot!

Lexington Minuteman Monument. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Lexington Minuteman Monument. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Other than this one book, I can’t easily find any other record of his service (which of course will mean more deep digging). However, I have no reason to doubt it either. What a find, just in time for Independence Day!