Sunday, September 15, 2019

digging through old genealogy, i encountered this paper, written by my great great great grandfather, joseph leverett, claiming that his line of descent went up through two williams and two johns, through knight the goldsmith and thomas the barber, up through hudson and john the governor of the colony of massachusetts. this was different from a genealogy that my relatives had put together, which claimed basically that it went up through three williams to hudson, skipping the two johns, knight and thomas. so, interested, i begun digging into these colonial leveretts. frankly, the connection from the williams to the johns is implausible because of time; the second john apparently went to harvard at the age of about sixteen, in 1774; while joseph was born in 1804. thirty years is hardly enough for two williams to appear with no record of them. but then, the line up through the williams was a little hazy too; it had this william who simply appeared around the beginning of the 1700's, with no explanation.

so i've been working my way up through thomas the barber and knight the goldsmith to see what i could find. knight, as it turns out, married a prominent bookseller in town. his two sons, col. john and thomas, both dabbled in the book business, thomas more so. lo and behold, they sent away, together, for twenty reams of paper, to benjamin franklin, and the shipment was lost. benjamin's correspondence, however, was not lost. he says his wife sent it, she's sure of it, and sorry, but he'll send more. i laughed and kept it on my desktop.

but it's surprising to me, several things. one, that, as brothers, they are working together as merchants. john it seems gets more into british imports as that's where the money is. thomas sticks with books and stationery as that's big, and he does pretty well too. john marries a woman from windsor vermont and eventually the whole family ends up up there; thomas marries a woman named hannah gray.

they go right on through the 1740's and 1750's like this; the great awakening is happening around them but col. john and thomas are into making money and putting out books when necessary, thomas more so than john. col. john has a son john in 1858 and thomas has a son thomas the same year; the cousins are the same age and eventually go to harvard together.both have a number of other siblings; both live in boston or the area, as far as i can tell. col. john's warehouse is on the south side of the town dock, near where fanueil hall is now. thomas' bookstore is in cornhill, where most of them are; this the best i can figure is government station today. i went up that road one time and saw an old cemetery where the old pilgrims were buried, but today, of course,it's all a bustling city. but i am surprised that i knew so well sbout thomas and john, the original puritans, who had come in the 1600's, and knew nothing about these two colonists, nothing. i had avoided the windsor family because, frankly, i knew that a cousin had married a cousin, and i didn't want any part of it.

so, to get back to the story, john is the oldest of john's children, but he's about ten in 1768. thomas also is the oldest of thomas' children, and has a younger sister hannah, and around 1765, not sure, an even younger one named john w, and a few more. things heat up between bostonians and the british. it's a bad time to be selling british goods. the british occupy boston in 1768, and col. john's warehouse is sacked; he loses everything. he and the family bail on boston and move to middletown, connecticut, where the family owns some land. now young john, who at ten is the oldest in his family, makes some friends in connecticut, but is separated from his cousin thomas.

back in boston, hannah gray, who allegedly is the neice of harrison gray, dies or disappears. harrison gray was a wealthy treasurer of the colony, but was accused of being a loyaslist, and lost everything due to mob violence. now i have to say things get murky here; i'm not really sure she's the neice of harrison gray, as one genealogist has claimed, or if it's the same harrison gray, or whatever. but she names one of her children harrison; he's the one that's older than john w.

from about 1773 to 1776 the boys, thomas and john, are in harvard, and that's a big deal in the family. john is into law, and thomas wants to be a doctor, but they do things together, and hang around together. it is possible that john has a child at this time; he's perhaps fifteen in 1773; but, he doesn't get married, so i discount that theory. they seem to be like any other harvard students, except that there's a war going on. in their senior year, harvard moves to concord so george washington can have the cambridge campus. and george, and his soldiers, mess it up a little.

in 1778 the elder thomas the bookseller dies, and his second wife martha has a wake for him in medford, where she provides spirits and rum. young john w is still a minor and is not hers; they assign him and his younger brother benjamin to their older brother thomas, who is now a surgeon, but who is about to go off to war and be a surgeon in the war. young john also serves but as a doctor's mate, and has one foot in connecticut, where he eventually marries a woman in 1790. i suspect that john w and benjamin end up with their sister hannah, at least for the time being, in boston, for the duration of the war. col. john has also died, leaving young john with whatever house they had in middletown connecticut.

and eventually, hannah goes to connecticut, and marries john. by this time, john w is old enough to be on his own, and he disappear. it's possible that he goes down south; there are people in georgia who claim him as an ancestor (d doubt this). it's possible that he goes to a family farm, out in needham, west of the city. it's possible that he goes back to england. there is one john leverett on a ship to england in the middle of the war; the british impound this ship, take it to newfoundland, and from there to london where some of its passengers never come back. this could be john w or his first cousin once removed, john, but in any case, john w gets lost.

young john and hannah don't get lost; they have three children, one of whom ends up as secretary of state of the state of vermont. since john's mother was from vermont, and she ended up alone in connecticut at her husband, col. john's death, i suspect that she was behind the move, although some reports say that she died in connecticut. in any case much of young john's family, and their families, end up in windsor vermont.

as for young thomas, the surgeon, he is captured by the british, spends twenty months in a hell-hole prisoner-of-war camp, and comes home to die a single man of 26, allegedly of ailments suffered from his capture.

the problem for me as a genealogist is that there is no way to justify joseph's writing that claims there were two williams, then two johns, with one going to harvard in 1776. there was this john who went to harvard in 1776, and, he had a william, up there in connecticut or somewhere, but that wasn't until 1793 or something and that kid ended up in new hampshire or somewhere, with only daughters. the williams that were joseph's father and grandfather were all at the family farm in needham, though joseph claimed that his grandfather was born in boston. and he was a farmer.

if he was born in boston but he's a farmer, that says to me, john w. the kid is alone, he goes out to needham, he farms; perhaps he is our william. when young joseph considers his ancestors and what he knows about them, he has two williams and then the two johns, who were like family, even if john w's birth father was thomas. john, in the care of hannah, considers john and col. john as family, and tells everyone so. the story of john going to harvard is well known, because he's a man about town, a scholar, an interesting character. the two thomases have disappeared in the dustbin of history, although one of them, the bookseller, would be his biological father.

for me, a thomas and a john, it's lurid fascination to run across these namesakes running around boston at the time of the revolution. i say, quick before books go out of style, find some and see what kind of stuff they were printing and selling. it seems clear that they were on the side of the revolutionaries, unlike hannah gray's uncle, or the first leverett saltonstall, who even went so far as to join cornwallis' british regiment. everyone had to take one side or the other, i suppose, and i'll get to the bottom of it sooner or later.

all i can say is, it's a lot of intrigue. while i used to consider my biggest problem down around the witch trials, when someone had an illegitimate william and had to let him grow up out in the boondocks of muddy river, which is now brookline, now, i figure the mystery is this john w, and where he ended up. from 1765, his birth, he could very easily have had a child at sixteen, who then would be about sixteen when he married lydia fuller of needham. on that side, i would be looking for a william who was born about 1785, to be joseph's father, but then i would have to call john w the grandfather (w = william), and say, he was born in boston, he was a farmer, he considered john and col.john, if nothing else, as his stepfamily. so far, that's the only way i can make it work.

it's a grim fascination with ancestors i didn't even know existed, until i started this. not that anyone cares, i guess. but i've always used this blog as a way to keep my writing going; somehow, my goal is to spin this all into an interesting, historically based, true story of people living through the revolution. boston was, after all, in the heart of it.


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