Wednesday, August 11, 2010

July 26, 2010 Talk in Randolph, NH - Excerpts

N.B. I have added to this post an Addendum, which aims to connect people, places, and dates with their rightful families, based on my continuing research on the Watson family. In this update, I address some of the conflicting details that exist elsewhere online, for Ruth (née Griffin) Watson.

Scroll down to read ADDENDUM

In doing my ancestry research on the Watsons that settled in Randolph, I came across some information that dates these Watsons back to the 1600s. Here is a brief overview of their lineage leading up to Stephen’s family, the first Watsons to settle in Randolph, New Hampshire.

I’ll begin with John Watson, who predates the people in the tree shown above. He was born c. 1660, settled in Salisbury, Massachusetts and married Ruth Griffin there on March 22, 1687-8. [1] They in turn had 6 children, one of whom was a son named Ebenezer, who lived in Newbury, Massachusetts. Ebenezer married Martha Rawlins, who had a son Eliphalet born in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1717. Eliphalet moved to the Coast of Maine, ending up in Gorham, Maine, where he was the 5th settler in the town. On April 29, 1740, Eliphalet married Elizabeth Phinney, the daughter of Capt. John and Martha (née Coleman) Phinney, the first settlers of Gorham, Maine. Eliphalet and Elizabeth remained in Gorham during the Indian war of 1746, where they lived in a fort for several years enduring the hardships of war. Two of their 10 children, Ebenezer born in 1748 and Coleman (Stephen’s father) born in 1751, were reportedly born in that garrison. Coleman lived in West Gorham, Maine and Buxton, Maine before settling in Waterford, Maine as early as c. 1779. [2] On September 8, 1774, Coleman married Patience Thomes (née Whitney) in Gorham, Maine, [3] and they had 8 children, their eldest son being Stephen, who was born on Dec. 19, 1776 in Gorham, Maine [2] or Waterford, Maine [4], depending on which Vital Record is correct.

Note: During this period, when the onus fell on the parents to register the birth of their offspring, the practice of recording children as being born in one or more towns was not uncommon. So, if Stephen’s parents were residents of Waterford, ME at the time of his birth, yet he was born in Gorham, ME, this practice explains how his birth came to be recorded in both Gorham and Waterford, ME.
And that brings us to the first Watson to settle in Randolph, Stephen Watson. On Oct. 12, 1802, Stephen married Hannah Nurse (née Whitcomb) in Waterford, Maine. [4]

Note: Hannah Whitcomb who was born in Massachusetts married John Nurse on May 10, 1797 in Boxborough, MA. [8]

Meanwhile, in Maine, during the War of 1812, British army and naval forces from nearby Nova Scotia captured and occupied the eastern coast of Maine from Machias to Castine. Castine was occupied by the British in Sept of 1814, and it was at that time that Stephen joined Lieut. Col Ryerson’s regiment [5] that was raised at Norway, Maine which marched to Portland, Maine to answer the call of a potential British attack on Portland Harbor. Then, circa 1826, Stephen moved his family, which included his wife, 2 daughters, Lois and Mary, and their 3 sons, John, William, and Abel, from Waterford to Randolph. It could be that they arrived with only one daughter, Lois, as no record is available for Mary after 1820. Their first child Lois Fairbanks married Justus Low. Low was a prominent family name at that time in Randolph and still is today.

Stephen bought from Elaska Jackson a little clearing with a log house and many acres up and down the Moose River. He cut, burned, and cleared the land for a few years and drowned attempting to cross the Moose River in time of flood. [6]

Stephen had two sons who lived in Randolph - John, who was a reverend, selectman and farmer and his brother Abel, also a farmer, who played a role in the establishment of the Ravine House. But William, the second son of Stephen and Hannah studied medicine at a medical college in Philadelphia. He began his practice in Skowhegan, Maine and later moved to Randolph around the 1840s, staying several years before moving to Palmyra, Maine. He married Elmira B.(née Lary) from Shelburne, New Hampshire and, they had three children.

Here in the figure above is Abel Watson seen on the left with his son Laban Watson on the right.

Abel was born in Waterford, Maine on May 24, 1818 and died in Randolph on February 18, 1895. He married Susan Holmes and they had 5 sons and a daughter who were born between 1842 and 1852. Years later, in the 1860s after Susan had died, Abel married Mrs. Cordelia (née Wight) Burbank* of Shelburne, New Hampshire, and they had 2 children together.

Laban Morrill Watson was born in Randolph on May 14, 1850, the son of Abel and Susan Holmes Watson. Laban was schooled in a small block house built of spruce logs by his uncle John Watson. This dwelling located at the foot of the Amphibrach was later owned by R.A. Cutter and named "Echo Cabin". [7]

In the 1870s, when Abel was in his 50s, he and his son decided that they would transform their small farmhouse into a house large enough to accommodate 20 guests. They placed an ad in the now- defunct Boston Transcript inviting guests to stay at The Mount Madison House, the name they gave this new structure, for the price of $5 per week. The following season, in 1877, the Mt. Madison House opened under the new name of the Ravine House. [6]

Laban was actively involved in serving his mountain community and had a significant list of accomplishments such as Ravine House proprietor, pioneer path maker in the Northern peaks and in Randolph, builder of several domiciles in Randolph, supervisor, in 1888, of the 1st hut to be built on Mt. Madison. He also served in the Legislature in 1878, 1881, 1917 and 1923. He died in Randolph on Oct. 1, 1936.

Note: Laban served in the Legislature in the later part of the 1800s, returning to that body 36 years later in 1917. I mention this detail because one thing that will come out in the second half of my grandmother Eleanor’s 1916 diary entries (to be posted later this year) is his life-long interest in politics: he attends a Democratic rally in October and other such events leading up to the November 7, 1916 presidential election of Woodrow Wilson.

Seen in the pictures below are Laban’s wife Anna taken when she was in her teens and much later, in 1917, holding Eleanor’s first child.

Anna Burbank was born on September 7, 1854 in Shelburne, New Hampshire and died in 1928 in Randolph, New Hampshire.In 1873, Laban and his step-sister Anna Burbank were married, and, a few years later, they took on the responsibility of being proprietors of the Ravine House, which they maintained for the next 32 years (i.e., until 1909), when the house was sold to William Bradstreet.

Laban and Anna had six children: Walter born in 1875 and Leon born in 1880 (they lived for only one year apiece), Edith born in 1878, then Arthur born in 1882, followed by Ralph in 1884 and Clara Josephine in 1888.
Anna was a homemaker extraordinaire, doing all the usual household activities in addition to accommodating summer guests: spending time with her grandchildren, sewing, knitting, quilt making, and even taking time to teach Eleanor tatting.{A technique for handcrafting durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops. Tatting can be used to make lace edging as well as doilies, collars, and other decorative pieces}

My grandmother mentioned in her diary making collars which she gave as gifts.

For a picture and bio of Cordelia, see my post dated May 2, 2010 (click here). 

Primary References
[1] The old families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts by David Webster Hoyt
[2] Genealogical and family history of the state of Maine, Volume 2 Henry Sweetser Burrage, Albert Roscoe Stubbs[3] Town Records of Gorham, Maine
[4] Maine Vital Records – Town Hall Waterford, Maine
[5] Records of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia published by Brig. Genl. Gardner W. Pearson – The Adjutant General of Massachusetts[6] Randolph Old and New - Its Ways and Its By-Ways by George N. Cross-1924

[7] In Memoriam Laban M. Watson 1850-1936

[8] Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, Film #0873746
Additional Resources:
Randolph, New Hampshire 150 Years, Town of RandolphTown Hall records of Waterford, and Gorham, Maine

The History of Waterford, Oxford County, Maine, Hoyt, Fogg and Donham 1879

Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine, Lewis Historical Publishing Company New York 1909

The Watson family story is still a work in progress, and I will continue to update the history, as I uncover new information. 


This update will focus on the Ruth Griffin who married John Watson on 22 Mar 1687/88, as recorded in a vital record in both Salisbury and Amesbury, MA.[13],[17]. First, I'll discuss the issue of Ruth (Griffin) Watson, who lived in Salisbury being mistaken for the Ruth Griffin from Connecticut. Second, Ruth (Griffin) Watson has been listed on various websites, incorrectly, as marrying Thomas Ayer of Haverhill, MA. I will address both of these matters below.

In this addendum, contrary to some other online accounts, I have made two primary conclusions:

First, the Ruth Griffin who was born in Connecticut, MA was not the Ruth Griffin who married John Watson in Salisbury, MA in 1687/88.

Second, the Ruth Griffin who married John Watson in Salisbury, MA in 1687/88 was not the Ruth Watson who married Thomas Ayer of Haverhill, MA.

My first conclusion is based on the following evidence, which answers the question of who Ruth Griffin from CT was:

Ruth Griffin, b. 21 Jan 1665 and d. 27 Aug 1719, was the daughter of John Griffin [Simsbury, CT] and Anna Bancroft. Ruth was one of 10 children. She was born in Windsor, Hartford, CT on 21 Jan 1665 and died in Simsbury, CT on 27 Aug 1719. [1a] No CT marriage record exists for her in the foremost sources, [1a],[1b] and several well documented listings refer to her as unmarried without children. [2a],[2b] Moreover, it was common practice back in that period for a woman to be married in the town where she grew up. Another indication that she was childless comes from a will that Ruth Griffin from CT left just before her death. In this will, Ruth bequeathed to Ann Higley, widow of Jonathan Higley, and her daughter Mary Higley, six pounds between them out of her estate. [3]

Now to address the question (implicitly raised in the profile) of who was or was not the Ruth Watson who married Thomas Ayers of Haverhill, MA on 14 Nov 1716. [13]

My second conclusion is based on the following documentation, which answers the question of which Ruth married Thomas Ayers of Haverhill, MA and died (along with her daughter) in Haverhill, MA:

There are references in many/trees online for Ruth (née Griffin) Watson/Ayer which cite a sentence from The History of Haverhill as evidence to support the belief that Ruth (Griffin), widow of John Watson, became the spouse of Thomas Ayer. This excerpt from the aforementioned book states: "The following is a list of the slain who belonged to the town; Ruth Ayer, wife of Thomas Ayer, and one daughter;" [7] (pg.225) I have left out the names of the other fourteen individuals mentioned in this account for the sake of brevity.

In order to set the correct time frame of this couple, I have included some historical context from The History of Haverhill leading up to the death of this Ruth and child: "The next meeting of the Commoners, was July 21, 1707, when nothing was done except to adjourn to September 2d." [7] (pg.215) "At the Commoners' meeting of September 2d, Thomas Ayer petitioned 'for a small piece of land to set a house on near the Meeting house, that so the said Ayer's wife might be the better accommodated for the keeping of school to teach children to read.' "The selectmen were empowered to lay him out a piece for that purpose, to enjoy during her lifetime." [7] (pg.216)

The following footnote on page 216 clarifies who this Thomas and Ruth Ayer were:

"Thomas Ayer married Ruth Wilford. Children, Ruth, born 1695; Josiah, born 1698; Thomas, born 1699; Gibberd, born 1702; Ruth, born 1705, killed by Indians August 29, 1708. Ruth the wife, was also killed at the same time. Ayer afterward married the widow Blasedell. Children, Ruth, born 1711, died young."
Thomas Ayer married 2nd Dorothy [Martin] Blasedell. [9]

The footnote above, along with a corresponding vital record [8], which place the marriage date (1694) of Ruth Wilford to Thomas Ayer of Haverhill and the death date (1708) of Ruth Wilford and her child Ruth to the identical time frame of the Indian massacre in (1708), should rule out the prevalent misconception that Ruth (née Griffin) Watson was married to this Thomas Ayer from Haverhill, MA.

Note: Thomas Ayer was born June 9, 1666 in Haverhill, MA to Thomas Ayer and Elizabeth Hutchins. [ of Haverhill, Essex, MA]

To learn more about The Raid of Haverhill, which took place in 1708, see [7] Chapter XIV (Indian Troubles 1700-1710) and [21], [22].

Further evidence that Ruth (née Griffin) Watson was not the Ruth who was killed in 1708 by Indians comes from the publication Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, which cites the following record: Thomas Ayers of Haverhill marries Ruth Watson of Salisbury Nov. 14, 1716. [10],[11] Then, under "Additions and Corrections," there is an addition to that previous record [11] which states that Ruth Ayer, wid. of Thomas, d. in Methuen, March 17, 1734. [10],[12] A vital record also validates this record. [14]

The marriage date of Ruth (née Griffin) Watson and Thomas Ayer in 1716 and the death date of Ruth Ayer in 1734 both conflict with the account that Thomas Ayers married Ruth Wilford in 1694 and the account that Ruth and her daughter were killed by Indians in Haverhill, MA in 1708.

Another source of much speculation on who this Ruth Watson was comes from Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury which states:

"v RUTH b.____; bp. Nov. 2, 1707; liv. 1710;prob. m. Nov 14, 1716 [S], Thomas Ayers of Hv. [Possibly her mother m. Ayers?]" [10] (pg.342).

If this Ruth (child of John Watson and Ruth Griffin), who was baptized on Nov. 2, 1707, married Thomas Ayer on Nov. 14, 1716, she would have been around 9 years old at that time. The other speculation was that it was possibly her mother Ruth (Griffin), who married Thomas Ayers. But this was also unlikely as Ruth, who was born circa 1660, was married in 1687/88, when she would have been in her mid 20s. Ruth (the mother) would have been in her mid 50s at the time of that marriage in 1716 and not of childbearing age.

I think it is important to note here that the Ayer family was among the early settlers of Haverhill, and their descendants were very numerous and scattered throughout nearly every state in the union. In 1700, it was supposed that nearly one third of the inhabitants of the town were of that name. [7] (pg.73) Even though we can see more clearly who this Ruth Watson is not, it does not resolve the identity of which Ruth Watson married which Thomas Ayer from Haverhill.

To summarize, the documents show that Ruth Griffin who was born in Connecticut, MA was unmarried and was not the Ruth Griffin who married John Watson in Salisbury, MA. As for the Ruth Watson who married Thomas Ayer of Haverhill, the timeline of events, along with the additional information about whom this Thomas Ayer married, in the footnote above, makes the case that Ruth (née Griffin) Watson/Ayer (who has been said to have married Thomas Ayers in Haverhill in 1716) was not married to this particular Thomas Ayer of Haverhill, MA. It was Ruth Wilford. The question still remains as to who this Ruth Watson was who married Thomas Ayer of Haverhill in 1716. Such a resolution would require further research, since there is more than one Ruth Watson and more than one Thomas Ayer in the vicinity around this period, and all it takes is one small mistake in a vital record to lead you down the wrong path.

As time permits, I plan to continue searching for convincing evidence for the birth date and birthplace, of John Watson along with his wife (Ruth Griffin) who also lacks a death date and place of death.

Note: I used the following information below to update the children of John and Ruth (née Griffin) Watson on, in order to be as accurate as possible based on what is currently known:

Ebenezer Watson, b. circa 1693, probably in Salisbury, MA: I have not found a record of his birth, after checking vital records at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, where I checked Salisbury and the surrounding towns, although references to his existence appear in various other accounts e.g. [4] I'm including him in the list of children because in his father's will of 1710 Ebenezer is mentioned twice. [5] In this will, John Watson grants unto his son Ebenezer thirty shilens to be paid to him by his son Abraham when his son Ebenezer comes of age (of one and twenty years) John also grants his son Jonathan the same amount when he reaches age 21 and grants his daughter Ruth thirty shilens to be paid to her when she turns 18.

As for a death record, one exists for an Ebenezer Watson in Tewksbury, MA, with no supplemental evidence to indicate who this Ebenezer Watson was. I contacted the Tewksbury Town Clerk who looked up the record and said there was no mention of parents on the death certificate, only the name Ebenezer Watson. She suggested that I check with the Tewksbury State Hospital, which has some old records but, alas, they did not have one for an Ebenezer Watson. His death in Tewksbury, certainly begs the question of what brought him to Tewksbury after living in Newbury most of his life with children from two separate marriages. 

Ruth Watson baptized on Nov 1707 - child of John Watson and Ruth Griffin of Salisbury, MA. [13] The Ruth Watson baptized 14 Sep 1697 (listed in the profile) belongs to the family of John Watson and Ruth Hartshorn of Bradford, MA. [15]

I have found no vital record for Nicodemus Watson, no mention of him in the will, no listings for him in most well documented accounts online and only a reference to the publication, The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts. I have checked volumes 1 through 3 and have not found his name listed in the aforementioned publication.

The family of John Watson and Ruth (Griffin) Watson

JOHN WATSON b. circa 1660 [6] possibly England? and died 25 Apr 1710 in Salisbury, MA. [13],[17]

RUTH GRIFFIN b. circa 1660 No valid vital record of her birth or death has been found to date, and one can only speculate if she emigrated from England or was born in one of the colonies.  


Abraham Watson, b. 13 Dec 1688 Salisbury, MA. [13]; m. Mary Severance, 14 Mar 1711/12,Salisbury/Amesbury, MA [13],[17]

John Watson, b. 11 Sep 1690, Salisbury, MA [13]; d. 1691, Salisbury, MA [13]

Ebenezer Watson, b. circa 1693, probably Salisbury, Essex, MA; d. 27 Aug 1754 Tewksbury, MA [16]? m. 10 Jul 1716 Martha Rawlins [13],[18] m. 21 Aug 1732 Eliner Long [18]

Hannah Watson, b. 5 Apr 1695, Salisbury, MA; d.12 Apr 1695, Salisbury, MA [13] Listed under Wotson

Jonathan Watson, b. 12 Oct 1696, Salisbury, MA [13]; m. Eleanor Flanders, 20 May 1726, Amesbury, MA [19]

Ruth Watson, bp. 2 Nov 1707, Salisbury, MA [13]

Note: I have intentionally left out the children from the marriages of Abraham, Ebenezer and Jonathan, as that is beyond the scope of this update and requires additional analysis.


[1a] CT Vital Records to 1870-The Barbour Collection compiled from an original Lucius Barnes Barbour typescript in the New England Historic Genealogical Society special collections.

[1b] Simsbury Connecticut Births, Marriages and Deaths Transcribed from the town records and published by Albert C. Bates - Hartford 1898.



[3] (pg.391)


[5] Will of John Watson proved on June 5, 1710 (Probate Records of Essex County, MA).

[6] Note: There are accounts of John's birth in different publications that vary from circa 1650 to 1660. I support the circa 1660 version as a more realistic time frame for his marriage and subsequent children.

[7] The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts-From its first Settlement, in 1640, to the year 1860. Published in 1861 by the author, George Wingate Chase. 

[8] "Massachusetts Marriages, 1695-1910," database, FamilySearch: 12 Jun 1694 Thomas Ayer to Ruth Wilford in Haverhill, MA.

[9] "Massachusetts Marriages, 1695-1910," database, FamilySearch: 1710 Thomas Ayer to Dorothy Blasedell in Haverhill, MA.

[10] The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts; with some related families of Newbury, Haverhill, Ipswich, and Hampton. Vol I by David W. Hoyt

[10],[11] Unclassified Records (pg.43) #7.

[10],[12] Additions and Corrections (pg.378) #7

Note: Vital Records [13]-[18] can be found online at

[13] VR of Salisbury, Essex, MA

[14] VR of Methuen, Essex, MA

[15] VR of Bradford, Essex, MA

[16] VR of Tewksbury, Middlesex, MA

[17] VR of Amesbury, Essex, MA

[18] VR of Newbury, Essex, MA

[19] "Massachusetts Marriages, 1695-1910," database, FamilySearch

[20] In order not to contribute more confusion, when citing the publication The History of Haverhill, I have used the spelling "Ayer" which is used throughout the book. In contrast, the references used in Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts use both spellings"Ayer" and "Ayers," that is, some have an "s" at the end. Just as the surname Ayer has many alternative spellings, Griffin also has multiple spellings e.g., Griffyn, Griffen, Griffin, etc. I have chosen to use the most commonly used spelling which appears to be Griffin.

[21] History is Stories blog:The Raid on Haverhill, MA (1708)

[22] Raid on Haverhill (1708) at Wikipedia

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