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[p. 64]

The Whitmores of Medford and some of their descendants.

[Read before the Medford Historical Society.]

I have been told by our President, Mr. Brown, that one of the many good and wise things that have been done by this society is collecting and preserving the history of the old families who lived in Medford in its early days. Many of these still remain here—others lived here but a short time. In some cases the names are lost, though their descendants, through the marriages of their daughters, may be with us now. Others, still, vanished so long ago that there remains very little trace of them, except in the town and county records. The Whitmore family about which I am to speak tonight belongs to the latter class.

Curiously enough, however, it is to one of its descendants that Medford is indebted for much that is known about its history. I refer to Mr. William Henry Whitmore of Boston, who assisted the Rev. Charles Brooks in compiling the History of Medford published in 1855. According to this history, the earliest record of the name of Whitmore is John Whitmore of Stamford, Connecticut. In 1634, Watertown formed a settlement in Wethersfield, and in 1640 Stamford was settled by them. John Whitmore was made a townsman in 1641, and had ten acres of land given him as an original land owner. In 1649 he went to the common grounds to look for his cattle and never returned. This, with other acts of the Indians, caused a declaration of war. Uncas, chief of the Mohegans, assembled his tribe, and they led the way into the woods and found the body three months after his disappearance. He represented Stamford in the General Court. He left five children: Thomas, John, Ann, Mary and Francis, born in 1625. This is undoubtedly the Francis Whitmore of Cambridge, born in that year, whose descendants lived in Medford a hundred years. The names of John and Francis occur again and again. He lived in Cambridge near the Lexington [p. 65] line, which was at first called Minottamie. The Whitmore family came from Lexington, England. There were probably other families coming over at the same time, and it is supposed that they desired that the new town should receive the name of Lexington in memory of their old home. At all events the name was changed from Minottamie to Lexington, and the home of Francis Whitmore stood on the boundary line. He was a tailor, and evidently an active, energetic man, much concerned in the real estate transfers of that time, as his name occurs again and again in the early records of deeds in East Cambridge.

Rev. Charles Brooks tells us that Edward Collins was the first land speculator in the Massachusetts Colony, but after looking over the early records it has seemed to me that many of our ancestors had this mania.

Certainly Francis Whitmore possessed a great craving for buying and selling land, and he owned much in Cambridge and Medford, as well as in Charlestown, Bedford, and even bought it in Rehobeth. The first record of a sale I found was February 3, 1654, when he and his wife Isabel bought the land on the division line between Cambridge and Lexington that I have mentioned. He bought more land on November 25, 1663, of Richard and Jane Champney, and more still on July 27, 1670. In February, 1672, he sold land in Cambridge, and the deed is signed by himself and his second wife, Margaret Harty. There are many other records of his sales. At first Cambridge extended from the Boston Line to Groton, but on the twenty-fifth of March, 1650, the town gave land now forming Billerica and Bedford (at that time a part of it) to some of its towns-people; later on another large tract was given away, and among these names we find that of Francis Whitmore. He bought land also in Medford near the present West Medford station, about which I shall speak again. He was a man of some prominence, apparently, and did not belong to the extreme Puritan party, as is shown by the fact that he and his wife signed a petition in favor [p. 66] of a witch, a mark of great liberality for those times. He served in some of the Indian wars. It is on record at the State House that he received ten shillings for services so rendered. He probably went with Captain Sill, who took a company of militia from Cambridge to the relief of Groton, March 12, 1675, under Major Willard. He was married twice. His first wife was Isabel Parke. They were probably married in England in 1648. His second wife was Margaret Harty. He died October 12, 1685.

John Whitmore, son of the preceding Francis, was born October 10, 1654, and died February 22, 1737, in Medford. The first record I have found of him was in a deed of land sold to him March 29, 1675. This land had already been built upon and houses and barns are mentioned. This was part of the land once owned by Edward Collins. He had it from the heirs of Governor Cradock, who by instruments dated June 2 and September 16, 1652, ‘quit-claimed all the messuage farm or plantation called Meadford, by them owned.’

This is the Edward Collins, called by Rev. Charles Brooks the first land speculator in New England. Besides his frequent purchases and sales of land in Medford and its neighborhood, we find him making investments in many towns some distance from here; as for instance, he sold land in Billerica, in 1655, to the Richard and Jane Champney, who sold land to Francis Whitmore in Cambridge, November 25, 1663. As the latter also owned land in Billerica, it is possible that it was through Mr. Collins that the Whitmores first came to Medford.

On December 24, 1680, John Whitmore, Thomas Willis, Stephen Willis and Stephen Francis, divided the balance of the Collins Farm between them. John Whitmore had already purchased one-fourth of this estate from Caleb Hubbard. The Whitmore house was in that part of West Medford where Usher's Block now stands, and the Whitmore brook, which runs a few rods from it, received its name from this John Whitmore. This house was built in 1680, and torn down in 1840; [p. 67] it is the house mentioned in the Historical Register of this society, Volume 7, Page 49.

On February II, 1680, Francis Whitmore of Cambridge gave to his son John and wife and heirs two acres of meadow land near the West Medford station. This land was bounded on the northeast by land of Captain Jonathan Wade, easterly by dike joining the land of Captain Timothy Wheeler, and west and northwest by land already owned by John Whitmore. The latter is authorized ‘at all times and from time to time, to quietly enjoy and posess the above land.’ He also owned land in Charlestown and Billerica. John Whitmore married Rachel, daughter of Francis Eliot of Cambridge and widow of John Poulter of Cambridge. John and Rachel Whitmore had three children.

John Whitmore was interested in town affairs, and in the Indian difficulties of that time. He went to Saco against them under Major Swayne. How long he remained is not told, but his wife Rachel petitioned the General Court to release him, and here is a copy of her petition.

To the Honorable Simon Bradstreet Governor, and the rest of the Honorable body now sitting in Boston, the humble petition of Rachel Whitmore, wife of John Whitmore.

Whereas your petitioner's husband was impressed into the country's service against the Indian enemy, and is now with Major Swayne at Newchawanick, and your petitioner and her two children are very weak and ill and unable to help ourselves or do anything for our relief and the rest of the family, as several of our neighbors can and have informed your honors.

Doth, therefore, humbly request the favor of your honors, that her husband, John Whitmore be dismissed the present service, and that your honors would please to pass your order for the same, that he may return to his sick family and your petitioner shall as in duty bound ever pray &c.

This was in 1680; before the birth of the last child. On his return John Whitmore bought some of the land already described, and also built the house which I have spoken of. He had two mortgages on this farm. When [p. 68] he bought the land of Caleb Hubbard there was one on it, held by Edward Collins, and he agreed

‘to pay the latter £ 3 a year and allow him to take such quantities of fire wood and to have such other privileges on said farm as to him belongs under the covenant in a mortgage made and dated March 30, 1675. The aforesaid annual rent to be paid half on or before the last of November, and the other half before the end of March, and that then, the grant and Sale above expressed shall to all intents be utterly void and of no effect, or, otherwise, shall remain in full power for ever and ever.’

County Records, Vol. 7, Page 30.

The other mortgage was to his wife's mother, Mrs. Mary Eliot, who was a widow and evidently resided with them here in Medford. It is dated October 19, 1678.

‘I, John Whitmore, do owe and am indebted to Mary Eliott for £ 100, and for further security do mortgage and bind over my land and houses in Billerica, some time belonging to John Poulter. The condition of this obligation and mortgage is such, that if said Whitmore and his heirs shall pay £ 50 currant money of N. England, at or before May 1, 1683, at the house in Medford, where she now abides, in one entire sum and during the same term of 4 years £ 3 per annum in like money, that then, this obligation and mortgage shall be to all intents and purposes utterly void.’

We learn from the above that Mrs. Eliot resided with her daughter, and it is interesting to learn that the land in Billerica that he gave as security to his mother-in-law was really his wife's, and came to her through her first husband.

John Whitmore was evidently a man of influence in Medford, as he occupied many positions of trust. His name occurs frequently in the town and church records. On February 1, 1677, he took the oath of fidelity. In 1711 he was appointed one of a committee of three to see about a preacher. At about this time they started a contribution box in the church here and John Whitmore had charge of it. Later on he was asked to render an account of the money so received. This must have been considered satisfactory, as he was made deacon of the church February 1, 1713, and signed the covenant. [p. 69] He was elected Selectman in 1712, and Town Treasurer in 1714. He was married twice. His first wife, as I have said, was Rachel Eliot. She was a niece of the Apostle Eliot, and widow of John Poulter. When she died is not known, but he married Rebecca Cutler June 3, 1724. He died February 22, 1739, and his funeral sermon was preached by Parson Turell from Acts 21, 16th verse: ‘There went with us also certain of the disciples of Cesarea and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.’

The two oldest of the children of John Whitmore were twins, born May 8, 1678. Abigail married John Elder. As his name does not occur again in the history of Medford, they probably lived in another town. Francis, however, lived and died here, February 6, 1771, at the age of 93. His first wife was Anna Peirce, and they had seven children—six daughters and one son, who died when he was three years old. The following record is taken from Brook's History of Medford.

Francis Whitmore m. Anna Peirce, December 7, 1699 and had

Sarah, b. May 4, 1701.

Hannah, b. January 22, 1703, died same year.

Anna, b. May 4, 1707.

Eliot, b. March 13, 1710; d. March 16, 1713.

Rachel, b. April 1, 1712; m. Eben Tufts, February 17, 1731.

Mercy, b. March 1, 1714.

Elizabeth, b. August 6, 1716; m. Thomas Fillebrown, March 30, 1732. His wife, Anna, died August 6, 1716, and he married, second, Mary——, who died March 29, 1760.

He was a farmer and bought land of Stephen Willis, near his father's place. His house stood where the brick house on Canal street now is. His father also sold land to him. This land was sold to him for £ 10 current money, in hand, before the signing of the deed, May, 1726. This land is described as

‘a certain spot or piece of land, on which his dwelling house standeth, situate in the town of Medford aforesaid, bounded easterly by the orchard land of Thomas Willis; northerly eight rods on the land of the aforesaid John Whitmore; southerly on the highway.’

[p. 70]

On February 26, 1739, his father deeded him another lot of his land. Francis Whitmore, 2d, signed the Church Covenant February 1, 1713. In full town meeting, a committee was appointed to consider building a new meeting house. The meeting adjourned to meet again March 14, and voted to build. There appears to have been some difficulty in arranging the location, for the residents of the West End, as it was called, signed a protest, and among the names signed to it are found John Whitmore, senior, and his two sons, Francis and John, junior.

Another plan was proposed, and this time the east enders protested. A compromise was effected (after a good deal of discussion) which seemed to have suited both parties, and the church was built.

Churches were not consecrated in those days by the Puritans, but on the first Sunday that the church was occupied Parson Turell preached from Psalm 84, first verse, ‘How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts.’

In town meeting March 7, 1748, Francis was appointed second constable, but he preferred to pay a fine of £ 10 rather than serve. Francis and his wife Mary presented a silver tankard with a cover to the church in 1761. This piece of silver, I am told, has had a little history. At the time of our Civil War, the First Parish decided to sell some of its silver for the benefit of the soldiers. This tankard was one of the pieces selected. Mr. C. O. Whitmore, living in Boston, heard of it, bought it and returned it to the church, which still possesses it.

Francis Whitmore, 2d, died February 6, 1771, at the age of 93. Not leaving a son, his name passed from his branch of the family. John Whitmore, 2d, was the third child of John and Rachel Eliot Whitmore and brother of the preceding Francis. He was born in Medford August 27, 1683, in the house near Whitmore's brook. The only allusion I have found to him is in connection with the church. He evidently was a good member of it. He signed the protest made against the new church [p. 71] with his father and brother. He married Mary Lane of Bedford, then part of Billerica, in 706.

They had six children.

Mary, b. July, 1707; m. 1st, J. Webber, August 19, 1725; 2d, ——White.

Susanna, b. November 25, 1708; m. 1st, Benjamin Webber, September 6, 1726; 2d, Page.

John, b. April 15, 1711.

Francis, b. October 4, 1714

Martha, b. April 22, 1716; m. John Skinner, December 22, 1743; d. March 6, 1780.

William, b. December 19, 1725.

John Whitmore, 2d, was first a housewright, and afterwards went into business with his brother Francis, who was a tanner. He owned much land in Medford, Bedford and other towns. His oldest son, John, removed to Bedford, and during the latter part of their lives, John and Mary Lane Whitmore lived there with him. He became much interested in that town, and was such a liberal benefactor to the church there that he was mentioned with gratitude in its records. He died March 26, 1753. His widow lived till March 27, 1783, and died at the age of 96.

I have been told by our president that this Historical Society is interested not merely in the men who lived here but also in the women. The most noteworthy thing that John Whitmore did during his life appears to be his marriage to Mary Lane. She was a granddaughter of Job Lane, who was born in 1620 in Rickmansworth, England. He was in Rehoboth, N. E., in 1644. He went to England, and was married there in 1647, but returned to this country and settled in Malden. In 1658 he built the first church there. He bought land in Billerica, now Bedford, of Fitz John Winthrop, grandson of Governor Winthrop, in 1664.

He also had a large estate in England, and his heirs received the income of it until 1816, when the property was sold and divided among them, after 154 years of payments to New England heirs—an unparalleled case.

He married second, Hannah, daughter of Rev. John [p. 72] Raynor of Dover, N. H. He represented Malden and Billerica in the General Court, and died in 1697.

His son John Lane, father of Mary Lane Whitmore, was born in Maiden in 1661 and married Susannah Whipple of Ipswich in 1681. She died in 1713 and he died in 1714. They lived in Bedford and had a large family of children. He was very active in Indian wars, and held many positions in the militia, being appointed Captain by the Earl of Belmont in 1699, Major in a regiment of horse and foot in 1711 by Governor Dudley, and is spoken of as Colonel. He was evidently a personal friend of Governor Dudley, as is shown in their correspondence. His daughter Mary evidently inherited the martial spirit of her ancestors. During a season of Indian alarms, before her marriage, she was in her father's house in Bedford, with one soldier on guard, and looking from a window in the roof, she saw something suspicious behind a stump. The soldier declined to fire; she took his gun, discharged it, and a dead Indian rolled into sight.

John Whitmore, third of that name, as I have said, went to Bedford and remained there, so his line of the family passed out of Medford.

Francis, the third son of John and Mary Lane Whitmore, was born here October 4, 1714. He married Mary Hall, January 1, 1739. Their children were:—

Stephen, b. October 21, 1739.

Francis, bap. August 16, 1741.

William, b. September 6, 1746.

Mary, b. December 25, 1750; m. Thomas Blodgett of Lexington.

Elizabeth, b. November 27, 1752; m. Elisha Seavins.

John, b. November 25, 1754.

Susanna, b. September 14, 1757; m. Thomas Dinsmore.

Andrew, b. October, 1760.

This Francis was engaged in business in Medford, but his too generous method of dealing embarrassed his affairs, and having with the Rev. Mr. Stone purchased a township on the Kennebec river, he removed thither with his eldest son Stephen. He died April 27, 1794, and his wife died October 20, 1791. [p. 73]

William Whitmore, third son of John and Mary Lane Whitmore, was born December 19, 1725. He married Mary Brooks, daughter of Thomas and Mary Brooks, and had six children. The children all died but Mary, born October 25, 1752, who married Mr. Walker of Rindge, New Hampshire. William Whitmore was a graduate of Harvard College, and at one time a schoolmaster, but ill health prevented him from engaging in active pursuits. His death was somewhat peculiar, as he died in consequence of an illness produced by a dread of small pox. His death occurred March 10, 1760, and his widow died October 10, 1765. With him his line of the family name became extinct.

When Francis and Mary Hall Whitmore went to Maine, they took with them their eldest son, Stephen, who never returned to Medford. Francis, their second son, and fourth of that name, was born September 6, 1746. He married, but the name of his wife is not recorded.2 They had two children:—

Elizabeth Sanders, bap. Oct. 13, 1765; d. August 22, 1777.

Francis, bap. August 2, 1767; d. August 14, 1820. This Francis removed to Boston and with him the name of Whitmore departed from Medford.

I have stated that although the family of Whitmore left Medford more than a hundred years ago, that we are indebted to one of its descendants for much of the genealogical work done in the History of Medford. William Henry Whitmore of Boston, is descended from the Francis and Mary Hall Whitmore who went to Maine. John, born November 25, 1754, went there with them. They lived in Bowdoinham, but John went to Bath and there married Huldah Crooker. He was a pilot and was drowned in the Kennebec river through the treachery of another pilot, who saw him fall back in his boat and sailed away, leaving him without assistance. This man acknowledged it on his death bed.

This John and Huldah Crooker Whitmore had twelve [p. 74] children. The oldest son, William Dickman Whitmore, married Rhoda Woodward, January 20, 1805, and had four children, two of whom died in infancy. Of the other two, Huldah married Judge Barrows of Brunswick, Maine, and had no children. The other, Charles O. Whitmore, removed to Boston when a young man, and married, first, Lovice Ayres, who died in 1849. He married, second, Mary Tarbell Blake, widow of George Blake of Boston. Charles O. and Lovice Ayres Whitmore had seven children. The third son, William Henry Whitmore,3 was born in Dorchester, September 6, 1836, and died in Boston in June, 1900. He was a merchant, and afterwards City Registrar. He married Frances Maynard of Boston and left one son, Charles Edward, born in 1887, now in Harvard College.

Mr. William Whitmore must have become interested in genealogy at a very early age, as he was only eighteen at the time the History of Medford was published and he worked largely on the genealogies of all the families given in that book.

The following notice is from the Transcript, I think.

One of the most remarkable achievements of the late William H. Whitmore, in connection with his efforts to save the Old State House and in restoring its original architecture, was his subduing the fierce opposition to the restoration of the lion and the unicorn thereon. Inasmuch as these were the emblems of Great Britain, there were not lacking of our fellow citizens those that insisted that they should not be put back on the building.

While assisting Mr. Brooks in compiling the History of Medford, it occured to him that no more fitting place could be found for the remains of his ancestors than the old burying ground on Salem street. He had them disinterred from their original resting places, and brought here and buried. They are in the southeast corner of the ground.

1 Mass. Records Lib. 35, Page 34.

2 Elizabeth Bowman. [Ed.]

3 See Medford Historical Register, vol. 3, p. 153.

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