Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America, published 1869

Memoirs of the
Wilkinson Family
in America

Comprising genealogical and biographical sketches of

Lawrence Wilkinson of Providence, R.I.,
Edward Wilkinson of New Milford, Conn.,
John Wilkinson of Attleborough, Mass.,
Daniel Wilkinson of Columbia Co., N.Y
&c., &c., &c.,

and their descendants from


by Rev. Israel Wilkinson, A.M.

"Like leaves on trees the life of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground;
Another race the following spring supplies,
They fall successive, and successive rise;
So generations in their course decay;
So flourish these, when those have passed away."

"People will not look forward to posterity who never look back to their ancestry."


Jacksonville, Ill.
Davis & Penneman, Printers.

Table of Contents


Rhode Island was settled by Roger Williams, a native of Wales, who was born 1598, and was liberally educated under the patronage of Sir Edward Coke. He embarked for America, Feb. 5, 1631, and went to Salem to preach in connexion sic with Rev. Mr. Skelton. His favorite theme was liberty of conscience in religious matters, and that civil magistrates as such have no power in the church, and that Christians as such are subject to no laws or control, but those of King Jesus. These doctrines offended the rulers of the Massachusetts Colony, and he was banished by sentence of their court. In the winter of 1636, he came to Seacunck, now Seekonk, and began his plantation, but was ordered away by the Governor, as being still within the limits of their jurisdiction. He departed thence, and crossed the river and stopped near a spring, which is called Roger Williams' Spring to this day. Here he began to build, and, in recognition of God's merciful care, gave the name of Providence to his settlement.
He had previously married Mary _____, and their family is as follows:

  1. Mary was born in Plymouth, Mass., m. John Sayles, about 1650, r. at Providence, and had (1) Marie, b. July 11, 1652; (2) John, b. Aug. 17, 1654; (3) Nancy, m. Wm. Greene, b. Mar. 6, 1652, son of John and grandson of John, the first settler of Warwick, R.I.; (4) Phebe, m. Job Greene, b. Aug. 27, 1656, brother of William; (5) Elinor, m. Richard Greene, b. Feb. 8, 1660, brother of William. These Greenes were the ancestors of Gen. Greene of Revolutionary fame.

  2. Freeborn, was b. in Salem, Mass., m. first Thomas Hart, r. Newport; had (1) Mary, m. Gov. Samuel Cranston of Newport, R.I. She was buried by the side of her mother in the Clifton Cemetery at N. Freeborn m. second Gov. Walter Clark of Newport. Samuel Cranston was Governor of R.I. 29 years.

  3. Providence, b. in Providence, never m., d. in Newport.

  4. Mercy, b. in Providence, m. first Resolved Waterman, and had (1) Richard, (2) John, (3) Resolved, (4) Mary, (5) Waite; second, Samuel Winsor, and had (6) Samuel, (7) Joshua, (8) Hannah; third, John Rhodes, and had (9) William, (10) John. She r. Providence.

  5. Daniel, b. in Providence, where he always resided; m. Rebecca Power, daughter of Zachary Rhodes of Pawtuxet, and had (1) Daniel, (2) Peleg, (3) Roger, (4) Joseph, (5) Providence. Daniel's son Roger was b. May, 1680, d. in Scituate, Jan. 30, 1763; his daughter Rebekah, b. April 20, 1735, m. David Thayer—his daughter, Mrs. Patrick (Harriet) Brown—her daughter Augusta m. Joshua Carter Brown, of the house of "Brown & Ives," Providence.

  6. Joseph, b. in Providence, and always lived there; m. Lydia Olney, daughter of Rev. Thomas Olney. She died Sept. 9, 1724. Their children were (1) Thomas, b. Feb. 16, 1671, m. first Mary Blackman. She d. July 1, 1717. Second Hannah Sprague, and had Joseph, Thomas, John and Abigail. (2) Joseph, b. Nov. 10, 1673, m. Lydia Harrington, (3) Mary, b. June, 1676, (4) James, b. Sept. 20, 1680, (5) Lydia, b. April 26, 1683.

Joseph Williams and Lydia Harrington had the following children 1, Mercy m. William Randall; 2, Jeremiah m. Abigail Mathewson, d. April 13, 1789; 3, Mary m. Francis Atwood; 4, Lydia, m. Joseph Randall; 5, Martha m. John Randall; 6, Patience m. Samuel Dyer; 7, Meribah m. Jabez Brown; 8, Jemima m. Benjamin Potter; 9, Barbary m. Benjamin Congdon; 10, Freelove m. John Dyer, she d. April, 1775.

Jeremiah Williams and Abigail Mathewson were married Dec. 24, 1735, and had 1, Andrew m. Lydia Mathewson; 2, Jeremiah m. Bethia Williams; 3, Joseph m. Hannah Paine; 4, Zachariah m. Lydia Williams; 5, Nathan m. Sarah Hoyle, 6, Mathewson d. July 29, 1773; 7, Caleb m. first Tabitha Fenner, second Amey Dean; 8, Huldah m. first Zephania Randall, second Andrew Knight; 9, Abigail m. Wm. Spencer; 10, Sally m. Arthur Latham; 11, Freelove m. Chad Brown.

Andrew Williams and Lydia Mathewson had 1, Andrew m. a Spencer; 2, Henry m. an Earle; 3, Mathewson m. first Mary Greene, second Theresa Larned; 4, Rhody m. John Searle; 5, Elsie; 6, Abigail m. first Geo. Lindley, second a Phillips.

Mathewson Williams and Mary Greene had one son 1, William Greene, m. first Maria Earle, second Sarah Ann Blinn; by his second wife, Theresa Larned, had 2, Mathewson; 3, Lydia; 4, Sarah; 5, Thomas; 6, Charles.

Wm. G. Williams m. 1st. Maria Earle and had 1, Geo. E.; 2, Charles W.; 3, Martha E. By his 2d wife Sarah Ann Blinn; had 4, Ann L., m. Stephen Greene, and they have Stephen and Louisa; 5, Sarah A.; 6, Martha; 7, Frederick W.

The above sketch of Roger William's sic family was furnished the author through Stephen Randall by Wm. G. Williams of Providence, his family being the eighth generation in the lineal descent from the founder of R.I., through Joseph, his youngest son.

Roger Williams' family increased rapidly in the early days of the colony. Gov. Stephen Hopkins says his descendants amounted to 2000, as early as 1770. An attempt has been made to disparage the character of Roger Williams, but the Rev. Mr. Callender in his Century Sermon says, "He appears by the whole tenor of his life to have been one of the most disinterested men that ever lived, and a most pious and heavenly-minded soul." Gov. Hutchinson says, "Instead of showing any revengeful temper or resentment, he was continually employed in acts of kindness benevolence to his enemies." Gov. Hopkins again remarks, that "Roger Williams justly claimed the honor of being the first legislator in the world that fully and effectually provided for, and established a free, full, and absolute liberty of conscience." In the terse language of Williams himself, we learn his object in founding a colony: "I desired," said he, "It might be for a shelter for persons distressed for conscience."* He was scrupulously careful that neither man nor woman, Jew or Gentile, Protestant or Catholic, Presbyterian or Quaker, should be molested for opinion's sake.

For about fifty (47) years he lived in Providence, and in 1683—being 85 years of age—he died, and was buried on his own lot (No. 38) between Benefit and North Main Streets, near the spring which still bears his name. His house stood on the east side of North Main St., and his family burial ground was just in the rear of the carriage house of Sullivan Dorr. For many years his grave was forgotten, and could not be identified—the mounds having become level with the surrounding earth and covered with green sward. Z. Allen, Esq., in his "Memorial of Roger Williams," says: "Historical records state that the death of Roger Williams occurred in 1683, and that he was buried with martial honors. The smoke of the musketry, temporarily hovering in the air over his grave, formed as permanent a mark of respect as was ever bestowed to honor it. Not even a rough stone was set up to designate the spot."

*1. Backus, Ch. Hist. 94.   1. Bancroft's Hist. U. S. 379.

In 1771, a special committee was appointed to ascertain the spot where he was buried, and to draft an incription for the monument which was voted to be erected "over the grave of the founder of this town and Colony." At that time—ninety years after his burial—the locality of his grave was known. The Revolutionary War prevented the erection of this monument. In Knowles' "Memoir of Roger Williams" is quoted the following statement of Captain Packard made about 1808: "When Captain P. was about 10 years old, one of the descendants of Roger Williams was buried at the family burial ground on the lot right back of the house of Sullivan Dorr, Esq. Those who dug the grave, dug directly upon the foot of a coffin, which the people there present told him was that of Roger Williams. They let him down into the new grave, and he saw the bones in the coffin, which was not wholly decayed, and the bones had a long mossy substance upon them."

Mr. Allen continues—"after a lapse of 177 years of oblivious neglect, the researches for the identification of the grave were finally commenced on the 22d day of March, 1860, in the presence of several gentlemen, who were invited to witness the process of the disinterment. The assistance of two experienced superintendents of the public burial grounds was obtained to direct carefully the researches. Pointed iron rods were procured for piercing through the green sward, to ascertain where the texture of the subsoil might be rendered loose by former excavations and suitable boxes were prepared to receive the exhumed remains.

The first preliminary operation was the stripping off the turf from the surface of the ground occupied by the graves, all comprised within less than one square rod. The green sward covering the sloping hillside presented to view a nearly uniform surface. After the removal of the turf and loam, down to the hard surface of the subsoil, the outlines of seven graves became manifest, the three uppermost on the hillside being those of children, and the four lower ones, those of adults.

It was immediately discovered that two of the latter adjoined each other, thus showing in accordance with the testimony of Capt. Packard, that when the last one of the two was dug, the end of the coffin contained in the other must have been laid open to view. This proximity is delineated on the plat of the land which Stephen Randall has caused to be made to exhibit the relative positions of the graves.

The utmost care was taken in scraping away the earth from the bottom of the grave of Roger Williams. Not a vestige of any bone was discoverable, nor even of the lime dust which usually remains after the gelatinous part of the bone is decomposed. So completely had disappeared all the earthly remains of the founder of the State of Rhode Island, in the commingled mass of black, crumbled slate stone and shale, that they did not 'leave a wreck behind.' By chemical laws, we learn that all flesh and the gelatinous matter giving consistency to the bones, become finally resolved into carbonic acid gas, water and air, but the solid lime dust of the decomposed bones was here doubtlessly absorbed by the roots, or commingled with the earth in the bottom of the grave, being literally the ashes of the dead.

On looking down into the pit, whilst the sextons were clearing it of earth, the root of an adjacent apple tree was discovered. This tree had pushed downwards one of its main roots in a sloping direction, and nearly a straight course towards the precise spot that had been occupied by the skull of Roger Williams. There making a turn conforming with its circumference, the root followed the direction of the backbone to the hips, and thence divided into two branches, each one following a leg bone to the heel, where they both turned upwards to the extremities of the toes of the skeleton. One of the roots formed a slight crook at the part occupied by the knee joint, thus producing an increased resemblance to the outlines of the skeleton of Roger Williams, as if, indeed, moulded thereto by the powers of vegetable life. This singularly formed root has been carefully preserved, as constituting a very impressive exemplification of the mode in which the contents of the grave had been entirely absorbed. Apparently not sated with banqueting on the remains found in one grave, the same roots extended themselves into the next adjoining one, pervading every part of it with a net-work of voracious fibers in their thorough search for every particle of nutricious sic matter in the form of phosphate of lime and other organic elements constituting the bones. At the time the tree was planted, all the fleshy parts of the body had doubtlessly been decomposed and dispersed in gaseous forms, and there was then left only enough of the principal bones to serve for the roots to follow along from one extremity of the skeleton to the other in a continuous course, to glean up the scanty remains. Had there been other organic matter present in quantity, there would have been found divergent branches of roots to envelope and absorb it. This may serve to explain the singular formation of the roots in the shape of a principal bones of the human skeleon.

"The entire disappearance of every vestige of the mortal remains of Roger Williams, teaches after his death an impressive lesson of the actual physical resurrection of them, by ever-acting natural causes, into renewed states of existence constituting a physical victory over the grave, as his precepts and example, before his death, have taught the greater moral victory of the christian sic faith over worldly oppression."

To Stephen Randall belongs the credit of inaugerating measures for erecting a monument in his memory—to be built of granite on Prospect Hill—200 feet in height. Money has been deposited, and the founder of Rhode Island will soon be honored with an appropriate testimonial of an appreciating posterity.


About two hundred and twenty years ago [about 1648] Lawrence Wilkinson landed upon the shores of New England. At that time America was howling wilderness with only a few openings made by European settlers. Dense forests filled the valleys and crowded every hill top, and the wild beasts and wilder savages were the sole occupants of this wide extended country.

To leave the comforts and luxuries of the Old World and take up an abode in the New, under these circumstances required a degree of moral courage and self-denial which only a few possessed; and had not the providence of God brought to bear the sweets of social, civil and religious liberty, the now fertile and smiling fields of the United States would still have remained the uncleared hunting grounds of the Indians.

But Liberty—"Sound delightful to every human ear,"—rendered more dear and desirable by the iron heel of oppression—opened the gates of the great sea, and forged a passage over the mountain wave. Hither came our ancestor, and, at the close of the first decade of Roger William's sic planting at "Mooshaussick" at the head of the Narragansett Bay, received with others from the hands of this founder of the only soul-liberty colony the world ever knew, a quarter right grant of twenty-five acres, where he pitched his tent and settled for life.

The commotions in his native land, the civil strife between King and Parliament which had borne him upon its lofty billows and plunged him in its lowest depths and bereft him of fortune, of King, of home and all the tender associations that cluster around the old hearth stone—drove him from his father-land to seek a home in the wilds of New England.

To trace his descendants through all the various branches down the stream of time to their present homes is the object of this work. It has been a labor of years. With the opening and peopling of this country we find them scattered from Maine to Georgia along the Atlantic coast—from Oregon to California along the far off Pacific—from St. Paul to New Orleans along the winding Mississippi, and from the Metropolis of our nation to the pioneer settlements of the remotest West. Some are sailors and dwell upon the ocean wave, others inhabit the islands of the sea, and in every mart of commerce the Wilkinson family finds its representative. In Boston, Providence, Hartford, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, St. Paul, Chicago, New Orleans, London, Paris, Rome and Sidney in Australia they be found. They pass each other as strangers on the great thoroughfares and in the crowded streets and the ties of consanguinity are not known.

This book will unfold to them their origin in America, and will introduce to their acquaintance a host of relatives hitherto unknown. Should it meet the approbation of the families herein registered, the author will feel compensated; for it has been a labor of love—occupying the time he was laid aside by disease of the throat from the arduous duties of the pulpit. The work is not designed for public, but private circulation. A record of our own people—their acts and reminiscenses—a family record;—it comes a souvenir to those who welcome it—and while it rescues from oblivion the names and deeds of our ancestors, and preserves their memories ever green in the hearts of succeeding generations of the great family, may it prove an incentive to the youth of the coming generations to do nothing to tarnish the fair fame of their worthy sires—

"Lives of good men all remind us
We may make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time—
Footprints that perhaps another
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother
Seeing, shall take heart again."

Patriotism is a prominent trait of the family. They have been in every strife for the national existence from the earliest days to the present time. In King Philip's War, 1675—in the French and Indian War, 1755—in the War of 1812—and in the Great Rebellion of 1861—they shouldered the musket, or girded on the sword, and fought for freedom and independence, and for preservation of the Union. This roll of honor it has been our design to preserve, and also, to give place to the religious element. In the early days of the Colony it was more prominent than in modern times, but it is far from being extinct at the present day. The influence of the fathers is still felt.

"And let us hope as well we can,
That the Silent Angel who garners man
May find some grain as of old he found,
In the human cornfield ripe and sound,
And the Lord of the Harvest deign to own
The precious seed by the fathers sown."

The other families mentioned in this work are traced back as far as the memory and records of the living members are able to furnish. I have no doubt a more careful and extensive research would connect the descendants of "Widow" Wilkinson and Lewis Wilkinson of New Milford, Conn., with Edward who settled there in 1645, and was one of the original planters of that town; and the descendants of _____ Wilkinson of Roxbury and Wrentham, Mass., father of Joseph, Oliver and David is undoubtedly descended from John Wilkinson of Attleborough, Mass.

The remaining families are of more recent date in America, and consequently more complete.

Those unacquainted with genealogical researches can form no adequate idea of the amount of labor required to collect and arrange the statistics and materials of the biography of the numerous descendants of early settlers of our country during a period of two hundred and twenty years. The examination of town, county and state records—old wills, deeds and inventories—city cemeteries and county graveyards—histories and libraries;—and the labor of an extensive correspondence, which labor is greatly increased by the delay of some, and the refusal of others to furnish the desired information—all require great patience and perservance, and an expenditure of time and money for which no adequate remuneration can be expected. The compiler has spared no pains nor expense to secure thoroughness and accuracy, but the conflicting statements from different members of the same family—different dates for the same event found in records or even upon tombstones, warn him that perfect accuracy is impossible. In a few instances the memory of living persons was the best and only evidence that could be obtained, there being no record of births or deaths in existence—such may prove fallacious; but in the main the work is as reliable as other work of the kind.

In the words of another, I may conclude by saying:

"If any do not find so full an account of themselves and families as was anticipated, it is because no more was furnished. Justice demanded that subscribers and their families should have the largest space consistent with the plan of the work, but this will be no cause of complaint from those who have manifested no interest in its publication."                   AUTHOR.

Jacksonville, February, 1869.

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