MORTON E. CONVERSE. The Converse family to which Morton E. Converse, of Winchendon, Massachusetts, belong, is of ancient French origin. The early seat of the family was in Navarre, France, whence Roger de Coigneries, emigrated to England with William the Conqueror in the eleventh century.
(I) Roger de Coigneries, to whom the ancestry of the American family has been traced, was
born in France, about 1010. To him the Bishop of Durham gave the constableship of Durham.
(II) Roger de Coigneries, son of Roger de Coigneries (I) lived in Durham, England.
(III) Roger de Coiners, son of Roger de Coineries (2) lived in Durham and Sockburn, England.
(IV) Galfred Coniers, son of Roger de Coiners (3) lived at Sockburn.
(V) John Conyers, son of Galfred Conyers (4) settled and lived at Sockburn, England.
(VI) Sir Humphrey Coigners, son of John Conyers (5) lived at Sockburn.
(VII) Sir John Coigners, son of Sir Humphrey Coigners (6) settled at Sockburn.
(VIII) Roger Coigners, son of Sir John Coigners (7) resided at Sockburn.
(IX) Sir John Coigners, son of Roger Coigners (8), lived at Sockburn, died 1395.
(X) Robert Coigners, son of Sir John Coigners (9)
(XI) John Coigners, son of Robert Coigners (10) lived at Hornby, England.
(XII) Sir John Coigners, son of John Coigners (11) resided at Hornby.
(XIII) Sir John Conyers, son of Sir John Coigners (12) resided at Hornby.
(XIV) Sir John Conyers, son of Sir John Conyers (13) resided at Hornby.
(XV) Reginald Conyers, son of Sir John Conyers (14) resided at Wakerly.
(XVI) Richard Conyers, son of Reginald Conyers (15) resided at Wakerly.
(XVII) Christopher Convers or Conyers, son of Richard Conyers, was baptized 1552 at Wakerly, County Northampton. He married Mary Halford. Their children were: Edward, see forward; Mary, born 1590; John, 1593; Moses, 1595; Lucy, 1595; Joshua, 1596; Samuel, 1597; Noah, 1599.
(XVIII) Edward Convers, son of Christopher Convers or Conyers (17) was born at Wakerly, county Northampton, 1590, died in Woburn, Massachusetts August 10, 1663. He came to New England in 1630 with wife and three children, and his name is fourth on the list of thirteen inhabitants of the new town of Charlestown. All these settlers united with the First Church of Boston. He was also one of the charter members of the Charlestown Church, organized November 2, 1632. He established the first ferry at Charlestown, for which he paid a rental of forty pounds a year in 1631 and for a number of years after, until he finally surrendered his rights for the benefit of Harvard College. He was at the head of the commission of seven from Charlestown appointed by the Church to arrange for the settlement of Charlestown village, later Woburn. The church in Woburn was organized before the town and he was one of the first deacons. He was one of the most prominent citizens of Woburn as long as he lived. For nineteen successive years he was elected on the board of selectmen. He was appointed commissioner to end small causes by the general court in 1660. His house was situated on main street, Woburn, and was thirty by thirty-five with nineteen windows, at a time when windows were luxuries. On the opposite side of the street was the Convers mill, which was conducted by several generations of his descendants.
He married Jane Clark, of Theckenham, England, who died before 1617. He married (second) Sarah ____, in England. She died January 14, 1662. He married (third) Joanna Sprague, September 19, 1662. She died February 24, 1680. His children were: Josiah, born in England, 1617, died February 3, 1689; married, March 16, 1661, Esther Champney; James, see forward; Mary, born 1622, married Simon Thompson, (second) John Sheldon; Samuel, baptized January 12, 1637, married June 8, 1660, Judith Carter; their son was the founder of Thompson, Connecticut.
(XIX) Lieutenant James Converse, son of Deacon Edward (18), was born in England, 1620, died May 10, 1715. He was a deputy to the general court in 1679-83-84-85-86-89. He was an officer in King Philip's war. He had a long and honorable military record. He was appointed sergeant in 1658, promoted to ensign 1672, to lieutenant in 1688, serving until his death, May 10, 1715, a period altogether of about sixty years. He married October 24, 1643, Anna Long, born 1625, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Long. She died August 16, 1691. He married (second), 1692, Anna (Sparhawk) Cooper, widow of Deacon Nathaniel Sparhawk, of Cambridge, widow of Deacon John Cooper. His children were: Anna, born July 15, 1644, died January 30, 1645; Jane, November 16, 1645, died July 8, 1706; Deborah, July 25, 1647, married, July 1, 1663 John Pierce; Sarah, April 21, 1649; Rebecca May 1, 1651, married Enoch More; Lydia, March 8, 1653, died May 20, 1655; Edward, February 27, 1655, married Sarah Stone; Mary, December 29, 1656, married Nathaniel Davis; Abigail, October 13, 1658, married Jonathan Ketell; Ruth, February 12, 1661, married Philemon Dean.
(XX) Major James Converse, son of Lieutenant James Converse (19), was born at Woburn, Massachusetts, November 16, 1645. He was one of the most prominent men in the Massachusetts Bay colony. He served in the general court as deputy from 1679 to 1692 and was speaker three years, 1699, 1702-03. He was the commander at the famous defense of Storer's garrison at Wells, Maine, in 1691-92, and for his conduct there was promoted to the rank of major. He was placed in command of all the military force of French under Labocree and Indians under Moxus, Madocawando, Egeremet and others. The French leader was killed and the assault repelled. For his services in this campaign his heirs received a grant of land at Ashburnham, Massachusetts, "on condition that within five years after the date of the grant two families be settled on the premises, each with a house and at least four acres of land under cultivation. Major Converse lived in what is now Winchester east of Winter Pond. All of his descendants are eligible to the Society of the Colonial Wars. He married, January 1, 1668-69, Hannah Carter, born January 19, 1651-51, daughter of Captain John and Elizabeth Carter, of Woburn. His wife died August 10, 1691. Their children were: James, born September 5, 1670; John, see forward; Elizabeth, April 26, 1675, died July 27, 1694; Robert, December 29, 1677, died July 20, 1730; Hannah, June 12, 1680; Josiah, May 24, 1683, died young; Josiah, September 12, 1684; Patience, November 6, 1686, died July 23, 1707; Ebenezer, December 16, 1688, died young.
(XXI) John Converse second son of Major James Converse (20), was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, August 22, 1673, died there. He lived at Woburn except during the period from 1708 to 1728. He married, May 22, 1699, Abigail Sawyer, born March 17, 1679, daughter of Joshua Sawyer. His children: James, born February 26 1700, died 1752; John, February 3, 1701; Joshua, January 3, 1704; Abigail, 1705; Patience, May 1, 1707; Josiah.
(XXII) Joshua Converse, son of John Converse (21), was born in Woburn, January 3, 1704. He became a prominent citizen in Dunstable, now Nashua. He was moderator of the town meetings 1740 and 1741 and selectman in 1741 at Naticook, now Merrimac, where he moved in 1729. He was also assessor and constable. He was a representative agent in the grant and grand court at Portsmouth in 1741. In 1744 he was drowned in the Merrimac River. He married, at Dunstable, July 31, 1729, Rachel Blanchard, born March 23, 1712, daughter of Joseph and Abiah (Hassell) Blanchard, and sister of Colonel Joseph Blanchard, the agent of the Masonian Proprietors. His estate was valued at 1205 pounds or $60,000, a large amount for a farmer particularly at that time. His widow married (second) Joseph Fitch and (third) John Page. Children of Joshua and Rachel Converse were: Joseph, born November 13, 1739, died February 16, 1828; married Elizabeth David, settled at Bedford, Massachusetts; Jesse, born December, 1741, fought in Captain Lovewell's company; Zebulon, see forward.
(XXIII) Zebulon Converse, son of Joshua Converse (22), was born in Merrimac, New Hampshire, March 21, 1744, the year his father was drowned. He was taken to Bedford by his mother, who had married Joseph Fitch, of Bedford, brother of John Fitch of Fitchburg. He settled in Rindge, New Hampshire, 1773 or 1774, and lived on the first lot of the first range until 1778, when he sold to Ebenezer Muzzey. Later he lived at Converseville. In 1786 he removed to the farm now of Hon. Alfred C. Converse, of Rindge, where he died November 10, 1805. His wife died May 28, 1805, less than three weeks later. He married, 1773, Sarah Merriam, born October 10, 1753, daughter of Nathaniel and Olive (Wheeler) Merriam, of Bedford, Massachusetts. Their children were: Nathaniel, born November 17, 1774, removed to Beaufort, South Carolina, where he died unmarried April 10, 1815; Sarah, born March 15, 1776, married Eliakim Russell, son of Nathaniel; Rachel, born July 3, 1777, died young; Olive, born May 15, 1779, married Solomon Sawtelle; Joshua, born April 2, 1781, died young; Ira, born May 28, 1783, died young; Joshua, see forward; Rachel, born October 12, 1788, married Daniel Jones; Rebecca, born February 18, 1794, married Charles Stearns; Zebulon, born October 8, 1795.
(XXIV) Joshua Converse, son of Zebulon Converse (23), was born in Rindge, New Hampshire, April 23, 1781. He was a farmer in his native town and a successful manufacturer of lumber and woodenware. He was frequently elected to public office. He was a representative in the state legislature of New Hampshire in1840 and 1841, a member of the state constitutional convention in 1850, and for seventeen years a selectman, a longer period that that of any other man in this office. His sons Zebulon and Omar D. were associated with him in the business during his later years. With generous foresight he engaged in several enterprises from which he neither hoped nor expected remunerative returns. One was a system of flowage, secured through his efforts and influence, and the capacious reservoirs for which were built largely at his expense. He helped other public improvements that affected the material interests of the whole town. He bought the mills at Converseville and started there in 1845.
He was married, May 6, 1808, Polly Piper, born February 13, 1791, daughter of T homas and Hepsibath (Jewett) Piper and granddaughter of Ezekiel and Hannah (Platts) Jewett. She died February 7, 1840. He married (second), May 20, 1841, Polly Kimball, born September 25, 1789, daughter of William and Abigail (Hamlet) Kimball, of Rindge. He died November 1, 1862, his widow September 10,1866. Children of Joshua and Polly (Piper) Converse were: Lucius Manlius, born July 20, 1809; Ebenezer Hartshorn, see forward; Joshua, June15, 1813; Christopher Columbus, December 20, 1814; Mary, September 11, 1816, married David Stowe; Abraham Jewett, August 18, 1818; Levina Piper, May 20, 1820; married Reuben Richardson; Zebulon, May 20, 1822; Omar Duane, March 9, 1824; Alfred Collins, March 17, 1827; Amanda M., February 12, 1829, married May 15, 1850 to Edward Miller, of New York city, resided at Milwaukee, Wisconsin; George Washington, August 29, 1830; Gustavus Adolphus, January 21, 1833.
(XXV) Captain Ebenezer H. Converse, son of Joshua Converse (24), was born in Rindge, New Hampshire, November 14, 1811. He resided at Rindge, except for a few years spent in New Ipwich, New Hampshire. He was actively engaged in the lumber business, blacksmithing and farming. Soon after the firing in Fort Sumter in April 1861, notwithstanding his exemption from service by reason of age, he raised a company in Rindge and vicinity of which he was captain. This company became a part of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment of Volunteers, and accompanied General Burnsides' expedition to North Carolina.
He married Oct. 8, 135, Sarah Darling, daughter of Jewett Boyton and Hannah (Murdock) Darling, of Winchendon, Massachusetts. (See sketch of the Darling family for her ancestry). Her maternal grandparents were James and Deborah (Williams) Murdock, of Winchendon. (See Murdock family sketch). She died July 10, 1875. Captain Converse married (second), June 2, 1877, Harriet E. (Leland) Dearborn, daughter of James and Hannah (Kidder) Leland. She died July 16, 1888. Children of Captain Ebenezer H. and Sarah Converse were: 1. Morton E., see forward. 2. Nettie S., born August 29, 1841, died August 1, 1903; married, May 1, 1871, Albert Spear, son of Palmer M. and Elizabeth (Proctor) Spear, of Warren, Maine. She was prominent in charitable work and at the time of her death was president of the Woman's exchange in Chicago. 3. Oscar Irving, born August 9, 1843, now dead; married March 8, 1867, Corolie S. Mix, daughter of Hon. James D. Mix, of Walla Walla, Washington, an officer in the United States Army.. He enlisted as a private at the age of seventeen in the volunteer service of the rebellion, served three years. 4.Clarence M., born in Rindge, New Hampshire, November 19, 1853. Now in hearing business sin Chicago. He devotes a great deal of time to city missionary work and was for several years superintendent of Armour Mission Sunday School, said to be the largest in the United States.
(XXVI) Morton E. Converse, eldest child of Ebenezer H. Converse (25), was born in Rindge, New Hampshire, September 17, 1837. He was educated in the public schools of his native town and at several academies in the vicinity. He had been in the clothing business for two years at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, when the civil war opened. In response to the first call of President Lincoln for three-year volunteers, he enlisted in the Rindge Company, of which his father was captain, and served first in the Burnside expedition to North Carolina. In July 1862, his regiment joined the army in Virginia and participated in the battle of Bull Run (second), the battles of Chantilly, South Mountain and Antietam. In the spring following it was ordered to the army of General Grant in Mississippi and was in the siege of Vicksburg and in arduous service during the months ensuing in Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. Early in 1864, the regiment returned to the Army of Virginia and took part in the battle of Cold Harbor, the memorable assault on Petersburg and other historic engagements. In the autumn of that year he was mustered out at the end of his term of enlistment. While with the regiment and sharing its duties and fortunes, he was an acting commissary of subsistence. Although he escaped the rebel bullets he suffered severely from exposure and hardships and for two years was in poor health and not actively employed.
In 1867 he began at Converseville, in Rindge, New Hampshire, the manufacture of Pytoligneous acid, iron liquor, acetic acid and other products of wood acid, and continued it with success for eight years. In 1873 he bought and refitted a mill at Converseville for the manufacture of light woodenware. Out of this beginning the business of toy manufacture, with which Mr. Converse had been connected for many years, originated. He removed to Winchendon and entered partnership with Orlando Mason, a prominent citizen and successful manufacturer of that town, and under the firm name of Mason & Converse the manufacture of toys and light woodenware was continued. In 1883 the partnership was dissolved and Mr. Converse continued the business in partnership with his uncle, Hon. Alfred C. Converse, ex-mayor of Chelsea, Massachusetts, under the firm name of Converse Toy and Woodenware Company. They purchased the Monadnock mill, a commodious and substantial building, forty by one hundred feet, three stories high, with steam power. From year to year the business increased steadily and the capacity of the works has been correspondingly increased. In 1887 the firm became Morton E. Converse & Company, the partner's, remaining the same. A new mill was erected forty by one hundred feet, four stories high, for the manufacture of reed and rattan chairs. This business was later removed to the New Hampshire state prison, where Mr. Converse conducted it with Wilbur F. Whitney and the building was used for the addition of toys. Another new mill of the same dimensions was built in 1891. Several others have been added to the plant since then. One of the mills was destroyed by fire, June 30, 1896, together with a large amount of lumber in the yard, but new buildings were erected at once. The factories have exceptional railroad accommodations. They have been kept up to date in every sense, being heated by steam, lighted by electricity generated in the power house of the plant, equipped with automatic sprinklers and the modern devices for protection against fire, including the thermostat fire alarm system.
Mr. Converse manufactures wooden toys in the infinite variety children's and dolls' furniture and various novelties. Special Departments are devoted to popular toys in constant demand, such as drums and dolls' trunks. Constant attention to new notions in the toy business is essential o success. Mr. Converse has a special aptitude for anticipating the wants of Young American, devising himself and securing from others the toys that attract not only the children of the United States but of the whole world, and he has built up the largest business of the kind in the united States and demonstrated the superiority of American toys in competition with the whole world. Many of the products are protect under the patent laws. At the World's Fair in Chicago the Converse Company received the highest awards for exhibiting the finest toys in the world. In other competitions of this kind, as well as in the direct competition for the trade of the world, the Converse toys have won the prizes. The business now employees nearly three- hundred hands, and produces annually a vast amount of goods. To the ability and resourcefulness of Morton E. Converse more than to any other single cause may be attributed the success of this business. He has been the manager and chief owner during the years of its greatest growth and development.
Mr. Converse has been active in the public affairs of Winchendon, taking upon himself his full share of the duties of citizenship. He is a Republican in politics, a member of the Republican Club of Massachusetts, and of the Home Market club of Boston. In 1890-91 he was a representative to the general court and was chairman of the house committee on banks and banking and member of the committee on water supply. In 1903 he was elected to state senate and re-elected in1905. He was chairman of the committees on public service, water supply, parish and religious societies, and in 1905 was a member of the committees on drainage, military affairs and street railways. He was one of the organizers and director of the Winchendon Light and Power Company, also served as its president. He was treasurer of the New England Baby Carriage Company, which is now merged in the Morton E. Converse Company & Son, president of the New England Lock and Hinge Company, was a director of the Granite State Manufacturing Company, but has now sold his interest, director of the Winchendon Board of Trade and president of Village Improvement Association. He is active in the church and in various social organizations. He is a thirty-second degree Mason, an Odd Fellow, a Member of the local tribe of Red Men, of the local Grand Army Post and of the local camp of Sons of Veterans, called after him Morton E. Converse Camp.
He married, August 19, 1869, Hattie M. Atherton, daughter of Thomas and Susan (Peacock) Atherton, of Lowell, Massachusetts. She died October 28, 1886, leaving two children. He married (second), September 17, 1889, Bertha E. Porter, daughter of Rev. Samuel Porter, of Chicago. Children of Morton E. and Hattie M. (Atherton) Converse were: Grace Atherton, born November 17, 1873, married Dr. Louis Cross (See Cross family). Atherton Darling, born January 7, 1877.