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WISER NEWSLETTER

Volume 4 Issue 2                                                    February 1999


Benjamin Wiser

 

I have been asked to summarize in more precise detail the current information we have on our Benjamin Wiser Senior. 

 

We still do not know for certain if our Benjamin Wiser is identical to the Benjamin Wiser born 1743, the son of a Mr. Wiser and Ruth Bowman.  But for the present, we will assume that he is.

 

 

Benjamin Wiser, was born 1743, the son of a Mr. Wiser and Ruth Bowman, the daughter of Samuel and Martha Bowman. 

 

 

From the book, “Dispossession by Degrees”, by Jean M. O’Brien, pages 164-165;  it states; “Another proprietary family from Natick also included Worcester County in their notion of Indian place.  The heirs of Samuel Bowman petitioned the General Court for the sale of his Natick lands in 1749, two years after his estate entered probate in Worcester County.  The heirs included his widow, Martha, and six others, including three who were apparently children of Samuel and Martha (two daughters with spouses, and an unmarried son), and a six-year-old grandson.

 

The petitioners provide an example of how individuals from even the most prominent Natick families sometimes scattered over the course of the eighteenth century, and a glimpse of how the larger geography of Indian physical and social places operated in New England.  They had specific ideas about how their inheritances ought to be used.  Martha Bowman was a resident of Worcester and wanted her share invested so she could receive an interest income.  Benjamin Wiser, age six and a grandson of Samuel Bowman was living with Zachariah and Betty Equi “in Sturbridge..., Dwellers on Land belonging to others.”  They proposed that Benjamin’s share be invested as well, and that the Equi’s share be used in ways the General Court thought best “haveing no View of the money Spent Needlessly.”  Martha and Joseph Peegun were “Settled in Dudly and he has a Freehold Estate of Value and [Live] in English fashion”.  They wanted either to “furnish their house better,” or purchase some cattle.  Samuel Bowman, the eldest son, had been “brought up at Husbandry work haveing Served his time with the English.”  He left it to the General Court to determine how best to use his inheritance.

 

Samuel Bowman’s descendants displayed a range of eighteenth-century Massachusetts Indian lifeways and illustrated the ways in which the colonial encounter had transformed Indian social and physical places: A widow and grandson survived on interest income from a liquidated estate.  One daughter and her husband lived an at least nominally English-style lifeway, and another daughter and her spouse must have lived marginally, perhaps tolerated as squatters on lands that had once belonged to their ancestors.  His son learned English-style agriculture through serving an indenture.

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No members of the Bowman family remained in Natick at the time Samuel’s estate was settled.  The administrator’s account included charges for having his land laid out in Natick.  The heirs explained: “their deceased father Lived in Worcester and places adjacent more that Twenty Years before his Death...we are all Strangers to Natick [and] are Intirely, if we may be allowed to use the Phrase Naturalized to this part of the Country.”  Samuel himself had chosen to leave Natick only a decade or so after having been designated a principal proprietor with substantial rights.  His abandonment of the community was quite conscious and appeared to be complete.  Because of this seemingly broken connection, his heirs thought of themselves as “strangers” to Natick, consciously distanced from the community, and “naturalized” to Worcester. Yet in the same year this petition was filed, the proprietor’s son Samuel married, and in 1750, another Samuel Bowman was born.  Naturalized to Worcester County they may have been, but when the proprietor’s son died sometime before 1759, he died in Natick, still tied to its commodified lands.  The proprietor’s grandson, a third Samuel Bowman was represented by Englishman Thomas Russell and his English guardian, Micah Whitney of Natick, when the final division of Natick common lands was negotiated in 1763.”

 

From other probate records of Samuel Bowman we also learn that his grandson, Benjamin Wiser was the son of his deceased daughter, Ruth Bowman, sister of Betty Equi.

Betty Equi was responsible for the care of Benjamin after the death of her sister and they lived in Sturbridge in 1749.

 

On the 25th June 1767 in Sturbridge, Benjamin Wiser married Abigail Thomas (also spelled Tommas in the intention to marry record).  Abigail is probably related to another Natick proprietary family named Thomas (Tommas).

 

Their history is explained in more detail also in Dispossession by Degrees, p. 163; “Heirs to the Tabumsug right held broader notions of place that embraces not just Natick, but locations in Worcester County [as] well.  The Coochucks seem to have left no children, but other Tabumsug heirs could be found elsewhere.  Samuel Tabumsug died sometime prior to 1756.  His estate entered probate in Westborough, and his estate included not only land in Natick (thirty-six acres in six pieces), but also in Westborough (ten acres), and Hardwich (100 acres).  He appeared in the diary of Westborough Minister Ebenezer Parkman from 1737 through 1741 as one of several Indian laborers on Parkman’s farm.  Tabumsug’s lands were sold, and the proceeds were divided among the heirs in three parts, “being the original families.”  The heirs were Sarah Printer, Leah Chalcam, and Judith Ephraim (all described as “one family,” daughters of Solomon and Sarah Thomas [also spelled Tommas in various records), and Natick residents]; Elizabeth Comecho and Mary Ephraim (another “family,” relationship unknown, and Natick residents); and Benjamin Wiser, originally of Natick but by then a resident of Worcester, the administrator of the estate.  The precise connection of these individuals to one another is not altogether clear, but the fact that they all benefited from this single estate constitutes formal acknowledgment of their kinship as well as the larger geography of their kinship connection. 

 

Samuel Tabumsug left Natick early and acquired extensive real estate in two Worcester County towns to add to his Natick holdings.  Benjamin Wiser had also acquired land in Worcester County on which he made his primary residence.  His father, James, was from Natick.  Benjamin had left the community by 1743, however despite receiving thirty acres of land from his father in Natick.  He sold these Natick lands at this time, and five years later asked for permission to sell thirty-two acres in Natick in order to build a “Barn on his farm in Worcester which is of the value of five or six hundred pounds...Where your Petitioner Dwells..all which he purchased by his own Industry.” 

 

Benjamin successfully established himself in Worcester, married Sarah Printer in Southborough in 1747, and between 1750 and 1758, they had five children in Worcester who all lived to adulthood.”

 

This Benjamin Wiser was most likely a brother, of the Wiser who married Ruth Thomas, and cousin to our Benjamin Wiser.

 

After Benjamin married Abigail Thomas in Sturbridge, there is no other mention of him there.

 

I am under the impression after Benjamin married Abigail Thomas that they must have removed to Westborough.

 

Since the Thomas (Tabumsug) family owned land in Westborough, this would explain why they moved there, and how Alathea Wiser could have been born there September 27, 1768.

 

We get a glimpse of the Indians and Thomas family from the book, “The Hundredth Town, Glimpses of Life in Westborough, 1717-1817, by Harriette Merrifield Forbes, 1889, page 167; “When first visited by white men, almost the whole of the present area of Westborough was a wilderness.  A few scattered Indian wigwams, as Jack Straw’s and the one near Chauncy, were the residences of Indians; but the nearest Indian village was at Hassanamisco, six miles away, now known as Grafton.  Here, in 1654, Eliot came and commenced his labor of love among the people.  In 1671 he established here his second mission church.  Nearly all the towns of “praying Indians” were provided with teachers from Hassanamisco.  In 1674, Eliot, with his distinguished friend, Gen. Daniel Gookin, visited all the praying Indians of the Nipmuck country; and General Gookin wrote a description of them, which has been reprinted in the first volume of the Massachusetts Historical Collection.  At that time there were about sixty persons in the town.  Wattascompanum lived here, the chief ruler of the whole Nipmuck country.  His English name was Captain Tom.” 

 

From page 171, “In the early part of this century [1800], there were several families of Hassanamiscoes living in this vicinity, one family, at least in Westborough, that of old Andrew Brown.  He lived, with his wife and children, on the Flanders road, near the Beeman farm, and later, on the cross-road which turns to the right just before reaching the hospital.  His wife was Hannah Thomas, daughter of Mary and James Thomas, of pure Hassanamisco descent.  They had four children: Andrew Comache, Elizabeth, Lucinda, and their famous daughter, Deb.  Like all the Indians, he and his family spent their time making baskets...He was a tall Indian, with straight, black hair, and had served in the Revolution, receiving there a wound which made him lame for life.  During the war, his wife and daughter, then a small child, followed the army, and had many adventures with rattlesnakes, catamounts, and other wild beasts...The daughter, Deb, was for many years a celebrated tramp.  She was friend and travelling companion of Sarah Boston, of Grafton.  She was married to one of the Grafton Indians named Pease, who treated her cruelly, and in one of their quarrels broke her hip.  She was always lame after this. 

 

One day, when quite old, and small, and wrinkled, she came to Mr. Beeman’s farm on the Flanders road, holding in her hand a bottle of medicine, which some considerate old lady had given her, marked, “Take me and I’ll cure you.”  She was on her way to the poor-farm, where, a few days afterwards, she died.  She left two daughters; one of them, Mrs. Robert E. Brown, now lives in Worcester, and has in her possession a daguerreotype of her mother taken in a brightly flowered gown, deep lace collar, and large, square breast pin.  A true Indian, she joined to her roving disposition a love of bright colors, which she always wore. 

 

I believe that at sometime, Abigail Thomas Wiser must have passed away, probably due to the complications of childbirth.  After this, Benjamin married Kezia.

 

I have searched unsuccessfully for any record of Benjamin and Kezia Wiser in Massachusetts excluding the birth record of Alathea (from the Morse family records). 

 

Sometimes, I speculate and get wild ideas about what might have happened at this time.

 

I have thought that maybe Benjamin married a widow, and possibly someone related to Luther Morse, the husband of his daughter, Alathea.

 

For total speculation, there is a Kezia Morse, born September 5, 1739 at Medfield, MA, who married John Streeter Jr., February 12, 1766 in Sturbridge, MA.  They had at least one son, John Streeter, born April 18, 1768.  Kezia, was the daughter of David and Jerusha (Smith) Morse.  This John Streeter served in the Revolutionary War, a Corporal, he was in Captain Adam Martin’s Company, Colonel Ebenezer Learned’s regiment; muster roll dated August 1, 1775; enlisted May 1, 1775; service 3 months 1 week and 1 day, also, company return dated October 7, 1775.   

 

Alathea Morse, the sister of Luther Morse, married Benjamin Streeter.  I presently don’t know if he is related to this John Streeter.

 

So we need to do further research to see if any of my speculation is true or false.

 

I am fairly convinced based on the wanderings of our family, their financial condition, their not ever owning land, the close relation to the Morse family, many ending up in poor houses, family traditions and  their physical descriptions that we are descended from the Wiser Indians.  Please prove me wrong.

 

Other children born to Benjamin: Alice, born about 1770.

Benjamin, born about 1774.

Josiah, born about 1776.

Kezia, born about 1781.

Abigail, born about 1783.

Samuel, born about 1784.

James, born about 1785.

Theodore, born about 1787.

Another daughter, born about 1789.

 

By April 6, 1778, Benjamin was in New Hampshire, where he was serving in Captain Luther Richardson’s Company defending the Connecticut River.  In 1784, Benjamin, his wife, and children, Allice, Alithea, Benjamin, Josiah, Samuel, Kezia and Abigail were ordered out of Haverhill, NH, but didn’t leave.  Before 1800, Benjamin had moved to Cazenovia, NY where he probably passed away sometime after 1812. 

 

POSTSCRIPT

I appreciate those of you who have sent me updated information this past month.

My E-mail address is

My snail mail address is:

Ron Wiser

6 Baton Rouge

Roswell, NM  88201