ELEVENTH GENERATION(24) John and Hannah left England and apparently arrived in Salem prior to 2 March 1652/3, as they purchased 2 acres of land with house from Thomas Weeks (Essex County Deeds). John's profession at the time was recorded as mason. In July 1657 they sold this homestead to Thomas Root for 18 pounds but didn't vacate the property until October by stipulation of the sale. Although there is no record of the Willson family in Woburn until February 1661, their son Samuel's birth is recorded there in December 1658. Records of the Proprietors of Woburn show that John was granted four acres of meadowland in 1661 provided he live on the parcel for five years. The land was located far North of Woburn, near the Billerica line. Town records for February 1666, show John was elected one of four "to care for swine and fences". During this period of time the settlers were struggling to carve out a living and everyone was required to perform civic duties that benefitted the whole population. The same year he was taxed at the Country Rate. In the Town Records of April 1668, John was listed as one entitled to share in the common lands of Woburn.
There are records that John and Hannah were identified with the Anabaptists as early as 1675. Then in 1777, Hannah, John Jr., and close friends were fined for not being present and "worshiping God on the Lord's day" (Middlesex Court Records). Their son Francis was repeatedly identified with the Anabaptists.
John's will, if there was one, cannot be found. There is an administrators bond and estate inventory filed in the Soffolk County Probate Court Records by his administrix, Hannah, and his sons John Jr., and Francis. The document is signed 3 August 1687. Value of the estate was put at 253 pounds. Because Edmund Andros was Governor of New England at the time, the probate was handled in Suffolk County instead of Middlesex County.
Documented evidence on the origin of John Willson and Hannah James is obscure if not completely lacking. Many attempts have been made to associate them with one or another account of Willson's from England but most are unfounded. It is a well known fact in genealogical research, if an ancester was not prominent, documentation of their existance is usually scarce. This is especially true when one searches overseas. Fortunately, town and vital records of New England have, in most cases, treated early settlers equally. Even then, associations are misleading. In the case of John and Hannah, their arrival in New England is based largely on the death of their son John. From data amassed by Ken Stevens, he suggests that because John Jr. died in February 1734 at age 84, and providing he was their first child, he was born about 1649/50 in England (they arrived in America with an infant). Since the first record of John and Hannah is their purchase of land in Salem in March 1652/53, they would have had to arrive in New England between 1650 and 1653. This again is still all circumstantial since the infant that accompanied them from England could have been their first daughter Sarah. The next mile post is the birth of their daughter Dorcas in January 1657, probably in Salem since they sold their homestead there in July 1657. From additonal data it appears Hannah may have married twice after the death of John. Children by the third marraige to Thomas Fuller are recorded in Woburn. He was married to Hannah JAMES * before 1650 in England.
Hannah JAMES *(37)was born in 1628/29 in England. She died after 1697. After the death of John in 1687, Hannah married Lt. Thomas Fuller of Salem. Although there is no record of this marriage it had to have occured between the death of Thomas' wife in May 1688 and 1697. Woburn Town records of June 1697 places her there living with her son-in-law James Proctor. It is speculated that she and Thomas Fuller had only been married a short time when the witchcraft hysteria in Salem drove the elderly Hannah, a stranger in town, to seek the safety of life with her daughter Hannah in Woburn. There is no record of her death nor is she mentioned in Thomas Fullers' will when he died in Salem in June 1698 at age 80.
Children of John and Hannah Willson were:
i. Lt. John Willson Jr.(80)was born about 1651/52 in England. He died on 1 Feb 1734/35 in Bedford, Middlesex Co., MA. In 1682 he left Woburn and settled on that part of Billerica set aside for the new town of Bedford. On 19 July 1682, he purchased land on Vine Brook where he built a dam, mill and his home. In 1685 he was granted 30 acres on the East side of Shawshin River, extending to the Woburn line, "...for encouragement towards his corne mill". He was selectman in Billerica 1696-97 and 1703-04; 1705 he was the towns representative to the General Court. In 1728 he was one of the signers on the petition to the General Court of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay which resulted in the Town of Bedford.
In May 1718, John and Rebekah gave 36 acres in Bellerica to son Francis. On 23 February 1729, they deeded to sons Francis and Samuel all of the homestead and 140 acres in Bedford including all structures and fences. An additonal, they gave to Samuel 51 acres, which amounted to one quarter of the orchard, and the apartment attached to the north side of the fathers house where his mother had lived.
Lt. Willson served in the Harragansett Expedition and the Great Swamp fight during King Philips's War of 1675. In 1692 he served under the command of Capt. James Convers defending the small Storer garrison at Wells, Maine, against superior French and Indian forces. In 1700/01 he was granted ten pounds for using his personal horse during the campaign while acting as Capt. Convers' deputy. John and James Convers were very good friends in Woburn and James sponsored John's two petitions to the General Court for reimbursement of expenses.
ii. Sarah Willson(37)was born about 1653 in Salem Village, MA. She died on 15 Jun 1686 in Woburn, Middlesex Co., MA. According to Ken Stevens book, he hypothesizes Sarah could be the infant child her parents brought to America instead of John. There is a significant gap between the birth of John and Dorcas, although part of this gap is taken by the infant daughter born about 1655 that was killed by lightening.
iv. Dorcas Willson(79)was born on 29 Jan 1657 in Massachusetts. She died on 29 Nov 1714 in Cambridge, Middlesex Co., MA. She was buried in Old Burying Ground, Cambridge, MA.(37) She died at the home of her son Aaron Jr., in Cambridge where she is buried in the Old Burying Ground across the street from Christ Church in Harvard Square. Through their son Aaron, Jr., Aaron and Dorcas are ancestors of President Grover Cleveland.
Samuel's estate was not probated by the Middlesex Courts. Instead, on 19 June 1724, a deed was prepared, endorsed by Elizabeth relinquising her dower rights, that gave the homestead, including the mansion and thirty acres, to their son Samuel Jr. In December 1729, John Butler of Dunstable, Ebenezer Pierce of Woburn, Hugh Jones of Woburn, and Samuel Johnson od Lunenburg, quick claimed their rights to any portion of their father-in-laws estate to Samuel Jr. The deed provided 6 pounds apiece and was cosigned by daughters Mary Pierce and Hannah Jones. It is curious why daughters Elizabeth, wife of John Butler, and Rebecca, wife of Samuel Jones, didn't sign the quick claim unless their residence kept them away.
In July 1696, he sold 18 acres of land which contained a dwelling house, barn, outhouses, orchard and garden that adjoined his brother Samuels inherited lands. The land was part of his fathers homestead and adjoined his brothers Samel's land. On 8 August 1696 he purchased 20 acres in Rehoboth. Francis was involved in many real estate tranactions, some in Middlesex County and others in Rehoboth. His will, dated 25 June 1723, bequesthed the bulk of his estate to Jonathan Willson, son of his brother Benjamin. His estate was valued at over 1000 pounds. Others named in his will were mainly sons of brothers except for cousin Ruth, wife of John Franklin of Swanzey and Margaret Whitaker (unknown relationship).
Francis was a member of the State House of Represenatives and left no children. He was known to be associated with the Anabaptists. His will assigned 5 pounds to "the church in Swanzey called Elder Wheatten's church, to which I belong.."
vii. * James Willson *Sr.
viii. Abigail Willson(257)was born on 8 Aug 1666 in Woburn, Middlesex Co., MA. She died on 17 Nov 1747 in Chelmsford, Middlesex Co., MA. Abigail and Joseph Hildreth had tweleve children, all but the last recorded at Chelmsford: Hannah, 1684; Joseph and twin Richard, 1686; Abigail, 1688, then again in 1691, and again in 1693; Elizabeth, 1694; Joseph, 1695; John, 1698; Ephram, 1700; Elizabeth, 1703 and Benjamin, no date or birthplace. Abigail married second, Jonathan Barrett, born 1658 in Chelmsford, died 28 March 1743, son of Lt. John and Sarah (?) Barrett. They had one child, John, 1709.
ix. Elizabeth Willson(258)was born on 6 Aug 1668 in Woburn, Middlesex Co., MA. Elizabeth and Isaac had five children: Elizabeth, 1687; Persis, 1691; Joanna, 1695; Isaac, 1698 and Sarah, 1700.
Benjamin was taxed "rate free" in 1696/97, by a Woburn Town meeting because of his many losses. It is assumed he soon left Woburn as he purchased 48 acres of land in Rehoboth on 30 March 1697. In 1710 he purchased an additional 13 acres adjoining his homestead on the east side of the Palmer River. Additional land was added to his holdings in subsequent years. Benjamin and Elizabeth were still in Rehoboth in 1718 but in 1733 they were living in Ashford, Windham County, Connecticut, when they transferred title of 16 acres of Rehoboth land to daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Edward Carpenter. In January 1739, they transfered title of 40 acres, with buildings, to daughter Ruth and her husband Joseph Jacobs who eventually settled on the land.
Benjamin and Elizabeth had twelve children, the first two recorded in Woburn, the others recorded in Rehoboth: John, 1694; Benjamin, 1695; Jonathan, 1698; Rebecca, 1701; Hannah, 1702; Francis, 1704; Elizabeth, 1706; Samuel, 1707/8; Ruth, 1710; Bethiah, 1711; Abigail, 1713 and Mary, 1714.
Ken Stevens has written two different articles regarding Benjamin that have appeared in the New England History and Genealogy Register, Oct. 1981, page 302, and July 1986, page 264.