Salt Works

My 6th-great-grandfather seems to have been another deeply pious ancestor, and again, his wife Phebe, my 6th-great-grandmother, was not mentioned at all in the sketch I found about him. Researching my family history keeps driving this point home to me, women were certainly taken for granted in years gone by. Ammiel & Phebe lie buried in Island Pond Cemetery in Harwich.

West Yarmouth Salt Works ~ image from New England Historical Society website

Apparently Ammiel ‘made salt from sea water’ in addition to supporting his family by farming.

Salt making was an important industry due to the close connection of salt with fishing. The first salt produced on Cape Cod was made by evaporating sea water placed in large boilers over fire. This was the process during the Revolutionary War, but the quantity obtained was not very large and used a great deal of wood for the constant fires. The salt works that were built after the war consisted of large wooden “vats” for solar evaporation of sea water. Each vat could be entirely covered by a movable hipped-roof as protection from dews and rains.
~ Bourne Historical Society website

Dea. Ammiel Weekes, son of George and Deborah (Wing) Weekes, was born 10 April 1720 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died 12 February 1804. He married 2 March 1743 in Harwich, Phebe Small, who was born 12 October 1717 in Harwich, and died there 21 April 1793, daughter of Jonathan and Damaris (Winslow) Small.

The following is from Genealogy of the Family of George Weekes of Dorchester, Mass. 1635-1650, by Robert D. Weeks, published in 1885:

[Ammiel] was a farmer; also made salt from sea water. He was a deacon in the church, and an eminently conscientious man: at one time he resigned the office of constable, rather than collect taxes for the support of the gospel. He was strict in his regard for the Sabbath; and in order to commence its observance betimes on Saturday evening, (as is still nominally the custom in some parts of New England,) ‘every Saturday afternoon, while the sun was yet high, he would come in from his work, wash, shave, take his frugal supper of bread and milk, and sit down to the reading of his Bible.’

It is related of [his son Ebenezer],– as showing [Ebenezer’s] mechanical genius, and as illustrating the strictness of the views then prevalent in regard to the Sabbath,– that at a house where he, then a mere boy, stopped with his father to rest, on their seven miles walk to ‘meeting,’ on the ‘North side,’ [Ebenezer] so carefully examined a wooden spoon, that he was able, with his father’s tools, to produce a facsimile on Monday; and his father [Ammiel], while expressing admiration of his work, reproved him for breaking the Sabbath by his study of the model on the Lord’s day.

Ammiel & Phebe were the parents of six children:

1. Isaac Weekes (my 5th-great-grandfather), born 11 April 1747 in Harwich, died 12 July 1792. He married in Harwich, 25 December 1773, Thankful Nickerson, who was born there 17 November 1751, and died in 1838. Isaac & Thankful were the parents of four children.

2. Phebe Weekes, born 6 June 1749 in Harwich, died 3 February 1819.

3. Deborah Weekes, born 18 December 1751 in Harwich, died 23 October 1796. She married in Harwich, 16 March 1771, Seth Nickerson, who was born there 11 January 1751, and died there 3 April 1784. Deborah & Seth were the parents of five children.

4. Ammiel Weekes, born 11 January 1754 in Harwich, died there 7 October 1787. He married in Harwich, 22 July 1775, Mehitable Nickerson, who was born there 20 September 1757, and died 10 November 1822, daughter of Joshua and Thankful (Eldridge) Nickerson (my 6th-great-grandparents). Ammiel & Mehitable were the parents of four children.

5. Capt. Ebenezer Weekes, born 11 September 1755 in Harwich, died there 8 May 1815. He married (as his first wife) in Harwich, 8 November 1777, Dorothy Smith, who was born there 8 August 1759, and died 23 December 1778, daughter of John Smith. Ebenezer & Dorothy were the parents of a son.

Ebenezer married (as his second wife and as her second husband) in Harwich, 25 May 1781, Barbara (Godfrey) Small, who was born about 1747 and died 11 May 1798, widow of Capt. Elijah Small. Ebenezer & Barbara were the parents of three daughters. Barbara is buried with her first husband, Elijah, in the Weekes lot at Island Pond Cemetery in Harwich.

Ebenezer married (as his third wife) in August 1798, Hannah Fessenden, who was born about 1762 and died in Harwich, 7 April 1803, daughter of William and Mehitable (Freeman) Fessenden. Ebenezer & Hannah were the parents of three sons.

Ebenezer married (as his fourth wife and as her second husband) 25 December 1803, Mehitable (Robbins) Tripp, who was born 27 March 1767, and died 28 January 1844, widow of Reuben Tripp, and daughter of Nathaniel and Lydia (—) Robbins. Ebenezer & Mehitable were the parents of four children.

Ebenezer is buried near his third wife, Hannah in the First Congregational Church Cemetery in Harwich.

6. Mehitable Weekes, born 9 November 1758 in Harwich. She married in Harwich, 6 February 1779, David Clark, who was born about 1758 and died in Harwich, 14 January 1838. Mehitable & David were the parents of six children.

9 thoughts on “Salt Works”

  1. What a wonderful name “Thankful”. Never heard that one before. I too am interested in learning about my roots. You have found marvellous information fleshing out images of ancestors beyond just listing birth and death dates …

    1. So far I have 8 Thankfuls on my family tree, a very common name in Colonial New England, they were all born in the 1700s. Other common ones are: Patience, Waitstill, Temperance, Comfort, Consider, Desire, Mercy, Experience, Deliverance, Constant, Love.

  2. I love the name Mehitable. I had a doll named Mehitabel, close to, but not quite the same name. She had a rag body and a china head, arms and legs.

    Among my ancestors, an interesting name (which comes from the Bible, although it didn’t stick out there to my notice until sometime in the last few years) was Keturah. 🙂

    1. Let’s see… I have 4 Mehitables on my family tree. I’ve found it (and other names) spelled several different ways, even in records for the same person. So for my records I use the most common spelling for everyone which makes cross-referencing much easier. One woman was nicknamed Hitty and was recorded both by her nickname and her given name in different records.

      I love that you named your doll Mehitable. I never heard of the name until I was in my teens. My doll was named Kimberly. She was plastic but I loved her dearly. 🙂

      I first heard of the name Keturah when my friend gave it to her daughter. Not one Keturah on my tree so far…

  3. I guess we share the salt connection, my great grandmother Julia, her father used to work in the salt mines, all around Cheshire, the places ending in “wich” are connected to the mining of salt, thanks for the share Barbara 🙂

    1. How interesting, Tai! A quick internet search turned up four operating salt mines and wells in New York state, but nothing in New England. Another bit of synchronicity we share ~ my great-grandmother Ludmila came from Prague (Czech Republic) to Ukraine with her parents to work in the salt mines in Ukraine. 🙂

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