Lt. Francis Shurtleff & Mary Shaw

Sometimes when doing research in a family history book we might find a biographical sketch about an ancestor. I was delighted to learn so much about my 5th-great-grandfather but also a little sad that Mary, his wife, my 5th-great-grandmother, was barely mentioned.

Lt. Francis Shurtleff, son of Barnabas and Jemima (Adams) Shurtleff, was born 8 April 1738 in Plympton (Plymouth) Massachusetts, and died 14 August 1794 in Carver (Plymouth) Massachusetts. He married on 7 August 1760 in Plympton, Mary Shaw, who was born 4 March 1742, and died 1 March 1816 in Carver, daughter of Nathaniel and Hannah (Perkins) Shaw.

The following is from Descendants of William Shurtleff of Plymouth and Marshfield, Massachusetts, Vol I:

He was an ensign in Capt. Nathaniel Shaw’s second Plympton company, Col. George Watson’s first Plymouth Co. regiment; commissioned 1762, and Aug., 1771; also second lieutenant, Capt. Nathaniel Shaw’s company, Col. James Warren’s regiment, which marched on the alarm of Apr. 19, 1775, from Plympton to Marshfield; service, 2 days; also first lieutenant, Capt. Nathaniel Shaw’s seventh Plymouth company, Col. Gamaliel Bradford, Jr.’s, first Plymouth Co. regiment; commissioned June 6, 1776; also lieutenant, Col. Thomas Lothrop’s regiment; marched Dec. 11, 1776, on an alarm to Bristol, R. I.; service, 14 days; also first lieutenant, Capt. Nathaniel Shaw’s seventh company, Col. Theophilus Cotton’s first Plymouth Co. regiment; commissioned Oct. 28, 1778. On July 1, 1781, he was commissioned captain of the North Company of the local militia in Carver. He was one of the delegates sent from Plympton to the state convention to act on the constitution of the United states and voted against it, and was representative from Plympton to the first session of the General Court, May 26, 1784.

The following reminiscences of Mr. Shurtleff were written by his great-granddaughter, Olivia Holmes.

Since most people are not so familiar with the lives of their great-grandparents, I imagine Olivia taking these notes (as I have often done) as she listened to her elders reminiscing about her great-grandfather. I was amused that Francis was “in the habit of pulling teeth and usually carried instruments for that purpose in his pocket.”

When the first town meeting was held at Carver on July 5, 1790, Mr. Shurtleff was chosen as moderator. He was also the first town treasurer of Carver and their first representative to General Court. He was clerk of the Popes Point Furnace Company, but today we would probably call him an agent. This furnace ran only in the winter and then night and day; and during that season Mr. Shurtleff and wife lived in a house nearby, so they could board the men who were employed there. He was a justice of the peace (appointed Apr 16, 1790), a deacon of the church, and a dentist; at least, he was in the habit of pulling teeth and usually carried instruments for that purpose in his pocket. Afflicted people sometimes met him at the meeting house, sat down upon the steps and had the decayed member removed right there. It was an act of mercy, and quite proper for the Sabbath. When the Squire went to Boston to attend the General Court he rode horseback, and carried his linen in one end of his saddlebag and some provender to bait his horse on the way in the other end. Arrived at the city he put his horse out to pasture until such time as he might need him again. Once when he went to seek the animal, he was not to be found; thorough search did not discover him; so the Squire took his luggage over his shoulder and walked home to Carver. By aid of a connection who was supposed to deal with rogues, he recovered the horse, but the animal had been used rather hard. Mr. Shurtleff had several children and sometimes more than one wanted to ride at a time; then they used a pillion and rode double-jaded. In this manner he sometimes took his wife or daughters to Plymouth, shopping. He was indulgent to his children, and when one day his daughter (Olivia) expressed a liking for a certain piece of goods which she thought too dear for her to purchase, he bought her a dress from it, although it was English calico and one dollar a yard. His wife’s maiden name was Shaw and among her descendants are some tiny teaspoons marked M. S. in her honor; the younger members of this family ask whether the letters stand for Mary Shaw, Shurtleff or Savery. Mr. Shurtleff was interested in educational work and the school of his district was sometimes kept in his house in a bedroom. He named one of his children for the beautiful daughter of the ‘Vicar of Wakefield.’ His pastor, the Rev. Calvin Howland, suggested this to him and named one of his own children Sophia for the other one, but the Esquire had the first choice and called his Olivia.

Francis & Mary were the parents of eleven children, but only five of them survived to adulthood:

1. Zilpha Shurtleff, born 22 October 1761 in Plympton, died in infancy there on 7 March 1762.

2. Caleb Shurtleff, born 27 February 1763 in Plympton, died in infancy there in 1763.

3. Francis Shurtleff, born 3 August 1765 in Plympton, died 3 December 1852 in Middleborough (Plymouth) Massachusetts. He married 22 December 1785 in Middleborough, his second cousin, once removed, Elisabeth Shaw, who was born there in 1762 and died 6 August 1819 in Carver, daughter of Elkanah and Elisabeth (Atwood) Shaw, my 6th-great-grandparents.

4. Caleb Shurtleff, born and died in 1767 in Plympton.

5. Olivia Shurtleff, born 8 November 1769 in Plympton, and died 14 November 1848 in Carver. She married 19 March 1801 in Carver, James Savery, who was born 29 August 1777 in Plymouth (Plymouth) Massachusetts, and died 11 January 1860 in Carver, son of James and Mercy (Burbank) Savery.

6. Lothrop Shurtleff, born 10 March 1772 in Plympton, died in 1832 in Middleborough. He married 22 September 1796 in Carver, Betsey White, who was born 4 January 1777 in Plympton and died 30 June 1815 in Carver, daughter of Benjamin White.

7. William Shurtleff, born 14 February 1775 in Plympton, died there 12 November 1778, age 3.

8. Nathaniel Shurtleff, born 16 September 1776 in Plympton, died there 18 November 1778, age 2.

9. Mary “Polly” Shurtleff, born 25 December 1779 in Plympton, died 25 January 1859 in Middleborough. She married 30 July 1797 in Carver, her fourth cousin, Silas Thomas, who was born 1766 in Middleborough, and died there 26 January 1858, son of Jeremiah and Susanna (Thomas) Thomas. Mary & Silas were the parents of two daughters.

10. Zilpha Shurtleff (my 4th-great-grandmother), born 21 July 1782 in Plympton, died 28 August 1838 in Middleborough. She married 1 February 1806 in Carver, Nathaniel Atwood, who was born 28 April 1782 in Middleborough and died there 26 January 1858, son of Ichabod and Hannah (Shaw) Atwood. Zilpha & Nathaniel were the parents of five children.

11. Susanna Shurtleff, born 26 April 1785 in Plympton, died 5 September 1791 in Carver, age 6.

Independence Day

A special Thank You to my ancestors who served in the War for Independence:

Capt. Nathaniel Shaw (1717-1800)

Lt. Francis Shurtleff (1738-1794)

William Shurtleff (1743-1790)

Isaac Weekes (1747-1792)

Ichabod Tillson (1750-1822)

Seth Allen (1755-1838)

Samuel Cash (1758-1847)

…and to any and all who remain unknown for now…