This sketch of Salisbury is perforce an epitome; a catacomb of facts, tedious in the extreme, unless viewed sympathetically. The statistician’s only hope lies in the imagination of the reader. Then be a lithe hunter in the trackless wilds, a shrewd and cautious Hollander, a spare, twang-tongued New Englander, a Whig, a Tory, what you will, for there is no limit to your fictitious past. Leave for an hour the world of 1900 and these dry bones will be re-animated and invested with the charm of life in other days. The scene is set; you must be the player. ~ Malcolm Day Rudd (An Historical Sketch of Salisbury, Connecticut, July 18, 1899)
The above note “to the reader” made me smile. While I find family history endlessly engrossing, most people I know find it “tedious in the extreme,” or at least, not viewed very “sympathetically.” It would seem to be the same for this writer 120 years ago!
But I have found an ancestral line I’ve been researching forever. My poor mother spent the last couple years of her life searching, too, mostly in person, traveling to town halls, county courthouses and historical societies with my father’s devoted assistance. I recently found some notes he took for her and added them to Ancestry.com. It didn’t take too long for “hints” to start popping up. Some didn’t fit, but some did.
My grandfather, John Everett White, had been told he descended from William White, the Mayflower passenger. They say most family legends have a grain of truth in them. As it turns out, his 5th-great-grandfather was a William White, but not that William White!
The line I had went back only 4 generations…
John Everett White 1905-2001 (my grandfather) Samuel Minor White 1873-1949 William Martin White 1836-1925 Austin White 1806-1882 Oliver White 1764-1822
William Martin, Austin and Oliver all lived here in southeastern Connecticut and lie buried in Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic. But where Oliver came from remained a stubborn mystery. My parents spent a lot of time trying to connect him to the Whites living in Rhode Island, many of them descendants of the Mayflower‘s William White. (I was interested, but very busy raising children.) Apparently not long before my mother died in 1991, they had set their sights on Salisbury, way up in the opposite (northwestern) corner of Connecticut. There a Lawrence White had a son named Oliver who was born the same year as our Oliver.
My father’s handwritten notes state this information was found in the Historical Collections of the Salisbury Association, Inc., Vol. II, p. 119. Whether they actually traveled to Salisbury or not is unclear to me. They might have found the book on one of their visits to the Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library in Hartford.
After adding this information to Ancestry and piecing together the resulting hints, the line now goes back 3 more generations to an English ancestor, who arrived in America 59 years after the Mayflower!
Oliver White 1764-1822 Lawrence White 1732-1812 George White 1694-1776 William White 1664-1750 (my 7th-great-grandfather)
I found the following paragraph about William in An Historical Sketch of Salisbury, Connecticut (1899) by Malcolm Day Rudd. When this pandemic is over I see a day trip to Salisbury in the works, health permitting.
William White, an Englishman, who died Jan. 5, 1750-51, in his 85th year, had long been a resident of the Dutch settlements, married a Dutch wife and was a sergeant in the Manor Company of 1715.
William was born about 1664 in Brading (Isle of Wight) England and died in Salisbury (Litchfield) Connecticut. He arrived in America in 1679, when he was about 15 years old. He apparently married Mary (Meales) Hayes, a young widow, about 1690. They were the parents of eight children.
Williams’s sons, George (my 6th-great-grandfather), Joshua and Benjamin are on the list of original proprietors of Salisbury, when the new township was publicly auctioned at Hartford in May 1738. The town was incorporated in October of 1741.
Another early morning walk, definitely the bird hour. I was taking pictures of the pond when this black-crowned night heron flew up from the water and perched on the evergreens. I had to use the telephoto lens but he seemed well aware that I was looking at him and seemed determined to stay right there until I went away. He won! After moving myself to different vantage points and taking five zillion pictures I finally left him there. Most birds fly away before I can get a good shot.
The restlessness of shorebirds, their kinship with the distance and swift seasons, the wistful signal of their voices down the long coastlines of the world make them, for me, the most affecting of wild creatures. ~ Peter Matthiessen (The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959-1991)
Thursday was an interesting day. Changing plans is always tricky for me! I found another open space property online for a new place to walk and made a plan, map in hand. But when we arrived at the trailhead there were a number of cars and a large group of volunteers armed with tools for trail maintenance. Too many people too close for comfort so we didn’t even get out of the car.
Where to go now? We had been to the beach the day before and so we decided to go back to Elm Grove Cemetery where we found two magnolia trees in full bloom! Spring is coming! But it was cold… We started to walk but then Tim’s leg pain started up and we headed back to the car. He offered to wait in the car so I could get some exercise and I was off, feeling bad for him but exhilarating in a nice long brisk walk.
This huge cemetery is a perfect place to walk and I think it’s been discovered. We weren’t as early as we were Tuesday morning so a few other people were there but the many lanes and walkways made it so that I never crossed paths with anyone.
Finally I wound up at the White family plot, where eight of my maternal ancestors lie buried. Tim caught up with the car and snapped this picture of me standing behind the grave of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Lydia (White) Hill (1798-1877). So the sudden change in plans was accomplished without too much difficulty.
The sense of having one’s life needs at hand, of traveling light, brings with it intense energy and exhilaration. Simplicity is the whole secret of well-being. ~ Peter Matthiessen (The Snow Leopard)
As we continue to carve out a new life for ourselves in quarantine, we have started referring to “our bubble.” Stay safe, stay home. We are wary of popping our bubble by some careless slip of protocol. We care for our safe zone (our bubble) and speak of it fondly sometimes, as we tend to it like one would a houseplant or a pet.
Yesterday we went for an early morning walk at Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic. It’s a large scenic resting place along the Mystic River, just north of Mystic Seaport. The seaport is closed for the pandemic and many (most?) of its employees have been laid off. We parked at the south end of the graveyard where we could see the dockyard across the water and also explore the fascinating carvings on the gravestones of past sailors.
We’re going to renew our membership to Mystic Seaport anyway. Even though we have no idea when it will be safe to visit again.
I’m pretty sure that cliff and house (above) are part of the Peace Sanctuary, where Janet, her mom and I took a lady slippers nature walk back in 2013. See lady slippers.
Will the Viking ship have any adventures this year? I have my doubts there will be a Viking Days festival this June…
And we finally came around back to our car. Can’t believe it’s six years old! In some places folks aren’t permitted to drive somewhere to take a walk but we are, thankfully. Tim says it isn’t good for cars to sit without running for long periods of time. Our car is an important part of our bubble!
This was our first walk where we did not encounter a single person! Not sure if it was the location or the time of day that did the trick. I suspect there will be more cooler early morning walks as the warmer summer days come along. As long as we can manage to stay safe in our bubble.
We now have 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town.
Located just a few miles from where we live, Elm Grove Cemetery (197 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, Connecticut) is where at least eight of my ancestors lie buried. The most recent gravestone belongs to my 2nd-great-grandfather, William Martin White, and his second wife, Martha Bennett. I didn’t grow up in this area and it’s a bit of synchronicity that without knowing it, not long after I married, we moved to the area where so many of my ancestors lived and died.
William Martin White, son of Austin and Lucy Ann (Thompson) White, was born 15 November 1836 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut, and died 18 November 1925 in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts. He married (as his first wife) 30 October 1860 in Methodist Episcopal Church, Mystic (New London) Connecticut, his first cousin, Ellen C. Hill, who was probably born about 1844 in Stonington, daughter of Rufus and Lydia (White) Hill. William and Ellen were divorced on 26 September 1876.
William worked both as a sailor and a farmer. For most of his life he lived at what is now 347 New London Turnpike in Old Mystic. It used to be called Old Turnpike Rd. William married his cousin, Ellen, who had also been living in the same household with her parents, his aunt and uncle, in 1860. Ellen was living with her parents by 1860, when she was about 16 years old. However, she was not living with her parents in 1850, according to the census, when she was 6 years old.
The marriage was apparently troubled. In August 1865 the following item appeared in The Stonington Chronology 1649-1949:
A scandalous month-while Wm M White of Wolf Neck, Stonington, was on a fishing voyage, his wife eloped with a gay deceiver named Pendleton who is also a deserter from the regular army. She left 2 children, one 6 mos. old, and took with her $500.
It seems that the couple reconciled for a while, and had three more sons together, but finally were divorced after almost 16 years of marriage. William had custody of the boys and the youngest, Samuel, was told that his mother had died. However, on the 1880 census, Ellen, age 38, was residing in the Poor House of Stonington, identified as a “widow,” and had with her two young illegitimate children, born after she was divorced from William. Their birth records contain statements from William denying paternity.
Sadly, I have no idea what became of my 2nd-great-grandmother Ellen.
After the divorce, William married (as his second wife) Martha Bennett, born 27 July 1849 and died 16 April 1921, daughter of Henry and Caroline (—) Bennett. William’s last residence was 67 Pleasant St. in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts, and he died there of arteriosclerosis with senility. Perhaps he was living with a son.
In the summer of 1999, my grandfather, John White, and I visited the house of his grandfather, William White, at 347 New London Turnpike in Stonington, then owned by Millicent House Goodman, who very kindly showed us around. Grandfather had only seen it one time when he was a boy. He remembered coming to Mystic by train with his father and two brothers, and then taking the trolley to Old Mystic and then walking “a great stretch” to the house. He slept in the attic with his brothers and saw a sextant there. The next day they went clam digging. They were instructed to call Martha, “Aunt Martha.”
A history of the house William & Martha lived in is recorded in the book, A History of Old Mystic:
In 1717 Samuel Turner purchased land from Ephraim Fellows. He probably had this house built around 1725 when he was courting Rebecca Davison. This house is located on Rt. 184 about ½ mile east of Rt. 201. They were married on March 4, 1727/28. They raised 5 children here and it stayed in their family until 1765. In the Historic Resources Inventory done in 1981 by Blanche Higgins Schroer, she describes the interior as ‘having a large fireplace (brick with granite sides, wooden mantle) East parlor with deep sills and delicate Federal corner cupboard.’ In 1788 it was purchased by Joshua Brown and his wife Joanna Rogers Brown. This couple raised 10 children here and it stayed in the family for 100 years. In 1802 according to an old newspaper “to settle protracted dispute over highway from the Borough to Old Mystic, the country court appointed Benjamin Coit, John Hillhouse and Joshua Huntington to determine its course (the present route) but Joshua Brown’s claim for re-assessment of his land delayed construction and there was much opposition from the people in the northern part of the township since the route by-passed the Road District which was still the center of town.” In 1818 when the Post Road was established with the toll houses, the road went right past their front door. This home has had many owners and in 1981 it was purchased by Mrs. Millicent House. Soon after the ell on the back burned along with part of the house. Mrs. House rebuilt the ell enlarging it yet maintaining its colonial character, at this time she also added height to the upstairs rooms.
Ellen & William were the parents of five sons, all born in Stonington:
1. William Henry White, born 8 February 1862, married Mary Ellen Toomey. William & Mary were the parents of four children.
2. James Courtland White, born 15 May 1864, died in June 1879, about age 16. In the U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885, states James’ cause of death was a gunshot wound. He lies buried near his father in Elm Grove Cemetery.
3. Walter Price White, born about 1866.
4. Rufus Burton White, born about 1870.
5. Samuel Minor White (my great-grandfather), born 7 July 1873 and died 2 July 1949 in Abington, Massachusetts. He married Emma Flora Atwood, daughter of Reuel Gardner and Louisa Jane (Atwood) Atwood. Samuel & Emma Flora were the parents of three sons.
Ellen was also the mother of two more children:
1. Lydia F. White, born about 1876.
2. John F. White, born about September 1879.
William’s parents, my 3rd-great-grandparents, Austin White (1806-1882) & Lucy Ann (Thompson) White (1808-1852) lie buried together in this plot, too.
Austin White, son of Oliver and Lydia (—) White, was born 20 August 1806 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut, and died 29 June 1882 in Preston (New London) Connecticut. He married (as his first wife), 19 September 1830 in Groton (New London) Connecticut, Lucy Ann Thompson, who was born 20 August 1808 in North Stonington (New London) Connecticut, and died 29 December 1852 in Stonington, daughter of Elias and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Davis) Thompson.
Austin was a farmer. His marriage to Lucy Ann was performed by Ralph Hurlbutt, Justice-of-the-Peace. Austin married (as his second wife), 31 March 1854 in Stonington, Melissa S. Cole. He married (as his third wife), sometime before the 1880 census, Lydia (—).
Austin & Lucy Ann were the parents of three children:
1. Lydia A. White, born 1833, died 1843.
2. William Martin White (my 2nd-great-grandfather – see above), born 15 November 1836, died 18 November 1925.
3. Rufus C. White, born 6 June 1839, died 16 May 1864, age 24, at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia. Rufus served as a private in the Union Army, Company E, 21st Infantry Regiment, Connecticut and was killed at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff. In the 1860 census, Rufus was recorded as a farmer with a personal estate of $100.
Tim & I visited the battle site in May 2000, after reading about the battle, and as a stop on a trip to Florida. The following is from “Stonington’s Forgotten Heroes of 1861-65” by James Boylan:
The second large Stonington unit was Company E of the 21st Infantry Regiment, which was recruited in the summer of 1862 from eastern Connecticut. About seventy Stonington men served in Company E, under Captain Charles T. Stanton, Jr., of Stonington. Like Company G of the Eighth, this company became involved in the fogbound battle of Drewry’s Bluff, in which Stanton was severely wounded, and the siege of Petersburg, where Captain Henry R. Jennings of Stonington was wounded. Partly because its term of service was shorter, it suffered fewer casualties.
My 4th-great-grandparents, Oliver & Lydia (—) White are also buried here.
Oliver White, was born about 1764, and died 22 September 1822. He married, Lydia, who was born about 1772, and died 9 February 1833 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut.
It is possible that Oliver was the one born in Salisbury (Litchfield) Connecticut, 25 July 1765, and was perhaps the son of Lawrence and Elizabeth (Vallens) White, but further research is needed to establish a link, if there is one. An Oliver White served in the Revolutionary War, was listed in Zebulon Butler’s 4th Regt. Continental Lines, but there is no probate record for him in Sharon or deeds found in Salisbury.
Lydia & Oliver were the parents of five children:
1. Lydia White (my 3rd-great-grandmother – see below), born about 1798 in Stonington, died there 3 July 1877. She married Rufus Hill, son of Robinson and Lydia (Briggs) Hill, on 24 December 1826. Lydia & Rufus were the parents of at least two children.
2. Abby White, born 1800, died 27 April 1873. She married Ephraim T. Bennett, who was born 1797 and died 6 March 1876, son of Elisha and Esther (Davis) Bennett. Abby & Ephraim lied buried in the White plot at Elm Grove Cemetery, along with her parents and a brother and sister.
3. Oliver White, born about 1802 in Quenebaugh (Windham) Connecticut. He married 3 January 1830, Eliza Miner, who was born 25 October 1806 in Stonington, daughter of Jesse and Sarah (Hilliard) Miner.
4. Austin White (my 3rd-great-grandfather – see above), born 20 August 1806 in Stonington, and died 29 June 1882. He married Lucy Ann Thompson, daughter of Elias and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Davis) Thompson, on 19 September 1830. Austin & Lucy were the parents of three children.
5. Samuel Minor White, born 12 May 1808, died 11 August 1894 in Sandusky (Erie) Ohio. He married 10 June 1832 in Sandusky, Damaris Pendleton, who was born 5 March 1800 near Westerly (Washington) Rhode Island, and died 6 October 1872 in Sandusky, daughter of Abel Pendleton.
Oliver & Lydia were the parents of another of my 3rd-great-grandparents, Lydia (White) Hill (1798-1877), who is buried here. I don’t know where her husband Rufus (my 3rd great-grandfather) is buried, however, though his wife and parents are all buried here.
LYDIA, Wife of Rufus Hill, Died July 3, 1877. Aged 79 Years 2 Mo. & 11 Ds. ———- The memory of the just is blessed. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might for there is no work, no device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.
Rufus Hill, son of Robinson and Lydia (Briggs) Hill, was born about 1799 in Connecticut, and died 10 March 1881 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut. He married 24 December 1826 in Stonington, Lydia White, who was born abut 1798 in Stonington, and died there 3 July 1877, daughter of Oliver and Lydia (—) White.
Lydia & Rufus were the parents of two children:
1. Rufus Hill, born about 1839.
2. Ellen C. Hill (my 2nd-great-grandmother), born about 1844.
And lastly, the graves of another set of my 4th-great-grandparents, Robinson Hill & Lydia Briggs. For the longest time I felt frustrated that Lydia was identified only as a “relict” of Robinson Hill. But finally I think I can place her in the Briggs family of Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, and so have another place to go looking for gravestones.
Robinson Hill, was born about 1765 in Block Island, New Shoreham (Washington) Rhode Island, and died 14 February 1817 in Mystic Bridge (New London) Connecticut. He married in New Shoreham, Lydia Briggs, who was born 21 February 1767 in New Shoreham, and died 20 September 1848 in Mystic Bridge, daughter of Joseph and Marjorie (Dodge) Briggs.
Lydia & Robinson were the parents of:
1. Rufus Hill (my 3rd-great-grandfather), born about 1799 and died 10 March 1881. He married Lydia White, daughter of Oliver and Lydia (—) White. Rufus & Lydia were the parents of two children.
Conjecturing a Climate Of unsuspended Suns – Adds poignancy to Winter – The shivery Fancy turns
To a fictitious Country To palliate a Cold – Not obviated of Degree – Nor eased – of Latitude –
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #551)
The Mayflower II (above) is at Mystic Seaport for restoration. This replica of the original Mayflower was constructed in England and launched in 1956. Her home port is Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts.
You mustn’t rush about in endless rings but learn to love the nearest things.
~ Arne Paasche Aasen
(The Ways of Water)
Not all the lanes were plowed in Elm Grove Cemetery so we couldn’t get to the graves of my White ancestors, but the cemetery was full of interesting snow drifts and shadows, and views of the snow and ice covered river.
You must rejoice in life every day; don’t wait until the moment has passed you by before acknowledging what a good time it really was! Don’t pin your hopes on the happiness of days to come. The older one gets, the more one realizes that the ability to savor the moment is a state of grace, a glorious gift…
~ Marie Curie
It seems that this winter has been a harsher one than average, a monotony of record low temperatures and record high amounts of snow. March came in like a lion. It must be a potent combination of cabin fever and mourning, but I still feel like I’m staggering around in a daze. Maybe it will go out like a lamb and things will settle down for a time.
Grief distracts is strange ways. There’s the usual opening of the refrigerator to get something out of the microwave, but then there’s the trying to deposit a check stub when I meant to deposit the check itself. Cracking an egg into the sink instead of the bowl. I’m starting to wonder if I’m permanently altered. If adorable Zoë wasn’t waking me up each morning for her breakfast of trout and eggs, I wonder if I’d even bother getting out of bed.
For the life of me I cannot figure out why we decided to go to a cemetery to take pictures last weekend. We just had to get out of the house and it was the only thing we could think of doing outside. Elm Grove Cemetery borders the Mystic River and the wind off the river was biting and icy. My fingers weren’t cooperating they felt so raw.
But I noticed a theme as I got in and out of the car to warm up. I was looking up at the sky and the trees and the way they framed some of the tall monuments. Breathtaking beauty. There was another theme, too, but that will be for another post…
There were a couple of poignant scenes close to the ground, too. Perhaps this flag has been weathering the winter since Veterans Day.