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.
Located just a few miles from where we live, Elm Grove Cemetery (197 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, Connecticut) is where five 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.
My 2nd-great-grandfather, 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, Ellen C. Hill, who was born about 1844, daughter of John and Polly S. (—) 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 Ellen, who had also been living in the same household with her relatives, his aunt and uncle, in 1860. Ellen came to be living there sometime between the 1850 and 1860 censuses, between the ages of 6 and 16. When she was 6 she was living with her parents.
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 his son Rufus.
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, died about 1954. He married (as his first wife) on 5 April 1885 in Easthampton (Hampshire) Massachusetts, Mary Ellen Twomey, who was born before 1 April 1867 in Ireland and died about 1899, daughter of Michael and Julia (Dronny) Twomey. William & Mary were the parents of four children. William married (as his second wife and as her third husband) 2 July 1902 in Greenfield (Franklin) Massachusetts, Anna C. (Schickedantz) (Jones) Hess, who was born in August 1861 in Madison (Lake) Ohio and died 20 November 1944 in (Clark) Ohio, daughter of Christopher and Judith A. (Clemens) Schickedantz, and widow of Edward C. Jones, and widow of John L. Hess.
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. He married 27 November 1895 in Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts, Elizabeth C. Anglum, who was born c. 1873 in Mansfield (Bristol) Massachusetts, daughter of Matthew and Hannah (Hayes) Anglum.
4. Rufus Burton White, born about 1870. He married 19 September 1894 in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts, Rosalie Weymouth Brightman, who was born 28 January 1871 in Rochester (Plymouth) Massachusetts, daughter of William Taber and Lucy Ann (Bumpus) Brightman.
5. Samuel Minor White (my great-grandfather), born 7 July 1873 and died 2 July 1949 in Abington (Plymouth) Massachusetts. He married 21 November 1902 in Rockland (Plymouth) Massachusetts, Emma Flora Atwood, who was born 5 January 1873 in Abington and died 2 February 1955 in Foxborough (Norfolk) Massachusetts, 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.
My 3rd-great-grandfather, 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 and a laborer. His marriage to Lucy Ann, a homemaker, 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 about age 10.
2. William Martin White (my 2nd-great-grandfather), born 15 November 1836 in Stonington, died 18 November 1925 in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts. He married (as his first wife) 30 October 1860 in Old Mystic-Stonington (New London) Connecticut, Ellen C. Hill, who was born about 1844, daughter of John and Polly S. (—) Hill. William & Ellen were the parents of five sons and were divorced on 26 September 1876. William married (as his second wife) Martha Bennett, born 27 July 1849 and died 16 April 1921, daughter of Henry and Caroline (—) Bennett. William & Martha had no children.
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” in Historical Footnotes (Stonington Historical Society) 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-grandfather, Oliver White, was born 27 July 1764 in Salisbury (Litchfield) Connecticut, and died 22 September 1822 in Stonington, son of Lawrence and Elizabeth (Vallans) White. He married, about 1797, Lydia, who was born about 1772, and died 9 February 1833 in Stonington.
An Oliver White served in the Revolutionary War, was listed in Zebulon Butler’s 4th Regt. Continental Lines.
Lydia & Oliver were the parents of five children:
1. Lydia White, born 22 April 1798 in Stonington, died there 3 July 1877. She married 24 December 1826 in Stonington, Rufus Hill, born in February 1799 in Groton, and died 10 March 1881 in Stonington, son of Robinson and Lydia (Briggs) Hill. Lydia & Rufus were the parents of a son, Rufus. At the time of the 1860 census they also had living with them Ellen C. Hill, age 16, probably a relative, and Lydia’s nephews, William M. White, age 24, and Rufus C. White, age 21. (See her headstone in the next section.)
2. Abby White, born about 1800, died 27 April 1873. She married Ephraim T. Bennett, who was born 12 May 1796 in Stonington and died there 6 March 1876, son of Elisha and Esther (Davis) Bennett. Abby & Ephraim were the parents of a son and they lie buried in the White plot at Elm Grove Cemetery, along with her parents and a brother and sister.
3. Oliver White, born 30 April 1802 in Quenebaugh-Thompson (Windham) Connecticut, died 7 January 1861 in Hartford (Hartford) Connecticut. He married 3 January 1830 in Stonington, Eliza Minor, who was born 25 October 1806 in Stonington, daughter of Jesse and Sarah (Hilliard) Miner.
4. Austin White (my 3rd-great-grandfather), born 20 August 1806 in Stonington, and died 29 June 1882 in Preston. He married (as his first wife) 19 September 1830 in Groton, Lucy Ann Thompson, who was born 20 August 1808 in North Stonington, and died 29 December 1852 in Stonington, daughter of Elias and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Davis) Thompson. Austin & Lucy were the parents of three children. Austin married (as his second wife) 31 March 1854 in Stonington, Melissa S. Cole. Austin married (as his third wife) Lydia (—).
5. Samuel Minor White, born 12 May 1808, died 11 August 1894 in Sandusky (Erie) Ohio. He married 10 June 1832 in Stonington, 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 my 3rd-great-grandaunt, Lydia (White) Hill (1798-1877), who is buried here. I don’t know where her husband Rufus 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.
And lastly, the graves of Robinson Hill & Lydia Briggs, Lydia (White) Hill’s parents-in-law. 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.
Mount Vernon Cemetery in Abington, Massachusetts, is where my great-grandparents, Samuel Minor & Emma Flora (Atwood) White, and my 2nd-great-grandparents, Reuel Gardner & Louisa Jane (Atwood) Atwood, lie buried. I have many Atwoods on my family tree, with a lot of cousin marriages crossing the branches. Reuel & Louisa were half second cousins, once removed, both descendants of Nathaniel Atwood (1693-1767).
My 2nd-great-grandfather, Reuel Gardner Atwood, son of Reuel and Abigail Savery (Tillson) Atwood, was born 5 February 1833 in Middleborough (Plymouth) Massachusetts, and died 19 August 1908 in Henniker (Merrimack) New Hampshire. He married 26 November 1860 at Middleborough, Louisa Jane Atwood, who was born 6 April 1840 in Carver (Plymouth) Massachusetts, and died 12 January 1928 in Abington (Plymouth) Massachusetts, daughter of Ebenezer and Waitstill (Lucas) Atwood.
During the American Civil War, Reuel, age 29, fisherman, enlisted for a one year term of general service in the Navy on 17 September 1862 in New London, Connecticut, on board the frigate USS Sabine, one of the first ships to see action during the war. He was 5’9 1/2″ tall, with blue eyes and dark brown hair.
Reuel worked as a box maker and a fisherman. Louisa was a homemaker. On 11 March 1888, Reuel & Louisa survived The Great Blizzard of 1888 that killed more than 400 people along the eastern seaboard.
After Reuel’s death Louisa was a widow for twenty years. When the 1910 census was taken she was living in Henniker, New Hampshire with her son, Frederick, and his family. By 1920 she was living with her daughter, Emma Flora, and her family at 170 Linwood St. in Abington. Her grandson, John Everett White (my grandfather), fondly remembered the wonderful mittens she knitted for her three grandsons. They had a new pair every winter. Louisa died of tuberculosis at the age of 88.
Louisa & Reuel were the parents of eight children, but only three survived to adulthood and the others are buried here with their parents:
1. Elsie Fremont Atwood, born 9 August 1862 in Middleborough, died there 25 October 1863, age 1.
2. Elbridge Lincoln Atwood, born 10 August 1865 in Abington, died 20 December 1878 in Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts, age 13.
3. Frederick Reuel Atwood, born 28 December 1867 in Abington, died 4 February 1963 in Hillsborough (Hillsborough) New Hampshire, age 96. He married 31 August 1895 in Rockland (Plymouth) Massachusetts, Jane May Patterson, who was born 13 May 1873 in Wallace (Cumberland) Nova Scotia, and died 21 December 1966 in Manchester (Hillsborough) New Hampshire, daughter of Thomas S. and Anna M. (Greives) Patterson. Frederick & Janie were the parents of four children.
4. Eustace Lorenzo Atwood, born 2 November 1870 in Abington, died there 22 November 1880, age 10.
5. Emma Flora Atwood (my great-grandmother), born 5 January 1873 in Abington, and died 2 February 1955 in Foxborough (Norfolk) Massachusetts, age 82. She married 21 November 1902 in Rockland, Samuel Minor White, who was born 7 July 1873 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut, and died 2 July 1949 in Abington, son of William Martin and Ellen C. (Hill) White. Flora & Samuel were the parents of three sons.
6. Amy Grace Atwood, born 17 April 1875 in Abington, died there 23 August 1877, age 2.
7. Samuel Ebenezer Atwood, born 10 March 1877 in Abington, died there 5 December 1880, age 3.
8. Everett Mason Atwood, born 26 November 1880 in Abington, died there 26 October 1971, age 90. He married 26 November 1902 in Abington, Alice Matula Merrill, who was born there 17 March 1884, and died 8 February 1976 in Weymouth (Norfolk) Massachusetts, daughter of Charles F. and Mary (—) Merrill. Everett & Alice were the parents of five children. Everett’s nephew was my grandfather, John Everett White, who was named in honor of his uncle.
Engraved on the back of the Atwood stone are the names of their daughter and her husband. My great-grandfather, Samuel Minor White, son of William Martin and Ellen C. (Hill) White, was born 7 July 1873 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut, very close to where I live now, and died 2 July 1949 in Abington (Plymouth) Massachusetts. He married 21 November 1902 at Rockland (Plymouth) Massachusetts, Emma Flora Atwood, who was born 5 January 1873 in Abington, and died 2 February 1955 in Foxborough (Norfolk) Massachusetts, daughter of Reuel Gardner and Louisa Jane (Atwood) Atwood.
When Samuel was about 12, he ran away from home because he did not get along with his stepmother. He would not discuss with anyone his whereabouts between leaving home and marrying Emma Flora, although his sons speculated that he probably went to sea. He had been told that his mother was dead, but I discovered that his parents were actually divorced and that his mother was living in the poor house of Stonington with two illegitimate children who were born after the divorce. Samuel was named after his granduncle, Samuel Minor White (1808–1894).
In 1901 Flora was working as a bookkeeper. She was working in Whitman, Massachusetts, where her cousin lived when she met Samuel. Samuel & Flora were married by Fred Hovey Allen, Clergyman. Samuel was a hard-working laborer and in 1905 was working in a box mill. Flora inherited the house at 170 Linwood St. in Abington, where the couple raised their three sons. She had a baby grand piano she loved to play.
In the summer of 1911, Flora & Samuel survived a deadly heatwave that killed more than 2,000 people in the northeastern states.
My grandfather, their son, remembered that the house had a huge elm tree with an oriole nest and a lawn swing. Flora treasured her bed of dark red peonies. The family always had one horse, one cow (sometimes up to three), sometimes pigs, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Samuel worked at a slaughtering house and at times slaughtered his own pigs. Each morning he left a list on the kitchen table of chores to be done by his sons, which weren’t always completed.
During the boys’ college vacations, a man came to cut firewood into stove lengths and all helped to stack the wood in the basement. Samuel also worked for a Mr. Dudley peddling ice. The ice was harvested from Mill Pond and the wagon served the city of Brockton. Sometimes the ice was harvested with horses. The horses pulled chisels which cut the ice, which then floated down the pond where machines pulled it up to the ice house. Sometimes a team of horses would slip into the water. Ladies would have to order the ice desired, and a meat cart came once every two weeks. My grandfather and his brothers would wait for the cart and a slice of bologna was often tossed out to them.
Flora & Samuel were known as Grammy & Grampy to their grandchildren. My mother spoke fondly of them, which is why I wanted to be called Grammy by my grandchildren. Tim didn’t want to be called Grampy, though, so he goes by Grandpa. Samuel died of colon cancer five days before his 76th birthday. Flora died of an ear infection and mastoiditis at the age of 82.
Flora & Samuel were the parents of three sons:
1. Earl Martin “Bob” White, born 5 December 1902 in Rockland, died 9 October 1965, age 62. He married in 1927 in Braintree (Norfolk) Massachusetts, Ruth Lois Tilden, who was born 20 October 1905 in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts, and died 7 July 1991 in Bourne (Barnstable) Massachusetts, daughter of Henry Edward and Ruth Ann (Crocker) Tilden. Bob & Ruth were the parents of two daughters.
2. John Everett White (my grandfather), born 8 June 1905 in Rockland, died 4 April 2001 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, age 95. He married 30 November 1929 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Emma Freeman Thompson, who was born 8 June 1906 in Lynn (Essex) Massachusetts, and died 3 September 1996 in Dennis, daughter of Martin Freeman and Amanda Eliza (Hamblin) Thompson. John & Emma were the parents of two children.
3. Lincoln White, born 11 February 1909 in Abington, died 31 August 1993 in Monson (Hampden) Massachussets, age 84. He married 18 April 1936 in Colrain (Franklin) Massachusetts, Marjorie Elizabeth Cary, who was born there 14 January 1913, and died 5 March 2004 in Wilbraham (Hampden) Massachusetts, daughter of Herbert Francis and Elizabeth (Blagborough) Cary. Lincoln & Marjorie were the parents of two sons.
Tim and I revisited this cemetery on March 5, 2016. Our first visit was so many years ago, but now that I have a better camera I want to return and photograph as many family plots as I can, retracing our steps.
When we went down to visit Larisa & Dima last month, I was pleasantly surprised to find this picture of my grandfather and me pinned to their wall. Larisa must have taken it on one of our many trips to Cape Cod to see him, sometime between 1996 and 2001, I suspect closer to 1996. In either case, Grandfather was in his 90s when this was taken.
But I want to tell a story about a very special time Grandfather & I had together, after my grandmother died and he came to visit me.
Grandfather had a mystery in his family history, a well-guarded secret that I discovered while doing some research. His father, Samuel, who married and settled in Abington, Massachusetts, would not answer any questions his sons asked him about where he was born or who his parents were. But, one day, he relented a little and decided to take his sons to meet their grandfather, William White, who lived in Old Mystic, Connecticut.
Grandfather remembered coming to Mystic by train, as a small boy, with his father and his two brothers. From Mystic they took the trolley to Old Mystic and then walked “a great stretch” to his grandfather’s house. The boys slept in the attic and they saw a sextant stored there. The next day they went clam digging. Their grandfather, William, had a wife who was not their grandmother, and they were instructed to call her, “Aunt Martha.” It was the only time they ever went to visit their grandfather.
When Samuel was a child, he was told his mother had died. He did not get along with his stepmother (Martha), so he ran away as a teenager. But doing some research I discovered the following about his mother, Ellen, in The Stonington Chronology 1649-1949, August 1865:
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.
This was at the end of the Civil War. It seems William & Ellen reconciled for a while after this incident, and had three more sons, but were finally divorced on 26 September 1876, when Samuel, the youngest was three years old.
I also found Ellen four years later, on the 1880 census, age 38, living in the Poor House of Stonington, claiming to be “a widow,” and living there with her were two young illegitimate children, born after she was divorced from William. Their birth records contain statements from William denying paternity.
I often wonder what my 2nd-great-grandparents were like. I don’t feel I can judge Ellen – perhaps William was cold or abusive and she felt driven to find love and comfort elsewhere. Or perhaps she was the irresponsible one, or most likely, they were poorly matched. It’s all very sad and Grandfather was not too pleased to hear about it.
William White’s house is just a few miles from where I live now. When Grandfather was visiting me in the summer of 1999, I asked him if he would like to see the house and he was thrilled with my proposal. After we drove down the driveway I decided to knock on the door and ask if the owner would mind if we took some pictures of the house, hoping they might offer to show us the inside, too. No one answered the door but I could hear two women’s voices in a nearby swimming pool. I tentatively found my way over to the pool and did my best not to startle them with my presence.
At first they were puzzled but when I finally managed to explain why we were there they were very excited to come meet my grandfather, who was waiting patiently in the car. They graciously invited us inside and showed us around and explained what changes and additions had been made in recent years. I could tell Grandfather was taking it all in and was deeply moved.
A few days after I drove him home I received a wonderful thank you letter from him. He said his whole being was bubbling with gratitude for the gift I had given him that day. It seemed like a dream to him and he couldn’t believe he had actually been there.
I still miss my grandfather terribly – losing him was one of the hardest things I ever went through. He was the adult who understood me the most, who supported me when I was a passionate, naive and impulsive teenager, and who would listen to my spiritual longings and doubts without judgment. He was a man of quiet strength and wisdom, a gentle spirit.