William Longfellow's ancestry has been traced to an area in the West Riding of Yorkshire, just to the north and west of the city of Leeds. The Longfellow name can be found in records as far back as the 1400s. He was named for his father, William Longfellow who was a well to do Draper, clothes maker, who resided in the village of Horsforth. William Jr. seems not to have trained in his father's profession. His mother was Elizabeth Thornton. He was their oldest child and the only one who immigrated. The actual year of his immigration is not known, but he was in Massachusetts by 1676 when his name began appearing in town and court records.
No one seems to know for sure when William arrived in Massachusetts. He was definitely in the town of Newbury by 1676 when his name was included on a list for the town tax rate. I have read that William ran a store at the falls on Parker River, but I am not sure where that information comes from and I haven't seen anything in the records which would confirm it. If anyone knows more about this, please let me know.
One interesting thing I did stumble across on americanancestors.org was a copy of a deed written in 1675. The sellers of the land, Merry's Island in Maine, were Robart and Mary Thornton. One of the witnesses was William Lowfellow. If you read my last post about William Longellow's ancestors you might remember that one of the candidates for fathering William's mother, Elizabeth Thornton, was a Robart Thornton. Could this be Elizabeth's parents or maybe a brother? Is the name Lowfellow really Longfellow. That would be really cool to find that one out.
The best source for information about William Longfellow is the court records of Essex County. William seems to have always been in some sort of a pickle. His name began to crop up in 1676 and from then on, he was often in court. Because of the frequency of his court appearances after 1676, it makes me think that his arrival might have been closer to 1675 than 1670. I don't see how he could have keep himself out of trouble for so long!
a very crazy butt
In September of 1677 William Longfellow faced Hugh Marsh in court. The case is a bit convoluted but here's the story. William Chandler arrived at the home of Mr. Henry Sewall on 8 September 1676. He was there to get two casks of wine for Hugh Marsh, one was a Passado wine and the other wine was called Fayall. The casks were located in the lean-to of the house. William Chandler said that William Longfellow was there when he arrived and said that he was was drawing wine out of one of the casks with a funnel. Longfellow said that he was getting wine for his upcoming wedding. They loaded one of the casks onto the back of Chandler's wagon without difficulty. The second cask, from which Longfellow was removing wine was described as a 'very crazy butt'. Together they got the cask on the edge of the wagon, but because it was so wonky the 'head flew out' and some of the wine was spilled. The wine flowed into the house through the lean-to all the way to the fireplace. William Chandler testified that the wine was down about 9 inches, but that it was in 'pipes' and not 'butts'. William Longfellow then roped in Joshua Richardson as a witness, saying that if the 'wine was lost' in the house it was his but it was lost outside it was the Marshes. Which I interpret to mean, any damage done inside the lean-to was the responsibility of Longfellow and any damage done outside was the responsibility of Hugh Marsh. The wine eventually made its way to the Marsh home. Hugh Marsh then measured the volume of wine and found it not to his liking. He then sued William for the cost of the missing wine.
sued by his father-in-law
William was back in court in November of 1677, this time he was being sued by his father-in-law. He was apparently supposed to pay a debt by bill of exchange to a man in Boston, England, which he failed to do. Henry was suing him to recover the debt. A writ had been served to William in October by the marshal of Ipswich, he had taken a slave and three cows from William to cover the cost of a debt. The slave, whose name was not mentioned, stated that Mr. Henry Sewall had sold him to William Longfellow.
At this same court, 16 year old Mary Williams, a servant of Hugh March, testified that William came to her master's house and called for "wine, beer, victuals, cider and sometimes rum". Mr. March must have been running an inn or an ordinary. Anyway, it seems William had run up quite a tab and had not paid a penny for two years. Later in the November session Hugh March sued William Chandler, the man who dropped the wine cask. Hugh accused him of carelessly staving a butt of Passado wine. Chandler was apparently a cooper. Several men who were there when the cask was dropped testified that they had warned him not to lift the cask the way he was doing at the time as they felt it would burst, but he said he had handled many a cask of wine and knew what he was doing. Obviously, he was wrong.
In late 1677 the court verdict was against William in both the lawsuit brought by Henry Sewall and Hugh March. Because he was unable to pay his debts to Henry, the court made him his servant for seven years.
A year later William was back in court but this time he was doing the suing. He had been given land in Rowly from his wife's grandfather Henry Sewall Sr. and he felt that the Rowley lot layers had shortchanged him some land, or gate rights, in the cow common. This case dragged out for quite some time, but eventually William won.
While this case played out William was in court accusing Mr. Nehemiah Jewett of "violently seizing his money under pretense of executing his office of marshal's deputy. The court found in his favor and ordered his money returned.
more court cases
In Sept. of 1679 William was in court for fighting. November saw him back in court suing Pennell Titcombe for debt. This debt had to do with a 1676 agreement between Willliam Longfellow and Pennell concerning the building and ownership of a ship called Beginning which was built at Newbury Falls by John Haseltine. William lost this court case and Pennell Ticombe was awarded William's gate rights in the town of Rowley.
The same rights he had just sued the lot layers of Rowley to get.
In 1681 he was in court making a very public and very humiliating confession of killing a neighbor's steer, butchering it and burying the hide and remains. He and a friend hatched a plan to capture and kill a neighbors steer, presumably for the meat. William confessed to the crime before he was arrested, he probably knew it was coming. He claimed in his confession that he was "frequently and earnestly solicited to do what he did". He said that he was told not to tell of the crime but that the weight of his guilt forced him to confess. Sure it did.
1683 saw William in court yet again. He had captured a mare who was loose in John Moore's pasture. The mare. The rightful owner was suing to get his mare and colt back. William claimed he had put a 'klodg' on the mare's hoof. William, of course, lost.
marriage and family
On 10 November 1676, William married Ann Longfellow. The date of their marriage is often said to be in 1678, but if he was getting wine for his wedding in September 1676, it would make sense if he was getting married in a couple of months, rather than two years later.
Ann was the daughter of Henry Sewall Jr. of Newbury. She was born on 3 September 1662. She was a very young bride, only 14 at the time of her wedding. What was Henry thinking? Was he indulging a daughter, was William handsome and charming? Did William love her, or did he love the fact that her father was wealthy? Hum, we will never know, but that doesn't stop me from wondering.
Ann gave birth to their first child, a boy named William, on 25 November 1679. They would have at least 5 children. In the Diary of Samuel Sewall, Vol. 1 it is said that there were two more children who died before 1692, if there were their names were not recorded in the Newbury town records.
1. William, b. 25 November 1679
2. Stephen b. 10 January 1681, d. young
3. Ann b. 3 October 1683
4. Stephen b. 22 September 1685
5. Elizabeth b. 3 July 1688
6. Nathan b. 5 February 1689/90
In 1680 Samuel Sewall wrote a letter to his brother Stephen, who lived in England. He asked Stephen to tell William Longfellow's father that he has a son, a "fine, lively child". He also says to tell William Sr. that his son has a a very good piece of land and wants a little stock to manage it. He tells his brother that their father, Henry Sewall has already spent almost 100 pounds to get William out of debt. I think he was thinking it was time someone else footed the bill for William Longfellow, like maybe his own father!
In a diary entry dated 3 December 1685, Samuel Sewall, records that 'Brother Longfellow' came in. He states that his presence was some 'exercise' for him as William was so ill conditioned and outwardly shabby. And this was not the first time he has seen him so. He says that he appeared like that at either his father's funeral, in 1683 or at Johnny's. Samuel had a son named John who died in 1678 and he was probably speaking of his father-in-law, John Hull who died in 1683. William's appearance, he said, humbled him.
return to england
In September 1687 William's brother Nathan died in Horsforth, England. William returned to England shortly after getting word of his brother's death, probably no sooner than the beginning of 1688 given how long it would take for a letter to arrive, William to decide to return, and waiting for a ship that was sailing for England. It has been surmised that he was hoping to gain from Nathan's death in some fashion. I think he just went back hoping to score some money off his old man. He would have been his father's only male heir and maybe he thought he could get some of his inheritance a little bit early. We don't know how long he was gone, but I imagine it was for several months at the very least. It would seem he returned home empty handed.
On 20 August 1690 Major General Sir William Phips set sail from Hull, Massachusetts to take Quebec for the English Crown. He had fought successfully in Acadia earlier in the year and there was hope for greater glory. He had 34 ships and 2300 men, mostly farmers. The venture was financed by the sale of bonds, bonds that would be repaid with the expected plunder of the city. The ships sailed up the St. Lawrence Seaway and anchored in the Quebec Basin on October 16th. The battle is a disaster for Massachusetts. Although only about 30 men died in the battle, it is believed that as many as 1000 died from illness, many of them from smallpox. On October 25, Phips had had enough and the fleet sails for home. One ship was lost at sea on that return voyage. The remaining ships returned and brought back a smallpox epidemic with them.
Poor William Longfellow, both literally and figuratively poor, had enlisted with this expedition. He was 40 years old. Was he hoping to profit himself from the plunder, was he hoping to be given land for his service?Whatever hopes and dreams he had drowned with him when his ship was lost at sea on the return voyage. He left behind a 28 year old wife with six small children. The youngest child, Nathan, was just a baby. Did Ann mourn his loss or was she relieved that he was gone? I bet her father and brothers felt well rid of him.
When he died, William's estate was valued at 127 pounds. His debts totaled over 226 pounds. As late as 1756 claims were still being made against his estate for from men and women and their heirs to whom he owed money.
my next blog post will be about Ann and her marriage to Henry Short.
Farnham, Russell, C. "The Longfellow Family", The Essex Genealogist, Vol. 15, pg. 18-23
Memoirs and Services of Three Generations. General Joseph Cilley, First New Hampshire Line. War of the Revolution. Jonathan Longfellow, Father of Sarah, Wife of General Joseph Cilley. Colonel Joseph Cilley, U.S. Senator and Officer in the War of 1812. Honorable Jonathan Cilley, Member of Congress from Maine. Commander Greenleaf Cilley, War with Mexico and War of 1861. General Jonathan P. Cilley, First Maine Cavalry, War of the Rebellion. Reprint from the Courier-gazette. Rockland, Me.: n.p., 1909. Print.
Records and Files of the Quarterly Court of Essex
Tucker, Spencer, Almanac of American Military History, Vol. 1, pg. 101-102
Diary of Samuel Sewall