Saturday, March 19, 2011

Notable Women Ancestors: Elizabeth Martin Colman

Elizabeth was born on 12 June 1744 in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. She was the sixth of twelve children of John Martin and Elizabeth Thomson. The family had moved west from Ipswich about 1739. These were unsettled times on the "frontier" and Lunenburg was the fortified center of the region.

Her father died before she was twelve years old, and a month before the birth of her twin sisters, Prudence and Patience. He had been in the militia, but the cause of his death is not found. The family remained in the area and we must assume that her mother remarried, but the record has not been found. It is hard to imagine being a mother of 12 alone at any time, but somehow she went on. Elizabeth named David Goodridge as her guardian in documents filed with the Worcester County Courts. That is where her signature (above) was found. In 1762 her father’s property was probated and Elizabeth received a parcel of approximately 3.6 acres adjacent to the “widow’s wood lot.” In 1767 the property was transferred to David Goodridge.

When John Martin died his estate included a “note of James Colman.” Elizabeth married James’ son Job on 20 February 1766 in Lunenburg. Her sister Susannah married Job’s brother Benjamin Colman a few years later. Their first child, Mary, was born at or near Lunenburg on 15 October 1766. Son Samuel was born 28 September 1768 in Ashburnham. He was followed by Elizabeth on 11 August 1770.

About 1772 the family moved west to Shelburne. Another son, John, was born on 21 June of that year. Their farm was near the Deerfield River and neighbors included the Parker Dole family. Children born in Shelburne included Rachel Andrews born 21 June 1774 and Benjamin born 3 July 1776, who died just after his first birthday, on 18 August 1777. He was buried in the Shelburne hill cemetery. Other children were lost to an epidemic that summer, including neighbor Enoch Dole.

Job served in the Revolutionary War, marching with the Minutemen on 20 April 1775 for 15 days, and again for 36 days in 1777. The time he was away was short, but the uncertainty of the times must have weighed on the family.

Daughter Rhoda was born in Shelburne 18 May 1778, followed by Benjamin on 9 October 1780, Joseph Emerson on 21 December 1783, Zenus on 21 October 1785, and Zur on 15 June 1789. Elizabeth had borne 11 children before she was 46.

About 1796 the family moved north to Royer Road in the town of Heath, MA. There are reports that they may have operated a tavern. Their property was located at a crossroads known as "Colman's corner." Mary, Samuel, and Rachel had already married. Mary lived nearby with her husband Thomas Town and children. Samuel and Rachel had moved west to central New York state. Shortly after the turn of the seventeenth century Benjamin moved to Vermont and John may have followed to New York.

The Colman family was stricken by typhus, along with some neighbors, in 1805. That summer must have been unimaginably painful for Elizabeth. Rhoda died on 8 July at the age of 27; Zenus died on 2 August at the age of 20; Joseph Emerson died on 5 August at the age of 22. A month later her husband Job died on 2 September at the age of 64, and Elizabeth succumbed on 25 October 1895. She was 61 years old. No monuments mark their graves in the Shelburne hill cemetery. The youngest, Zur, was spared. He lived in Phelps, NY for a time and ended his life in Michigan.

A detailed inventory of the estate was performed and it paints a picture of their domestic life. There was livestock and a sleigh. Their home was populated by a looking glass, a clock, five beds, a chest, a large bible and psalm book, as well as a book of music. The table had seven plates, a fancy bowl, platter, butterboat, teapot. They had 14 sheets, towels and pillow cases. The image "one cotton sock, unfinished" brings a picture to mind of the knitting basket by the fire.

Notable Women Ancestors: Abigail Lawrence Dole

I choose to believe that all of my ancestors were "notable," especially the unsung women. The lives they lived and the changes they experienced are intriguing in a historical perspective.

Abigail Lawrence began her life in colonial north-central Massachusetts, born 26 July 1745 in Groton, MA. She was the eighth of eleven children of Jonathan Lawrence and Tripheuny Powers. The Lawrence family multiplied in the region and she was likely surrounded with extended family as a child. A significant event that has been found in historic records tells us that her oldest brother was in the militia and was captured by Indians in 1748 and taken to Canada for several months. Although only three, the worry of her elders must have had an impact in her life.

Abigail lost her mother when she was only seven. She had older brothers and sisters to guide her and after two years her father remarried. When she was 16 she married Parker Dole, who had also been born and raised in the area. Although he was five years older than she, he had sisters of her age. Could that be how they got acquainted? The couple had four sons in the next ten years: Isaac, Parker, Josiah and Moses. A four year gap may indicate the loss of a baby, but none is found in the records. Their livestock was listed in the Littleton tax valuation of 1771: 2 oxen, 2 cattle, 3 goats and sheep, 1 swine.

Their first daughter Abigail "Nabby" was born in October of 1773 in Ashby, which was about the time the family moved west to Shelburne, on the Deerfield River. Their son Enoch was born in 1776 and died the next year in an epidemic that took many young children in town. We know of at least one other family, the Job Colman family, who came from Ashby and settled nearby. They also lost a son, Benjamin, in August of 1777. Their son Samuel was to become Nabby's husband. Abigail named her next son Enoch as well, born in 1779, and the Colmans had another Benjamin. Enoch was followed by Triphenia, Lydia, Lucy and Levi; in all eleven children over a 30 year period. The circle of life continued, with the older sons beginning their families at the same time that her child-bearing years ended. Most continued to live nearby.

Abigail's husband Parker held several offices in the town of Shelburne including Surveyor of Highways, School Committee, and Constable. He wrote a will in 1813 shortly before he died at 73. All of their children were still living, and only Lucy and Levi were unmarried. Abigail was given 1/3 of the estate during her lifetime. Levi married three times, and we can assume they lived together at the family home. Lucy married in 1826. A structure that was reportedly their home at the end of Barnard Road only recently was razed. It had been empty for years.

When Abigail died January 12, 1829 the newspaper reported that it was accidental. She was 83 years old. Her obituary states, "In her last illness, which continued five months and was particularly distressing, she was sustained by the consolations of gospel hope; a numerous posterity survive her, consisting of 10 children, 58 grandchildren and 50 great-grandchildren."