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ABOUT ABIJAH

 

(A). From:  In a Nutshell, by Dan Madden:

Abijah Smith, son of Ephraim and grandson of Robert, lived from 1715 to 1785.  Like many of the younger grandsons of Puritan founders, he found that sufficient land was unavailable in his home community (Boxford). So Abijah bought land, first in Lunenburg, MA, and later in Leominster, 50 miles east of Boxford, where he settled. There, in 1740, he married Lydia Rogers, the daughter of Reverend John Rogers, Abijah’s pastor while he lived in Boxford. This Rev. John Rogers was a descendant of a famous martyr (with the same name) to the Puritan cause who was burned at the stake in 1555. Abijah and Lydia had 11 children, five of them sons. While in Leominster, the couple was embroiled in a stressful conflict over theology that tore the community apart during the 1750’s. This turmoil resulted when revitalized Christians, a product of the Great Awakening of the 1730s, demanded the firing of Lydia’s liberal and pre-Unitarian brother, also named Reverend John Rogers.

 

(B). From: The Vital Records of Leominster, Massachusetts to the end of the year 1849

Published in Worcester, MA 1911, By Franklin P. Rice, (1896).

 

Attached, please find the vital records for Abijah and Lydia Smith.  Leominster was established as a town in 1740, if there were children born before that time we would not have them.  The town previously was a part of Lancaster.  In those early years, there was only one church, it was the same as other Massachusetts communities of the time, CongregationalIt is still here, but has evolved to the First Universal Universalist Church.  The vital record's book listed one child's baptism which would have occurred at that church. 

Sincerely,

Sandy Balboni

Leominster Historical Society

Children born to Abijah and Lydia Smith in Leominster, MA:

Abijah s. Oct. 29, 1740, (in Lunenburg, MA)

Apphia, d. Dec. 29, 1762, died Feb. 14, 1763

Asa, s. Aug. 6, 1743

Eli, s. Jan 18, 1747, married Eleanor Haynes in Sudbury, Nov.28, 1768

Lydia, d. Feb. 9, 1752, baptized Mar 1, 1752: married Calvin Graves, July 31, 1773, in Lunenburg

Lucy, d. Dec. 30, 1754, married Jeddiah Tuttle of Ipswich, May 6, 1779.

Mannaseh, s. Dec. 14, 1748.

Rogers, s. Jan. 6, 1742.

Silas, s. Mar. 18, 1745, died Apr. 18, 1753.

Silas, s. Nov. 22, 1758, married Molly Stearns, Nov. 9, 1780 in Littleton, MA.

Theresa, d. Apr. 7, 1760, married Jeremiah Lord of Winchendon, MA, Oct 21, 1781.

 

(C). From: Abijah and Leominster History, Comments by Jeannine Levesque:

Hello to you!

So far, I don’t have a lot of answers to your specific questions, but here’s what I’ve found so far.

First, occupation. I’ve found nothing in writing, but just about all of the settlers were farmers. They had to be, as the land needed to be cleared and planted, with all the accompanying work, and food had to be provided for their families. Some small concerns such as sawmills, tanneries and the like were also erected and run in town, but I have not seen Abijah Smith’s name connected to any of them. (And it would seem that these usually operated in addition to the family farming.)

Next: location of the Smith family land: It may be known or knowable, but not with what we at the Leominster Library have with us here in our temporary quarters. I can’t recall just now whether we might have some old maps or anything that might help in that regard. Rather than wait for us to move back into the library downtown (spring of 2007) and get all of our materials back from storage, you might want to check with the Leominster Historical Society (www.leominsterhistorical.org; 17 School St. is the address, telephone 978-537-5424) on this question and on Abijah and his family more generally. Though it is a volunteer organization, open only a few mornings a week (you can leave a message through the web site or over the telephone, and someone will get back to you), the society has a lot of good stuff and some very good people to help you in locating and sorting through it.

Thirdly, religion: In the 1700s, there was basically only one religion practiced/allowed around here in Massachusetts, and that’s what we today consider Congregationalism, basically a Calvinist Protestant church. Documents of the time considered it “a Christian Church,” the one in Leominster being officially incorporated September 14, 1743, some three years after the town itself was incorporated. (One condition of a town being incorporated and granted a charter was that it would establish a church and settle a minister within a few years. No separation of church and state then.) The Rev. John Rogers was ordained the pastor of the church the same day as the church was incorporated. Sixteen members subscribed to the covenant that first day.

 In the first meeting house, or church, 17 pews – counting one for the minister – were established; the other 16 to be erected by families selected according to “real and personal estate,” according to a vote of the town in 1744. Abijah Smith, who was married to the minister’s sister Lydia or Lidia, apparently was well-enough off: he qualified to select and pay for Pew No. 4.  (People beyond the 16 families designated to build their own pews had to sit in benches in the middle of the church, segregated by sex.)

 

When I first read about the pews, in an article about the church’s 150th anniversary, I understood the 16 to be the first 16 covenant signers; but Abijah is not listed among them on the microfilm the library has of the Church records. (His wife, Lydia, “owns the covenant” not too long after the church is established, however. Hmm…)

You may know about the dispute that I’m about to refer to, if you know about Lydia/Lidia’s family, but anyway…

Some 14 years after he was “established,” the Rev. Rogers had a falling-out with his congregation on several religious matters, including the doctrines of original sin, the godhead of Jesus Christ and, I believe, infant baptism – matters on which his continuing religious studies had prompted him to differ from John Calvin’s doctrines. The church’s anniversary article refers to Rogers as “strong in the support of his old friends and their families, the strong family influence of his brother Nathaniel, of Dr. Jacob Peabody who married his eldest sister, and Abijah Smith, another brother-in-law.” The split began in 1757 and led, in 1762, to the establishment of a “Second Precinct” in which the Rev. Rogers preached to his (continuing) followers while the rest of the town and congregation eventually chose another, more orthodox minister more to their liking.

After reading this last piece, I was sure that Abijah and his family had withdrawn with the Rogers partisans. Imagine my surprise, then, when, in reading through the First Church records we have on microfilm, I found none of the children’s baptisms was listed after Lucy’s in 1755 (before the break) … until I looked at those performed, not by the Rev. Rogers but by the ministers of the “orthodox” First Church. That was where I found the baptisms of the second Silas (in December 1758), Theresa (1760) and Apphia/Alpphia, born at the end of 1762 and baptized early in 1763 (I couldn’t make out the exact month, but I think it was January; she died in March). So apparently Abijah Smith, the Rev. Rogers’ brother-in-law, stood with the majority of the church and not with the minister in this after all.

Interestingly enough, though, Abijah’s eldest son, referred to as Abijah Jr., apparently broke with his father, because his son, also named Abijah, was baptized during this time, by the Rev. Rogers, on Nov. 3, 1765

Your remaining specific question is the one I’ve really been trying to find an answer to. You asked where Abijah, Lydia and (I presume you mean?) their sons are buried. Easier asked than answered.

First, as you may know, Abijah and Lydia had 11 children. Two died young: The first Silas, born 1745, died at age 8 in 1753; and the last, a daughter, Apphia or Alphia (one place rendered it “Sofia,” which makes a lot more sense to me!), born December 1762 and died March 1763. These two children died in Leominster, but no specific burial site is mentioned. They may have been buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery, which still exists adjacent to Carter Park downtown; or their graves might have been in the former burial ground that was located just off Day Street. (A boulder/marker at the side of the street indicates that the graveyard used to exist near there; the graves were never located enough to move, alas, and there are no records of those buried there. Nor are there any Smiths listed in the existing records of those buried at Pine Grove.)

There are, however, no listings in Leominster vital records for the deaths of Abijah (senior or junior, or even the grandson!), nor for Lydia, nor Asa (born 1743 and the one to whom you are connected, as you put it). In fact, I have not been able to locate a marriage for Asa; the only one listed in the Leominster records is surely not his, as it takes place in 1816 when your Asa would be 73 years old and hardly likely to produce progeny! The Asa (“of Leominster”) who weds Charlotte Partridge in Holden in 1816 is likely the other Asa born in Leominster, on March 12, 1784, son of Silas and Molley (sic) Smith, and in fact the nephew of your Asa. An age of 32 at the marriage in 1816 (Charlotte was born March 30, 1797, in Holden) would be more like it.

I’m still searching the vital records books of surrounding towns, trying to figure out where Abijah, Lydia, your Asa and the others may have moved to. Through the Leominster records I found marriages for Asa’s siblings Eli, Lucy, Lydia, Silas (the one who survived to adulthood, obviously) and Theresa. Abijah Junior seems to have married (since there is the grandson Abijah), but I’ve not yet found anything or, more to the point, any WHERE. Since Junior was himself born in Lunenburg, I’ve tried to determine whether his folks might have moved back there (especially if they got tired of the religious mess in Leominster), but I’ll have to make another go at the published records, as they are not necessarily clear or complete.

So, that’s where I am for now. I’ll keep poking away. I’ve also started looking through “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War” in case any of the sons – Asa, Manasah, Rogers – served. They’d have been in their 30s, but that’s not at all out of the question. In fact, I’ve found a few pages’ worth of Asas… just have to look through and see if I can get anywhere with them.

I did find one solitary Manasseh – ours? – who served as chaplain for Col. Asa Whitcomb’s regiment in Cambridge, where men from the Leominster area served, in 1775, and for Col. Josiah Whitney’s regiment in 1776. (The 1853 history of Leominster by David Wilder lists Manasseh Smith, “a son of Abijah Smith,” as a 1773 graduate of Harvard who was a “Counsellor at Law, in Maine,” (p.86) presumably after the war. Maine was part of Massachusetts until it became a separate state in 1820.)

So I’ll keep plugging away, as a former boss used to say. If you have any information, or ideas, on whom Asa married and/or where, that would be helpful. As it stands now, however, it would appear that most of the family moved away from Leominster, except for Silas – and it may be through him that Wilder, the 1853 historian, is able to say that “some of those farms still remain with the same metes and bounds that were established one hundred and twenty-five years ago. And a few of them continue to be owned, either in whole or in part, by the lineal male descendants of the first settlers…Levi Smith… [is] of the fourth generation from … Abijah Smith.” (p. 31)

(D). From: Did Abijah Move to New Ipswich, NH?, Comments by Jeannine Levesque:

 I just came across some additional information on Abijah Smith’s family when he/they left Leominster, and I thought I’d pass it along to you. It does not, alas, clarify anything regarding son Asa – though I may have found something on him after all – but more on that afterward.

The library has had a manuscript copy of a Roger’s Family Genealogy, prepared in 1950 by Ada W. Rogers. It didn’t occur to me to check it for more than a passing mention of the Smiths until I came across a reference in a card index prepared by Florence E. Wheeler (librarian 1902-1949) indicating more about Abijah and his family was at the back of the Rogers manuscript. So….

Taken from the Chandler’s History of New Ipswich, N.H., p. 809:

            “Abijah Smith, b. 1715, or a little later; d. Jan. 10 1785. m. Lydia, dau Rev. John Rogers, minister at Boxford, Mass. (b. Aug. 7, 1720.). He lived at Leominster. Abijah Smith Jr., son of Abijah & Lydia, b. O. 29, 1740; d. N. 13, 1786; m. 1764, Abigail Wheelock, of Leominster; d. Dec. 4, 1815. She m. 2nd David Hills. He came from Leominster to New Ipswich about time of marriage. His name first appears on records in 1764.”

The “he” of the next-to-last sentence seems to be Abijah Jr. An asterisked note after this entry in the Rogers manuscript says: “It is possible that Abijah Smith, Sr. left Leominster about same time. His name is not on Leominster records after 1763.” That I have confirmed previously; the last note I found of him was in 1763, the baptism then death and burial of his last child, Apphia/Alpphia (Sophia?).

Miss Wheeler’s card indexing information from the Chandler History of New Ipswich specifies that Abijah Jr. came to New Ipswich around the time of his marriage, his name first appearing in records there in 1764. The card adds that he was a shoemaker and farmer, and that he served in the French & Indian War. It also says he was a captain in the Revolutionary War, serving some <number left blank> months.

Abijah, Jr. getting married and living in New Ipswich doesn’t really interfere with what I found about the baptism of his first child in 1765: That he had his great-uncle, the Rev. John Rogers, who was in the midst of the dispute with his congregation in Leominster, baptize the third Abijah Smith in Leominster on Nov. 3, 1765. He must have been able to travel down for that to be done. Though I thought one of the points of dispute between the Rev. Rogers and his full congregation had been that very thing: infant baptism. Hmm….)

Alas, I cannot fill in the blank in the number of months of Abijah Jr.’s Revolutionary War service since our copy of the New Ipswich history is one of the many we have in storage during our stay in temporary quarters. (Only a few months more now, only a few months more….)

But, though I may be reading too much into this, it looks to me like a good possibility that Abijah, Sr. and Jr, both lived the rest of their lives and then died in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. No death date is given for Lydia, but she may also have died there. There’s then a good chance that is where they are buried.

You might want to contact the town clerk and/or the historical society in New Ipswich. I don’t have a telephone book from there, but the numbers and/or e-mail sites should be available over the Internet.

Hope this finds you well. Happy hunting – I’ll keep doing what I can at this end.

Sincerely,

Jeannine

Jeannine T. Levesque

Leominster Public Library

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