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The Family Saga


In 1976, Robert Madden and his wife Marie (Terri) moved to Rowley, MA, where, beginning in 1980 he served on their Planning Commission. Over the next 22 years, he became both Chairman of that Commission and of the Town Board. He died in 2002 and was buried with great honor in the town cemetery. Neither he, his family, nor the other Rowley residents were aware that, in moving to Rowley, Bob had moved back to the home of his forefathers. Over 310 years and 11generations earlier, in about 1656, Robert Smith and his wife Mary moved from Ipswich, where he had been an indentured servant, to Rowley Village, where he had just purchased over 200 acres.

     Robert Smith never served on his town board because Massachusetts Law required full church membership of such officers. He never opted to join. Centuries later, Bob Madden, unimpeded by a religious requirement, served this community for over 20 years.

THE PURITAN ERA (1626-1760)

  Robert Smith (#1)  was the first American forefather
of both Bob Madden and Vernice Smith. Robert was born in 1626 in Kirton, England, a seaside town near “the Wash” on the northeast shore of England. He left England (when he was 11) as an indentured servant for John Wittingham, a Puritan leader. They both arrived in Ipswich, MA, in 1638, as part of the Great Puritan Migration of the 1630s when 20,000 people moved, like them, from England to New England.

 Upon completing the terms of his indenture, Robert, a tailor,
married Mary French and moved to Rowley Village (now Boxford). He died in 1693 after fathering 11 children (five sons). His second oldest son was  Ephraim (#2),  who lived from 1663 to 1733, primarily in Boxford. We know rather few things about him: he was a soldier in 1689 during King William’s War and was the town’s only cabinetmaker. Like his father, he chose not to seek full communion with the Congregational Church. Also, like his father, he had many children: twelve, including 5 sons. Ephraim was in Boxford in 1692 when his brother Samuel testified during the Salem Witch Trial against three of their sister’s in-laws (the Townes) resulting in guilty verdicts for all three and the execution of two. A Boxford historian, writing in 1880, declared that many of Ephraim’s progeny still lived in Boxford. Ephraim’s youngest son,  Abijah (#3) , though, left the area. Like many of the younger grandsons of Puritan founders, he found that sufficient land was unavailable in his home community. 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 (1715-1775) 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.  

THE YEARS IN MAINE(1760 -1880)

After living in Massachusetts for three generations, the
next four generations of Vernice’s ancestors appear in Mid-Maine, the area between the Kennebec and Sheepscot River Valleys. The spur for this change was the fall of the French fortress at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, St Louisburg, in 1760. The capture of that fort meant that the French would no longer be able to supply the Indians who had terrorized this region of Maine over the previous century. Colonist’s had long perceived Mid-Maine as an area rich in fish, lumber and fertile land.  Asa Smith (#4) was among those who saw the opportunity and moved there!

 Asa and two of his brothers, Manasseh and Rogers, left
Leominster sometime in the early sixties and settled in Pownalborough, ME (until 1820, Maine was still a part of Massachusetts).& Asa first appears there in the 1765 census and then again in 1766 when he marries Ruth Averill. The Averill and Smith families both attended the same Topsfield Church in the days of Robert Smith (#1). Ruth was the niece of Job Averill who founded Alna, ME, a part of Pownalborough. Asa’s first child, Asa Jr., was born in 1769 and five other children followed. By 1775, Asa had emerged as a leader/spokesperson for the Alna community as it supported the Patriot side of the American Revolution. A post-revolutionary map (1792) of Alna shows that Asa was a landholder, and city records a few years later document that he was the contractor that built the town’s second bridge across the Sheepscot. Asa died at age 80 in 1823. Asa Smith, Jr., (#5) lived from 1769 to 1808, only 39 years. He married Nancy Singleton in Wiscassett, another part of Pownalborough, in October of 1792. They had 8 children, all born in Dresden, Maine (also part of Pownalborough). Their youngest child, born in 1807, was their only son. When Asa died, Nancy was left to raise their children by herself. Any farmland she may have had was apparently lost. While Asa’s Jr.’s father clearly was a yeoman and landowner, his only son would be a landless “laborer” or “mariner”.

 William “Hiram” Smith, (#6)  lived from 1807 to 1868.
In 1836, he married Mary Ann Morton in Dresden. The Mortons were connected to the shipping industry that had just begun flourishing in the area. William’s brother-in-law, William O’Brine, had a farm on a tributary of the Kennebec River and, in 1840, listed his occupation as “navigation of the ocean”. In 1850, Hiram described his own occupation as “mariner”. In 1860, he had five sons. While he called himself a “day laborer”, his 3 oldest sons were “boatman”, “seaman” and “fisherman”. Edward H. Smith (#7)  was the last of Vernice’s lineage to live primarily in Maine. His life, from 1840 to 1915, was an extraordinary one. From 1850 to 1860, he lived with his uncle, William O’Brine, helping him catch and sell fish. In 1862, Edward enlisted in the Civil War and, like many other northern soldiers, caught malaria and missed much of his regiment’s action. At the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness, he received a head
wound that caused him to require a pension for the rest of his life. After the War, he moved to Richmond, ME, (just across the Kennebec River from Dresden) and helped his uncle William operate a fish stand. By the mid-eighties, though, Edward was doing light work in the W. F. Morgan shoe factory where he worked full time, but at half-wages. Edward married Sarah Green in 1865. The couple had the first of their three sons, William J., in 1867.

 William J. Smith (#8)  was the migrant who brought the family lineage back to the Massachusetts North Shore. William’s first migratory experience came in the early 1870’s when he and his parents trekked to Wisconsin and settled there “for several years”. They returned to Richmond sometime before 1878 when his father, Edward, attended a Regimental Reunion in Augusta, ME.  William’s mother, Sarah, died in 1880 when he was 13. His father remarried within a year. By 1889, William appears in Portland’s City Directory as a “laster”, a special skill of shoemakers.   The 1910 Census reports that William married Elizabeth Savage in about 1890, and that they moved to Lynn, MA, sometime between 1894 and 1898. As both parents were “shoe binders”, the move to Lynn, the center of New England’s shoe and leather industries, was a natural choice. After Elizabeth died in 1927, William lived for some time with his son, Vernice. He died in 1931. Vernice F. Smith (#9)  was born in 1893 in Portland, ME, and died in 1967 at age 73. With Vernice, the family lineage regained its middle class status. By 1900, he and his family had moved to Lynn; ten years later, he was a clerk in a retail shop. He met his wife, Helena Maney, when he was about 20 and driving a streetcar. They were married in 1916. Since Vernice was a Protestant and Helena was a staunch Catholic, this was a very unusual and
controversial marriage for the times. Meanwhile, in 1914, Vernice began his 42 year career as a skilled machinist for the United Shoe Company in Beverly, MA. The couple had four daughters: Gertrude, Eileen, Louise, and Helena (Helene). As Vernice had promised at the time of their betrothal, the children were raised Catholic. The family lived at various locations in Lynn and Beverly until 1938 when Vernice purchased a home at 351 Essex Street for $5100. He commuted from there to Beverly with a car, financing its expenses with charges to his passengers. When their children left home, he remodeled the upper level into a self-sufficient apartment and rented it out. At the time of his death, he was both a homeowner and a landlord. More important, “Grampy” was a great human being, beloved by many for his wisdom, humor, and kindness. He smoked a pipe, loved to fish, and could fix anything. He was the “go to guy” for any problem that needed thoughtful consideration!


 What can we conclude from all this?  First, none of our forefathers were wealthy. Robert Smith started as an indentured servant and built up a moderate land holding. In itself, this was a great achievement! His descendants seem to have successfully clung to middle class status (they owned their homestead) until the early death of Asa Smith, Jr., in 1808. The next three generations of our lineage were laborers.  Vernice - a skilled machinist, homeowner, and landlord- marked a distinct change in family fortune compared to the previous three generations. Second, this part of our lineage is very English.

 Until Vernice, none of his forefathers had married anyone without an English Protestant heritage. One of our ancestors, John Rogers, was a martyr and well-known Protestant icon.    Our first four ancestors only married women from their Boxford-Topsfield Congregational Church connection. Vernice’s marriage to a Catholic was a very sharp break with family tradition!

 Third, there is a record of longevity. Most Smith men lived beyond their sixties. An important exception was Asa Smith, Jr., who lived only to age 39. The Smith men can point to Asa Sr., Edward H., and Vernice who lived to be 80, 75, and 73 respectively. For the Smith women, the Mary Savage story below says it all. Fourth, Smith men married strong women The first three generations of Smith women joined the local church though their husbands did not. They bore many children, yet often outlived their husbands. Consider Asa Jr.’s wife, Nancy Singleton Smith, who raised their 8 children by herself
and managed to marry several of them into a better social situation than she could offer. Also consider Mary Savage, great-grandmother to Elizabeth (William’s wife) who bore 17 children and lived to be 102. Finally, the Smith family  lived  the American story. They were part of the Great Puritan Migration, the Salem Witch Trials, the Great Awakening of the 1730’s, the Era of New England Maritime dominance, the Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution (Shoe industry in Lynn).
Our Smiths were involved in all of it!


 There are some monuments in Maine and Massachusetts that commemorate for us the saga of the Smith family: Memorial stone for Robert Smith (Boxford, MA). A memorial stone for Robert Smith and his son Samuel (forefather of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism) is located in Pine Grove Cemetery.  Parson Capen House (Topsfield, MA).  Pastor Capen was the pastor of Robert and Mary Smith’s congregation from 1680 to 1710. It is open to the public and located near the village green and Highway 97.

 Asa Smith’s Bridge (Alna, ME). In 1798, Asa Smith built a bridge in Alna over the Sheepscot River. While this original has been doubtless replaced, it would be fun to find and see the site.  Shoe Factory (Richmond, ME). This large factory, originally W. F. Morgan and Company, dates from the 1880’s and is still standing. Edward H. Smith definitely worked there, and it is likely that this is where William J. learned how to make shoes. The original owners were from Lynn, MA.

 Edward H. Smith Headstone (Richmond, ME) Town
Records disclose that he is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. I would like to get a photo of the stone.

  Woolwich Historical Museum (Woolwich, ME)  This
museum was the actual home of James and Mary Savage and their children, “the House of the Seventeen Savages”. It is probable that Vernice’s mother, Elizabeth Savage, was raised there. The building is open to the public in the summer months. Call the town hall to arrange a visit during the winter.

 William and Elizabeth Smith Headstone (Lynn, MA).
 This stone is located at Pine Grove Cemetery, 145 Boston Street, Lynn, MA. Vernice and Helena Smith Headstone (Swampscott, MA). This headstone appears in the Swampscott cemetery near 351 Essex


Copyright 2008 by Salemsites.com

Daniel Madden & Mark Lovely

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