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  • Family Legends: George Webber

    Daniel A. Packard

    Published Date : April 1986
    My most interesting ancestor was the principal figure in a family legend I first heard 70 years ago.

    The story of how I first heard of it, and the things that took place over the years about it, is more interesting than the story of the man himself.

    Between 1914 and 1919 I was allowed to spend the month of July on my mother’s home farm.  Nearby was another farm where her mother was born.

    My great uncle Henry Webber lived on this second farm.  He had enlisted in the Second Maine Regiment as a drummer boy at the age of 15.  His drum and uniform were still with him, and he loved to tell a cousin and me of his Civil War experiences.

    But…at the end of his stories he always stated that his contributions to our country were not as important as those of his ancestor who served in the Revolution and was with Washington crossing the Delaware.  He did not know the ancestor’s name or have any proof of his story.  So the family legend came to my attention.

    The legend was forgotten until 1941, when we had a family reunion in Maine.  At this time members of the Packard, Nealley, and Webber families told what they knew about their ancestors.  My mother took detailed notes. The legend was of course repeated.

    These notes, which she gave me, were my introduction to genealogy.

    Again, nothing happened until 1950, when the retired father of a family friend in Detroit whose hobby was genealogy, asked me if I had any information on my family.  I gave him the notes my mother had recorded.

    During the next five years my friend filled a man’s suit box with letters and other data he collected about my family.  In all of this was information giving me several lines to the Mayflower Society and the Revolution but no proof of the Webber legend.

    Again, the data stayed in the box untouched until 1977, when I met John Williamson here in Asheville.  At the time, John was Governor of our state Mayflower Society.  When asked if I had any family data, I told him of the box of letters.  John talked me into researching lines for Mayflower membership.  Within a year I had eight lines accepted.

    With this interest in family history uncovered, and now with time to work on it, I tackled the family legend.

    All I had to start with was the name of my great-great-grandfather, where he lived, and complete data from him to the present.

    I started with trying to find data in his town of Richmond, Maine.  I found no records that early.  From there to the Maine State Library without success, then on to Massachusetts Revolutionary War Records, Revolutionary War Pensions – still no help because I did not know his name.

    Next, to the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake. No success.

    Then in 1985, The New England Historic Genealogical Society started a new publication, The NEXUS, that would accept queries.  Why not try it? I sent the following:

    “John Webber and wife Mercy Jane Harlow lived in Richmond, Maine where their son Bradford Webber was born in 1805.  Family legend says John’s father was a Revolutionary soldier, and was with Washington crossing the Delaware.  Need confirmation of this.”

    On March 13, 1985, it happened!  A long letter from George Rogers of South Weymouth, Massachusetts, arrived, telling me he was a great-great-great-grandson of George Webber, who was the father of my great-great-grandfather John Webber.  He enclosed a three column newspaper story, published many years ago in the Lewiston, Maine, Journal, telling the whole story, and wrote that

    “George Webber was born in a stockade near South Portland, Maine, where his father and two brothers settled when they came from England.  George and his cousin Abigail, who George married after the War, grew up in daily fear of the Indian raids.  The story gave his War record, showing that he enlisted on July 15, 1778, served first as a Sergeant in Massachusetts Regiment.  Then as a Lieutenant with Lafayette, and finally with Washington with whom he crossed the Delaware.  His discharge was signed by Washington.  He was granted 80 acres near Richmond, Maine, for his service.  The article went on to tell of his family, and had a picture of the family home, which at the time of the article was occupied by a descendant."

    [72]

    Also included in the material George Rogers sent was data from the National Archives confirming the whole story.  Seventy years after first hearing the story as a small boy, I found it to be true.  My great-great-great-grandfather, George Webber, must be my most interesting ancestor.

    By Daniel A. Packard
    Arden, North Carolina

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