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  • A Phillips Line in Groton and Pepperell, Massachusetts: Town Meeting Records Solve a Problem

    Who was Abigail Phillips?

    Helen S. Ullman

    She married, 5 May 1774, in Pepperell, Mass, Oliver Newhall, son of Jeremiah and Sarah Newhall.  She was born in Lynn, 17 Aug. 1749.

    The first place to look for Abigail’s family was Pepperell and Groton from which Pepperell was established in 1742.

    There was apparently one Phillips family in the towns.  But was it the right line?  Pepperell vital records have never been published and are not very plentiful for the mid 1700's. Many church records were copied into the town books.  Mr. George Rice (Mason St. Retirement Park, Lot 39, Pepperell, Mass 01463) is almost ready to publish his collection of town, church, cemetery and miscellaneous vital records.

    One of the few Phillips vital records in Pepperell is a death, "Feb. 23, 1760, Phillips, Isaac, m[ale], age 42, tumor testium.”  Was this Abigail's father?  Another death four years earlier was of a child: “Sept. 20, 1756 Phillips m[ale], 11 mos.,” born Pepperell , parents Isaac Phillips b. Groton and Abigail Nutting.  Were these also Abigail’s parents?

    In Groton, Isaac Phillips and “Abigal” Nutting were married, 16 Sept. 1740 (1741 in Church records).  (The 1749 in one place in the printed records was found to be an error when compared to the original.)

    Were there other children also?  An Isaac Phillips of Groton and Pepperell was a private in the Revolution.  He was reported sick in camp, 4 Apr. 1778, and died 12 Apr., that year at Valley Forge (Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolution, and Company Muster Rolls, National Archives, GSA. A Reliefe Phillips married Ebenezer Kemp, Jr., in Groton, 31 August 1773, an important year as will be apparent later.  A Lemuel Phillips also had a child in Groton in 1776 and another died in Pepperell in 1782.

    Isaac Phillips owned no land in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  Nor is there any record of probate for him or his wife.  He is clearly one of the sons of Seth and Lydia Phillips of Groton according to Seth’s will dated 27 July 1751 and proved 8 Sept. 1757 (Middlesex Probate #17345).  Seth’s widow Lydia married, second Samuel Kemp, on 26 June 1759, at Pepperell.  Neither probate nor deeds relate her further to Isaac.

    Also, who was Abigail Nutting?  Might her parents’ probates help?  There were at least two such Abigalls at the time in Groton, daughters of Ebenezer and Eleazer.  Clearly Eleazer’s daughter married Joseph5 Whitney.  But was Isaac’s Abigail the daughter of Ebenezer and Ruth who left no probate and perhaps had even left Groton?  A 1762 deed was the last trace of them there as far as can be told.  A lengthy search of town meeting records might be worth the time.

    Pepperell meetings began at Groton West Parish 19 Jan. 1742.  On 2 March 1757, it was voted “that Isaac Phillips rates be abated.”  Had he worked on the roads? Or, was he ill with the “tumor testium”? On 13 October 1760 it was “Voted to abate ye rates of Isaac Phillips, deceasd… and on the same day also was “voted Nehemiah Hobart, Charles Wetherell and Edmond Bancroft, a Committe to take some proper method to see if they can oblige Ebenezer Nutting of Groton to take care of ye children of Isaac Phillips late of Pepperell deceased.”

    Surely, Ebenezer was the grandfather.  There is no mention of widow Abigail.

    (Of further interest from the Pepperell records: Oliver Newhall was elected Surveyor of Highways in 1778 but he does not appear again as a town officer.  On the contrary, on 7 January 1791. he, wife Abigail and children Oliver, Ezekiel, Daniel, Sarah, Elizabeth, John, Polly, Joseph and Rebecca were warned out of town along with many others.  However, they did not leave!  Oliver died there as a Revolutionary War pensioner.) (Middlesex Probate, 1839.)

    Groton town meeting records held further clues. In May 1757 it was voted not to abate the rates of Ebenezer Nutting but in February 1759 "voted to abate rates of Ebenr Nutting, Decd.

    Three years later “Isaac Phillips last from Pepperell was warned out….May 25, 1772." Then “Abigail Phillips, Jr. [sic] (Daugr of Isaac Phillips, Decd), last from Pepperell,” was warned out in February 1773.  A few months later, Reliefe, possibly another daughter of Isaac, married Ebenezer Kemp, Jr., in Groton. Thus three generations of a Phillips family can be compiled:

    1. Seth Phillips, b. ca. 1690-1700, m. Lydia ____, ca 1717 and d. 1757.

              i. Isaac, b. 6 Feb. 1717/8 at Groton, Mass.

             ii. Amos, 27 Oct. 1719 at Groton.  See PLYMOUTH, N.H., Ezra Stearns, 1906, which says he d. 25 Oct. 1801, m. ca. 8 Feb. 1745 Abigail Dodge (int. in Lunenburg, Mass.).

    iii. Samuel, b. 19 Jan. 1725/6, Groton; m. 2 Dec. 1742 or 1743, Abigail Frost. Children, all born Groton:

                    1.     Neherniah, b. 8 Feb. 1744;. m. See “x. Nehemiah.”

                    2.     Deborah, b. 6 Apr.1746. She may be the Deborah Phillips from Leominster warned out of Groton in 1766.

                    3.     Sibbel , b. 5 May 1748.

                    4.     Ruth, b. Mar. 1750.  Since Samuel does have four children named in Groton I tend not to agree with the author of The History of Gorham, Me., who suggests that Reliefe was the daughter of Samuel and Abigail (Frost) Phillips.

            iv. Seth. b. 8 Feb. 1729/30; living 19 Oct. 1809, ‘non compos mentis” (Middlesex Probate #11344). Prob. never married.

             v. Elizabeth (or Elsaborth), b. 26 Oct. 1721; married ____ Nutting, probably Daniel, Jr., b. 10 July 1716, son of Daniel and Hannah of Groton. (Nutting Genealogy, Homer W. Brainard and Walter M. Nutting, 1927)

            vi. Jemima, b. 8 Dec. 1723; married ____ Gilson. I find no Jemima married to a Gilson in Groton Vital Records or David Jillson's Genealogy of the Gillson and Jillson Family, 1876, or Joseph Gilson of Groton, Mass. by Elsie G. Merriam and Ruth T. Bennett, (Groton, 1959).

            vii. Lydia, b. 23 Dec. 1727; m. 17 Jan. 1751, at Pepperell, Richard Adams of Dunstable. This was probably the Lydia christened 25 June 1732 at the First Church in Lancaster, which raises the question, why there?

    viii. Susanna, b. 2 Dec. 1733.

            ix. Kezia, b.25 Mar. 1734/5.

             x. Nehemiah, b. 20 June 1736; perhaps m. 2 Sept. 1766, Patience Bennett at Harvard, Mass. Nehemiah, Patience, Abigail and Moses, who came last from Lancaster, were warned out of Groton 7 May 1773. However, this Nehemiah could have been the son, b. 1746 to Samuel and Abigail (Frost) Phillips.

    2. Isaac Phillips, b. 6 Feb. 1717/18 at Groton; d. 23 Feb. 1760, aged 42, at Pepperell; married 16 Sept. 1740 at Groton, Abigail Nutting, daughter of Ebenezer and Ruth Nutting. Abigail probably died before Isaac. Children:

                     i.     Reliefe(?) Married 31 August 1773 at Groton, Ebenezer Kemp, Jr.; d. before 1800 when he remarried (See History of Gorham, Me., Hugh D. McLellan, 1903, and A History of Otisfield, Me., William Samuel Spurr, 1944)

                     ii.     Isaac, warned out of Groton, 25 May 1772 being "last from Pepperell" and died 12 Apr. 1778 at Valley Forge.

                    iii.     Lemuel (?), married Lucy ____. Children:

                                  1. Unnamed child b ca. 1768, d. Pepperell, 23 Sept. 1782, aged 14. (Church rec. p. 98).

                                  2. Jonas, b. Groton, 26 Sept. 1776, m. "Nabby," ch. b. Groton 1799 - 1805.

                    iv.     male, b. ca. Oct. 1755; d. 20 Sept. 1756 at Pepperell, of “canker” at 11 mos.

                    v.     Abigail, b. ca. 1754-57; warned out of Groton, Feb. 1773; m. 5 May 1774 in Pepperell, Oliver Newhall; d. before the date of Oliver’s will, 21 May 1836.

    Who, then, are Seth’s and Lydia’s parents?

    I find the given name "Seth" in only three other places in eastern Massachusetts before the 1790 census.  The International Genealogical Index (IGI) gives a Seth, child of James Phillips, b. 14 Aug. 1671 in Taunton, Mass.  This Seth, however, went to Little Compton, R.I. and apparently had no son, Seth.  A brother of this Seth could be the father. However, Taunton area records which would prove this are lacking.  There are James, Nathaniel, William, Daniel and Ebenezer as possibilities. James had numerous children but no Seth in his probate.  William’s probate names five daughters.  This leaves Nathaniel who either died young or left Taunton, Daniel who went on the Canadian Expedition from Taunton in 1690 and does not appear in Taunton records again, and Ebenezer.  He married Mary Thrasher, daughter of Isaac, (Bristol Deeds 16:244), and was a resident of Taunton from at least 1698 to 1734.

    The fact that Seth Phillips of Groton names children Isaac, Samuel, Seth, Elizabeth and Kezia points to a link with the Taunton family probably through Ebenezer. But the absence of the names, Ebenezer, Mary, James and William is conspicuous.

    The second incidence of the given name, "“Seth" is as a grandson of Ebenezer and Mary Phillips of Stoneham and Southboro, Mass. who was born in the 1720s and he appears to be linked to a Charlestown family (Phillips Genealogies, Albert M. Phillips, 1885, p. 97f.

    A third Seth Phillips came from Pembroke in Plymouth Co. to Fitchburg in 1777 (Worcester County Deeds 76:183). He was probably the same man who served in the Revolution from Pembroke in 1775 and Fitchburg in 1780. (Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolution.)

    Further research could be done on Seth’s descendants.  Eventually identifying his ancestors seems less likely. However, as the IGI expands and Middlesex probate records are indexed, Seth’s and Lydia’s identities may become known.

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