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  • Genealogical Puzzle: Was Captain Thomas Wheeler an Early Proprietor of Marlborough, Massachusetts?

    Mary Brown LaRocca

    Published Date : August 1986
     Abstract: Charles Hudson, writing in 1862, named Captain Thomas Wheeler of King Philip’s War fame as an early proprietor of Marlborough, Massachusetts.  Compilers of the Wheeler genealogy (1914) stated that Captain Wheeler was an original proprietor of that plantation.  Neither claim is supported by available information.  George Tolman (1908) documented the identity of Thomas Wheeler of Marlborough as the son of George Wheeler (not Thomas) and thus invalidated the Hudson and Wheeler theories.

    Charles M. Hudson (History of the Town of Marlborough [Boston, 1862], p. 42) makes this assertion in regard to early habitation:

    After the first division of land, there appears to have been but little addition to the inhabitants for several years.  Abraham Williams….proprietor in 1663….Capt. Wheeler about the same time.

    On page 465, the author provides a summary of the activities of Captain Thomas Wheeler of King Philip’s War fame and goes on to say:

    his son Thomas Wheeler whose wife was Hannah ______ had John, b. in Concord, 1661, and perhaps other children born there; but soon after settled in Marl.

    The compilers of the Wheeler genealogy (History of the Wheeler Family in America (Boston, 1914], p.2) state with authority that Captain Thomas Wheeler was one of the original petitioners for the town of Marlborough, perhaps using Hudson as their source.

    Possibly because the findings of George Tolman first appeared in 1908 in an unpublished manuscript, their importance and, in fact, their existence were overlooked when the Wheeler genealogy was compiled six years later. Tolman (“Wheeler Families of Old Concord, Mass.,” [Concord, 1908] p.2) correctly identified the Thomas Wheeler who married at Concord, 10 October 1657 Hannah Harwood, as the son of George Wheeler, citing the inventory of the estate (September 1687) of Thomas Wheeler, “son of George Wheeler, deceased.” (Suffolk Probate Register X, folio 115-116).  It was this Thomas Wheeler and wife Hannah who had three children at Concord, including John in 1661 (Concord V.R.), and then probably removed to Marlborough.

    An examination of Hudson’s book shows there were thirteen men who petitioned the General Court at Boston in May 1656 for the new plantation (Hudson, p. 27), which was to become incorporated in 1660 as the town of Marlborough:

    Edmund Rice    William Ward

    Thomas King    John Woods

    Thomas Goodnow        John Ruddocke

    Henry Rice        John Howe

    John Bent, Sr.    John Maynard

    Richard Newton            Peter Bent

    Edward Rice

    It may be clearly seen that there was no Thomas Wheeler among them.  In September 1657 eight more names appeared in addition to the original grantees, but Thomas Wheeler’s was not one of those either.  Nor does his name appear on a 1664 list of inhabitants who petitioned the Court for help in solving their difficulties (Hudson, p. 46).  Therefore, Thomas Wheeler was not a first or an early 7 petitioner for Marlborough and if he was an inhabitant before 1664, his presence there is not found in available documents.

    Hudson’s book is not indexed, so it is difficult to reference the work with absolute certainty, even after a page-by-page search, but the only primary source found in the book which would place a Thomas Wheeler at Marlborough is a list of inhabitants (p. 95) who petitioned the Court in 1686 with intent to absorb the Indian section of the plantation.  The name of Thomas Wheeler appears on that list and probably validates his presence in that place not long before his death.  Hudson cites A.H. Ward’s History of Shrewsbury, 1717-1829 (Boston, 1847) as the source of the alleged father-son relationship between Captain Thomas Wheeler and Thomas Wheeler of Marlborough.  Documentary evidence would have been more convincing.

    Captain Thomas Wheeler died at Concord, Massachusetts, 10 December 1676, as the Concord record shows. At this point, there is no reason to believe that he was ever a petitioner or proprietor of. Marlborough. Therefore, the answer to the question posed above is, “Probably not.”

    by Mary Brown LaRocca

    Placentia, California

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