Thursday, May 26, 2016

Josephus Wheelock, Southern Loyalist

I just finished a fascinating research project on Josephus Wheelock (1792-1872), son of John Wheelock and Dorothy Wilder of Heath, MA. Josephus is one of the few with the Wheelock surname who moved from New England to the southern states before the start of the civil war. He was born in Heath, MA in 1792, and fought for Vermont in the War of 1812. Sometime after that he moved to Alabama, probably in the late 1810s or early 1820s. The Creek War of 1813-1814 had forced the Creek Indians to cede roughly 23 million acres of land over to white settlement, much of it in central and southern Alabama. After that, the white population of Alabama grew rapidly, from 9,046 in 1810 to 309,527 by 1830, in what has been called "Alabama Fever", an influx of migration driven by a rapidly growing world wide market for cotton. (ref:

Josephus was likely swept up in these events. He married a woman from South Carolina, name unknown, probably in the late 1810s. Though he doesn't appear in the census prior to 1840, records indicate that he made land purchases in Tuscaloosa Co, Alabama between 1827 and 1839. In 1840, he is living in Tuscaloosa, with his wife, ten children, and eleven slaves.

By this time, slavery was well entrenched in the Alabama economy. The European demand for cotton, as well as demand from New England clothing mills created a lucrative market for cotton production in the south. As plantation agriculture grew, so did Alabama's slave population. In 1819, when Alabama attained statehood, slaves accounted for 30 percent of the population. By 1861, it had grown to 45 percent.

With the 1832 Treaty of Pontotoc, the Chickasaws ceded all of their land east of the Mississippi to the American government. (ref:, This included most of northern Mississippi. In 1836, Tishomingo Co, Mississippi was created from a portion of this ceded land. Shortly thereafter Josephus' son, John settled in Tishomingo, and by 1845 his father had settled there too, where he would remain for the rest of his days.

Josephus continued to own slaves until at least 1860, though by then his holdings had dwindled down to three. Despite his status as a slave owner, and despite the fact that his sons, Joseph and Jay served in the Confederate Army, Josephus was a southern loyalist during the civil war, with allegiance to the Union. At the end of the war, Congress created the "Southern Claims Commission", through which pro-Union Southerners could apply for reimbursement for their losses during the war. Josephus made such a claim for the amount of $12,377.16, for items taken by Union soldiers, damaged, and otherwise lost during Union occupation. Josephus died while the petition was still pending, at which point his son John took over administration of the petition. (Src: "U.S. Southern Claims Commission, Disallowed and Barred Claims, 1871-1880", online at, May 2016.)

At least two of his sons fought for the Confederacy; both moved to Monroe Co, Arkansas before the war started. His son John continued to live nearby until Josephus' death, after which he moved to Texas with his family.

One can only imagine what conflicts tore at the family because of divided loyalties. But one thing can be certain, Josephus' family was but one of many. Loyalties were bitterly divided across the south. Surprisingly, nearly every Confederate state raised at least one battalion of white soldiers to serve in the Union army. Alabama, for example, raised 3000 soldiers to fight for the north (ref: In another indication of the divisions, twenty-three of the fifty-two counties in Alabama voted against secession (ref:

Josephus' wife, Mehitable, or Mabel as it appears in most of the census records, moved back to her hometown of Jericho, VT after Josephus died. How he and Mabel met is a mystery, given that they lived so far apart. Most likely they knew each other when Josephus lived up north. Both of their spouses died before 1850; they probably took the opportunity to act on their previous relationship, and get married.

The records have yielded few clues to the name of Josephus' first wife. The census records for her children state that she was born in South Carolina. The 1840 census implies she was born between 1800 and 1810. There is a tantalizing post on the Mississippi Tishomingo Co Rootsweb Archives that may prove to be a clue. The post states that a Matilda Wheelock (2 Feb 1801 - 26 Mar 1847), wife of J. W. Wheelock, is buried in an unnamed cemetery on Eastport Rd, in Tishomingo Co, MS. Could this be Josephus' first wife?

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Post University Years of Ralph Wheelock and the Timing of His Travel to Massachusetts

Introduction and Motivation

The research that went into writing this piece arose out of a discussion with a friend and fellow Wheelock enthusiast about the date that Rev. Ralph Wheelock came to Massachusetts. Did he come in 1637, or perhaps earlier in 1636? My friend maintained that the earlier date is more likely, especially given that Wheelock had to cross the ocean, make his way to Dedham, where he settled, build a house, all before the winter weather set in. But I think the commonly accepted 1637 date is correct, and it fits well with the evidence, cited below. 

Wheelock's Early Life in England

Ralph Wheelock was born in 1600, in Shropshire, England,1 at a time when religious tensions were building to a climax. The Church of England, established by Henry VIII, was less than a hundred years old; it had not yet found a stable footing, and there were strong belief systems pulling it in different directions. The Puritan movement was one of those belief systems, seeking change within the church. Contrast with the Separatists (e.g. the Pilgrims) who felt change was impossible, and chose to separate and form a new church. The Puritan movement was 35 years old when Ralph was born. As suggested by the name, it was a movement to "purify" the Church of England - rid it of it's vestiges of Catholicism, remove the ritual ceremonies, and restore God as the head of the church. Not surprisingly, this ran counter to the monarchy, who wanted to retain it's own position as the head of the church.

It was within this conflict that Ralph Wheelock attended Clare Hall in Cambridge, where he obtained his Master of Arts in 1631.2 Cambridge was at the center of the Puritan movement, and Ralph would have been in the thick of it. Many of the Puritans who graduated from Cambridge became Anglican priests, hoping to reform their local churches from within. Ralph was one of these, having been ordained by Francis White of the Norfolk Diocese in May 1630.4 After this date, he remained near Cambridge for six years or so, serving as local curate in Eccles, where his signature appears on the parish register5, and where two of his children were baptized.4 During this period, non-conformist preachers were under significant pressure, threatened with dismissal from their positions, excommunication, and imprisonment. Some, like John Cotton, were summoned to the High Court for their non-conformist practices, where they would have been required to recant, or face imprisonment. To escape this fate or worse, they were forced to flee. Holland and the West Indies were common destinations for fleeing Puritans. The Massachusetts Bay Colony received it's charter in 1629, and it quickly became a desired destination.

According to early family lore, Wheelock and family sailed for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637.1,6 While en route, his wife gave birth to a daughter, Peregrina.7 The exact circumstances of his departure is not known, but one can imagine that events came to a head in England, with conflict and repression of Puritan dissenters making life difficult, even dangerous. He may have left under duress, as had so many others, a notion supported by the fact that his wife was nearly to term at the time. But this is speculation, the facts have yet to be revealed.

The precise arrival date of Ralph Wheelock in Watertown, Massachusetts is not known, nor is it known on what ship he came. But he must not have spent much time there, because on 14 July 1637 he appears at a town meeting in Dedham, having signed the Dedham Covenant by that date, and is admitted as a resident of the frontier town:8

"Ralph Wheelocke Thomas Cakebread & Henry Phillipps admitted who subscribed accordingly." 

His arrival in 1637 seems certain. There are no earlier records of Ralph Wheelock in Massachusetts prior to the July 1637 date. He must have left England in early 1637, perhaps March or April. McClure states that it was a long trip, and that they turned backed once. Voyages across the Atlantic took anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on the weather, and how far astray they sailed. So they could have left in March, turned back, left again in April, and arrived in June or early July. The timeline of Wheelock's arrival in Dedham fits well with the family history. 

Wheelock may have had Dedham as a destination in mind when he left England. Members of the families with whom he associated in Eccles and vicinity also ended up in Dedham;3 it's possible that Rev. Ralph Wheelock had his eye on the minister's job there - even before leaving the kingdom. Unfortunately, he didn't get that job, nor was he appointed Ruling Elder, which was a source of disappointment to him.9 But despite that setback, the respect for him held by residents of Dedham was evident in the positions he occupied over the course of the next 14 years. In 1639 he and seven others were chosen for "ye ordering of towne affayers according unto Courte Order in that behalf." The powers that these eight men had were probably similar to the town selectmen of modern times. He was also appointed to assist the surveyor ("measurer") in laying out the lot parcels and the boundaries of the town. He was declared a freeman on 13 Mar 1638/9. In 1642, he was appointed the General Court clerk of writs. On 1 Feb 1644 a Dedham town meeting voted for the first free school in Massachusetts, to be supported by town taxes. Rev. Ralph Wheelock was the first teacher at this school, and probably the first public school teacher in the country. In 1645 he was appointed one of the commissioners authorized to "solemnize" marriages, which at the time was a civil rather than religious duty. In the late 1640's Dedham was becoming quite populous, and it was decided to establish a new town, Medfield, farther up the Charles River. Rev. Ralph Wheelock was appointed leader of this effort, and has ever since been known as the "founder of Medfield".9,10

References and Notes

  1. Most of what is known about Ralph Wheelock's early life, and his voyage from England to Massachusetts comes from the Memoirs of Eleazar Wheelock, DD, by David McClure and Elijah Parish. McClure was an associate of Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, Ralph's great-grandson; the information, no doubt, came directly from Eleazar, who must have gotten it from his grandfather, Ralph's son. McClure says (page 11):  "Mr. Ralph Wheelock was born in Shropshire in England, in the year 1600. He was educated at Clare Hall, in Cambridge University, and became an eminent preacher of the gospel. With thousands of pious people, he suffered persecution for nonconformity to the established religion. He therefore, at the age of thirty seven years, determined on a removal to New England. The ship in which he embarked was once driven back by tempests, the voyage was long and distressing. While at sea his lady was delivered of a daughter. On his arrival, he settled in the town of Dedham, Massachusetts..."
  2. "Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900", edited by John Venn (1834–1923) and his son John Archibald Venn (1883–1958), published by Cambridge University Press in ten volumes between 1922 and 1953. Online at
  3. "The English Ancestry of Joseph Clark (1613 - 1683) of Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts", by Christopher Gleason Clark, published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 152, January 1998.
  4. "Mr. Wheelock's Cure", by Christopher Gleason Clark, published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 152, July 1998. 
  5. Ibid, Ralph Wheelock's signature appears on the Eccles parish register pages dated 1629-1633, and 1633-1636.
  6. "The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D., President of Yale College", editted by Frank Bowditch Dexter, M.A., Vol II, Charles Scribner & Sons, NY, 1901. Ezra Stiles was an associate of Dr. Eleazar Wheelock, and cites a passage from an elegy given on the death of Rev. Ralph Wheelock, by John Wilson, the minister at Medfield, whom Wheelock knew directly. The passage goes like this: In Sixteen hundred thirty seven/It was hither he came/When spread there was the Leaven/of Heresy by Name. This date surely comes directly from Rev. Ralph Wheelock. Accessed online Feb 2016, at
  7. McClure states that Wheelock's wife gave birth to a daughter at sea. Since the birth of all of Wheelock's children except Peregrina are accounted for in England and Massachusetts, it follows that Peregrina must have been the one. The name is appropriate; perigrinare in latin means "to travel in foreign lands".
  8. "The Early Records of the Town of Dedham, MA, 1636-1639", Vol III, by Don Gleason Hill, pg 32. Accessed online, Feb 2016
  9. "Dedham, Massachusetts, 1635-1890", by Robert Brand Hanson, 1976, published by the Dedham Historical Society, pg 41.
  10. "Mr Ralph Wheelock, Puritan", a paper read before the Connecticut Historical Society, Nov 7th, 1899, with an appendix by Thomas S. Wheelock. Accessed online, Feb 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Wheelock Ancestry of Brigadier General Charles Wheelock (1812 - 1865)

General Charles Wheelock, Civil War veteran and hero, was born in Claremont, NH, 14 Dec 1812. He was the son of Daniel Wheelock and Lucinda Stewart, who were married in Claremont 28 Aug 1796. 

The ancestry of his father, Daniel Wheelock, is not known for certain. The oral tradition of his descendants states that he was born in Uxbridge, MA, 14 June 1768, the son of Daniel Wheelock and Beulah Albee. But there is no marriage record for Daniel Wheelock and Beulah Albee to support this claim, nor is there any birth record for Daniel matching the 14 June 1768 date. 

The tradition goes on to claim that Daniel's father is the son of Daniel Wheelock (1707-1793) and Deborah Darling of Uxbridge, MA. The father was born 13 Aug 1744, so the date is consistent with the 1768 birth date of our Daniel. However, it is well established that his supposed father, Daniel (born 13 Aug 1744) married Keziah Hunt not Beulah Albee. This is proven by his 1781 will, which mentions his wife, Keziah, and his children, none of whom are named Daniel. This marriage is also supported by his grandfather's will (Daniel Wheelock, Sr, married to Deborah Darling), who mentions the grandchildren, sons of Daniel and Keziah; again, none of whom are named Daniel. 

So the vital records seem to have nothing to say about our Daniel Wheelock. 

None of this disproves the oral history of Daniel's heritage. It is possible that Daniel was the son of Daniel Wheelock and Beulah Albee. One possible scenario goes like this. Beulah Albee had a child out of wedlock, fathered by Daniel Wheelock (1744-1781), son of Daniel and Deborah. This probably happened before Daniel married Keziah Hunt, and would explain why none of Daniel and Keziah's children are named Daniel. It would also explain why Daniel's birth was not recorded in the vital records of Uxbridge; recording out of wedlock births was not a common practice. After giving birth to Daniel Wheelock, Beulah Albee married Israel Sabin in 1770, then moved to Richmond, NH. It's possible that she and Israel raised Daniel Wheelock in NH. This would explain why Daniel lived and married in Claremont, NH, not far from Richmond. 

Is there any direct evidence to support this narrative? Perhaps there are probate records or land transactions in NH that might establish a connection between Daniel Wheelock, who married Lucinda Stewart, and Israel Sabin/Beulah Albee. Better yet would be a land transaction establishing a connection between the presumed father, Daniel Wheelock who married Keziah Hunt, and either our Daniel, or Israel Sabin or Beulah Albee. Daniel Wheelock did have land interests in NH - he left land in Franconia to his sons. (See his will here.) So this may not be far fetched. 

If anyone has positive evidence to support or contradict the oral tradition, I would love to hear about it.