Obadiah Wood (c. 1626-1694)

 

 

            Obadiah is listed in several places as the second son of Edward Wood, but no date of birth is known.  Charlestown records show him selling 5 acres of land there to Joseph Carter in 1646.  In 1649, he is listed as a "proprieter" of the town of Ipswich.  He appears to have spent the rest of his life in Ipswich, working as a baker, or, more specifically, a "biscuit maker."  He died there on October 26, 1694.  His will was probated December 3, 1694.

 

            According to Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of New England, Obidiah was married twice, first to Margaret Spark, who died July 5, 1667, then to Hazelelponah Willix.  Obadiah had at least nine children by Margaret:  Obadiah [2], Jr., Nathaniel, John (married Mary Heley, May 1, 1676; died March 11, 1684), Mary, Suzanna, Samuel (born 1655; married Mary Bolton, May 27, 1684; died February 16, 1737), Josiah [3] (born 1664), Elizabeth (born in 1665), and Margaret who died in infancy in 1667.

 

            Hazelelponah Willix was born in 1636 in Exeter, New Hampshire.  Her given name comes from 1 Chronicles 4 : 3, and means 'she who gives shade, like the hazel tree.'  Biblical names were very uncommon in England, but were chosen by some immigrant families in keeping with the belief that they were building a new Israel.  Hazelelponah's story is as interesting as her name.

 

            She was the oldest of three daughters born to Balthazar and Hannah Willix.  In May or June 1648, when Hazelelponah was 12 years old, her mother was waylaid on the road from Dover to Exeter, robbed, and murdered.  Her body was thrown into the river.  Balthazar, who had been active in colonial politics and had been one of the signers of the 1643 Exeter Petition to the General Court of Massachusetts requesting that Exeter be admitted to Massachusetts, appears to have been crushed by the tragedy.  On September 7, 1648, he filed suit in Norfolk County Court at Hampton against Robert Hithersay:

 

for raising an evil report of his deceased wife, and for breach of promise in carrying his wife to Oyster River in a canoe and not bringing her in a conoe again."

 

One commentator remarks that "Hithersay, who roved from Concord to Lynn, Exeter, and York, was apparently a wayward character, and may have been suspected of the murder."

 

            Shortly after, Balthazar moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts.  After 1650, he married the widow Mary Hauxton.  He died March 23, 1655.

 


            Hazelelponah appears to have been sent out to work as a servant.

In the will of John Cooper of Weymouth, dated February 24, 1653, she is mentioned as a residual legatee.  Cooper directed that the wife of Henry Waltham "in whose house I now Sojourn" is to be fully paid and "if there is anything remaining, Hazillpenah Willockes dwelling with Mr. Waltham shall have 10s."

 

            Hazelelponah married John Gee of Boston sometime around 1660.  By him she had a son, John, born May 27, 1662, a daughter, Hazelelponah, baptised September 19, 1671 in the First Church in Boston, and another daughter, Mary.  As early as 1661, John Gee established a second residence in Edgartown on Martha's Vinyard.  (He "submitted to the Patantee's government at Great Harbor, Martha's Vinyard, December 23, 1661," according to Charles Bank's History of Martha's Vinyard, 1966, Vol. 2, pages 70-72).  He remained a resident of Boston and his wife and children stayed in Boston until after Edgartown granted him some land that had been seized from another Edgartown resident.  (He was granted 10 acres and half a commonage in Edgartown on August 20, 1663).  The Gees left Boston, probably in 1663, to live in Martha's Vinyard.  John earned his living, in part, by dividing up the fish caught in Edgartown's weir, a position to which he was appointed on March 12, 1665.  On March 11, 1667, the town recognized his diligence at "orderly dividing of the town's fish every morning" by granting him an alotment of 3,000 fish.

 

            John Gee (1) was declared "lost at sea" December 27, 1669.  Hazelelponah was still living in Edgartown in June 1670, but returned to Boston the following year.   The exact date of her second marriage to Obadiah Wood is not known, but would appear to be about 1672. 

 

            There is no contemporary evidence on how she met Obadiah, but it may have been that the Gee family, like the Woods, were bakers.  Fifty years later, Lately Gee advertised in the New England COurant, September 10-17, 1722, "good brown Bisket fit either for the Fishery or for Shipping Off" at the Sign of the Bakers Arms in Hannover Street, in Boston, (George Francis Dow, Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1967, page 122).  His fellow bakers ran a counter-advertisement the following week, warning that Lately Gee's "lower prices than usual" were the result of his selling inferior products aimed at the sea-going trade:

 

...Bread of the same Courseness with the said Gee's, and with the same Quantity of Bran remaining in it, may be had for the same Prices at other Bakers in Town; but they being willing to avoid the Curse of the Common Sailors, those employ'd in the fishery, etc., generally make their Bread better, and sell it for a better Price.

 

                                                                        (New England Courant, Sept. 17-24, 1722)

 


Fifty years is a long passage, but baking was an occupation passed along in the family, and it may be particularly telling that Lately Gee was engaged in provisioning sailors with bisket.  That appears to have been precisely Obadiah's trade, and it may also account for John Gee's removal to Martha's Vinyard.

 

            In any case, there is another recorded fact showing that Obadiah kept up business relations in Boston and Charlestown.  In March 1662, the Quarterly Court of Essex County ruled as follows:

 

Robert Fletcher had formerly put himself to Jacob Greene of Charlestown to serve him certain years, and afterwards, by consent of said master, put himself to Obadiah Wood of Ipswich, and now making complaint that his master Jacob Greene took too much of his time, the court freed said Fletcher from both masters and ordered him to serve John Perkings for one year, the latter to find him clothes.  Said Fletcher was not to make agreement with any man without his master's consent.

 

The implication here appears to be that Jacob Greene and Obadiah Wood were literally running their servant, Robert Fletcher, ragged on errands between Charlestown and Ipswich.

 

            When Hazelelponah came to Ipswich as Obadiah's wife, she brought her daughter, Mary Gee, with her.  One Ipswich resident, William Harris, recalled sixty years later that he:

 

...well remembered Obadiah Woods Intermarriage with the widow Hazelelponi Gee near about sixty years ago he brought her from Boston that it was the talk of the times that her former husband Gee was a Dweller or inhabitant at Marthas Vinyardlater that when Obadiah brought his new wife "from Martha's Vinyard" it was "the talk of the town for many months."  She brought with her into Obadiah Woods family a maiden daughter named Mary.  I was well acquainted with the family & the said Mary who we used to call Mary Gee till she Intermarried with one Thomas Pickerin who lived at Piscataqua & the sd Mary is still Living there for ought any thing I know for I never heard of her Death.

 

                                                            Deposition of William Harris, April 26, 1732,

                                                                                                Suffolk Court File 33564; quoted in The New England Historical Genealogical Register, January 1914, page 82

 

            Obadiah and Hazelelponah had three children, Joseph, born in 1774, and the twins:  Obadiah [3] (born June 6, 1675), and James (June 5, 1675).

 

            Joseph died unmarried at the age of 17 in 1691, apparently after a long illness.  He made out a will on July 29, 1690, which was proved March 31, 1691.  It mentions his father, Obadiah [1], and his brothers Samuel, Josiah [3], and James, and his sister, Mary Bryer.  The absence from the will of several of Obadiah's [1] other children may mean that they were deceased. 

 


            Obadiah died in 1694.  Two years after his death, Hazelelponah became involved in a protracted legal case stemming from the death of her sister Anna.  Anna Willix had married four times.  Her first husband, Robert Roscoe, married her in New Hampshire, and then moved with her to Roanoke, North Carolina, where he died.  She then married James Blunt of North Carolina who died in 1686.  Her third husband, the Honorable Seth Southell, Esq. was the Govenor of North Carolina.  When he died in 1693, she married Colonel John Lere [or Lear] of Virginia.  Anna died "before 1695" and her last husband, Colonel Lear, died June 27, 1696. 

 

            The legatees of Colonel Lear apparently sought to gain control of the property Anna had inherited from her earlier husbands.  They brought a suit in 1697 in which they claimed Colonel Lear was the executor of Madam Anna Lear and mentioned "goods consigned to her as Madam Sothell from Col. John Foster of Boston."   In any case, Anna's sisters, Hazelelponah and Suzanna, apparently saw their interests in jeopardy, and sold their claims to Anna's estate to Thomas Pickering, the husband of Hazelelponah's daughter, Mary Gee, for 250 pounds in 1697.  A deed for this transaction, dated June 4, 1697, is recorded in the New Hampshire Province Deeds, Volume One, page 343.

 

            Before Thomas Pickering bought out Hazelelponah's and Suzanna's claim, however, he apparently went to the trouble of documenting their relationship with Anna by collecting depositions from people who had either known their father or could testify to their whereabouts at different periods of their lives.  Some of these depositions, dated from May 1695 through April 1696, appear as entries by notaries public at Great Island (New castle) and at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

 

            Although Hazelelponah appears to have had no further involvement in the case after selling her claim to Thomas Pickering, the case itself appears to have gone on for at least another forty years.  In 1709, Thomas Pickering sold a share of the estate to another Portsmouth, New Hampshire resident:

 

The estate conveyed by the deed given above [Hazelelponah's and Suzanna's deed to Thomas Pickering] is described in a deed, dated 15 July 1709, from Thomas Pickering to  William Partridge and Pelatiah Whittemore, all of Portsmouth, as "a certain estate in North and South Carolina, more particularly the estate of Seth Southel, Esq. in the Province of North Carolina adjoining Salmon Creek and the River Pasquatank, consisting of 12,000 acres excepting 4000 acres formerly sold to William Duckenfield." (N.H. Province Deeds, Vol. 7, p. 344)

 

(Virginia Hall, "The Daughters of Balthazar Willix of Exeter,"  New England Historic Genealogical Register, January, 1914, p. 81)

 


            As late as 1732 someone was still taking depositions that bore on the authenticity of Hazelelponah Wood's identity; and on October 7, 1736, a William Harris of Martha's Vinyard, was deposed on the issue of Mary Gee claim to be Hazelelponah's daughter.

 

            Hazelelponah's gravemarker is in the main cemetery in Ipswich.  The inscription read:

 

Haselelpony

Wood   Widdow

of Obadiah Wood

died Novem  y

27  1714  Aged

78 years

Wright Blessed

Are y dead w

die in y Lord

 

This is a beautifully preserved slate marker with a death's head

 

            Obadiah's older brother, Thomas, either bought or received a grant of land in Charlestown in 1654.  That same year he married Ann Hunt of Rowley, Massachusetts.  He later moved to Rowley and died there July 21, 1687.  His will was probated November 23, 1687.  Thomas's eldest daughter, Mary, married James Chute November 10, 1673.  Mary Wood Chute lived in Ipswich, and her husband James, Obadiah's niece's husband, worked for Obadiah.

 

            Obadiah's younger brother, Josiah [1] (born 1629), married Lydia Bacon of Charlestown in 1657.  They appear to have remained in Charlestown the rest of their lives.  Their children were named Josiah [2] (born August 10, 1658; baptised July 8, 1662; died March 9, 1740), Lydia (born May 6, 1662; died September 17, 1681), Samuel (born September 12, 1671), Joseph (baptised October 27, 1674), and Ruth (baptised April 4, 1676).  Lydia died November 25, 1674.  Josiah (Sr.) died September 24, 1691.

 

            The Essex County Quarterly Court held regular sessions in Ipswich throughout this period.  Obadiah and his family appear in the records of that court on eight occasions:

 

1.    March 25, 1662.  "Obadiah Wood of Ipswich and Thomas Wood of Rowley were made free.".

 

2.    March 25, 1662.  The complaint brought by Obadiah's servant, Robert Fletcher, mentioned above.

 

3.  Obadiah, Jr. convicted of fornication, sentenced to child-support

    payments.  Deposition from him maintaining his innocence.

 


4.  Nathaniel and John accused of setting their dogs on a neighbor's

    hogs on Hog Island. 

 

5.  Obadiah sues a neighbor to obtain a deed to land on Hog Island 

    that Obadiah says the neighbor agreed to sell to him.  Obadiah

    wins.

 

6.  Obadiah sues a neighbor for "trespass" alleging that the

neighbor's grandson took one of Obadiah's hiefers.  Part of Obadiah's proof that the heifer is his is that the animal is accustomed to eating "bis cakes" out of his hand.  Obadiah wins.

 

7.  Obadiah fined for selling liquor and cider without a license.

 

8.  Nathaniel and John witnesses to an assault by a man on his father-in-law.  John breaks up the fight.  The son-in-law sentenced to a whipping.

 

            [Some of these records provide fine detail of Obadiah's life.  I will integrate these details later.]