Thursday, February 23, 2012

Digging For Fletcher's House – William Fletcher

B. 1622 in England
M. 7 Oct 1645 in Concord, Massachusetts
Wife: Lydia Fairbanks
D. 6 Nov 1677 in Chelmsford, Massachusetts
Emigrated: 1630

William Fletcher was born in 1622 in England, to Robert and Sarah Fletcher, possibly in Yorkshire. He was one of five children, and in 1630, the family migrated to America as part of the Winthrop Fleet. They settled in Concord, Massachusetts where Robert was said to be a "wealthy and influential man." On October 7, 1645, William married Lydia (Fairbanks) Bates, the widow of Edward Bates. They had 8 children together; Lydia also had a son, John, from her first marriage who became a part of the family.

In 1652, William joined with others from Concord and the town of Woburn to start a new settlement on the other side of the Concord River, the town of Chelmsford. He was one of 29 men who petitioned the General Court for a grant of land in 1653, and also helped in recruiting a minister in 1654. William's most noted involvement in the founding of Chelmsford was that on November 22, 1654, the first town meeting was held in his house. This event was viewed as the "formation of local government in Chelmsford." Although most settlers built their homes of logs, William's house was said to be the first wood frame structure in the town.

William was made selectman in 1654. He and his wife Lydia were among the first to join the church in Chelmsford in about 1655. He was also named first constable that year. In 1669, he built a sawmill with two other town members. William died on November 6, 1677 and was buried in the Forefathers' Burial Ground in Chelmsford. The property where William had lived stayed in the family for generations, though the original house was gone by 1820 and the cellar filled in about 1847. After that, the land where the house stood was used for cultivation for another hundred or so years.

With the story that Chelmsford's first town meeting was held at William's house, a team of archaeologists set up a dig in 1980 to find remnants of it. The project lasted nine days and the results were not very successful. "In the process of attempting to locate 1 structure, the William Fletcher house, we found traces of at least 2 and perhaps, as many as 5 structures. However, we found very little evidence that the area we investigated was occupied prior to the late 18th or early 19th century. We recovered only 1 item — a piece of kaolin tobacco pipe stem — certain to be of 17th century origin." The archaeologists felt that they had been searching in the wrong location on the property, but it was impractical to tear up the whole lot and the effort was abandoned.

Famous descendants of William Fletcher include Franklin Pierce, George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, Dick Cheney and actor Orson Bean.

1. Lydia Fletcher – B. 30 Jan 1647, Concord, Massachusetts; M. John Fiske

2. Joshua Fletcher – B. 20 Mar 1648, Concord, Massachusetts; D. 21 Nov 1713; M. (1) Grissies Jewell (?-1682), 4 May 1668; (2) Sarah Willey, 18 Jul 1682

3. Paul Fletcher – M. Deliverance Stevens, 12 Apr 1705

4. Sarah Fletcher

5. William Fletcher – B. 21 Feb 1657, Chelmsford, Massachusetts; D. 23 May 1712, Chelmsford, Massachusetts; M. Sarah Richardson (1660-1748), 6 Sep 1677, Massachusetts

6. Mary Fletcher – B. 4 Oct 1658, Chelmsford, Massachusetts

7. Esther Fletcher – B. 12 Apr 1660, Chelmsford, Massachusetts

8. Samuel Fletcher – B. 23 Jul 1664

The Richardson Memorial, John Adams Vinton, 1876
History of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Wilson Waters and Henry Spaulding Perham, 1917
Historic homes and places and genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, William Richard Cutter, 1908
Historic homes and institutions and genealogical and personal memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts, Ellery Bicknell Crane, 1907
Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-33, Robert Charles Anderson, 1995
Chelmsford Historical Presentation [website]
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]

1 comment:

  1. The house was originally erected by Edward Bates, and Fletcher lived there after marrying Lydia Fairbanks Bates. Edward and his wife Lydia are my 8th great-grandparents.