Monday, February 27, 2012

Step-father to a Witch Trial Victim – Ralph Hill

B. in England
M. (1) in England
Wife: unknown
M. (2) 21 Dec 1638 in Plymouth, Massachusetts
Wife: Margaret Toothaker
D. 19 Apr 1663 in Billerica, Massachusetts
Emigrated: before 1638

Ralph Hill's origins in England are untraceable to any particular place. He migrated to the Plymouth colony, turning up in records there in 1638 as a yeoman. On December 21st of that year, he married Margaret Toothaker. It was a second marriage for each and they both had children from their first marriages. They would also have children together; Ralph was the father of six known children, and it's not certain which wife was the mother in some cases.

Ralph sold his land at Plymouth on September 16, 1643, and moved to Woburn, Massachusetts. There he was admitted freeman in 1647 and selectman in 1649. In 1653, Ralph and his son named Ralph were signers of a petition to Governor Billingham and the General Court of Massachusetts that resulted in the grant of land for the town of Billerica. Ralph lived out his days there. In April 1663, he gave a half acre of land to the town for a burial place. This became the South Cemetery, or Old South Burying Grounds, and many of Billerica's earliest settlers have graves there. On April 19th, Ralph died, and was the first burial in the cemetery.

About 30 years after Ralph's death, his step-son, Roger Toothaker, was a Salem witch trial victim. In 1635, Toothaker migrated to Boston as an infant with his parents. On February 5, 1638, his father died, and soon after, Ralph became his step-father and the only father he ever knew. When Toothaker came of age, he became a physician, although he appears to have had no formal medical training. In 1665, he married; he and his wife had nine children.

On May 18, 1692, three Salem girls accused Toothaker of witchcraft. Their motivation may have been that one of them was the servant to a doctor who was Toothaker's competitor. He was arrested, and his wife and one daughter accused and arrested as well. Toothaker was sent to Boston Prison and in June 1692, he died there. His body was examined by 24 different men; it was confirmed that he died of natural causes although it is believed that he was ill-treated.

Famous descendants of Ralph Hill include George W. Bush and Warren Harding.

Sources:
Historic homes and places and genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, William Richard Cutter, 1908
A genealogical history of the French and allied families, Mary Elizabeth Queal Beyer, 1912
The Richardson Memorial, John Adams Vinton, 1876
Wikipedia article for Roger Toothaker
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]

1 comment:

  1. Hello Cousin, Ralph Hill is my 9th g-grandfather. Below is an additional bit of info on Ralph. Best Wishes - David R. French

    Ralph Hill of this pedigree settled first Plymouth, Massachusetts as early as 1638; sold land September 16, 1643 for pounds to Stephen Wood, house and garden "upland at Wobbery" twelve acres or thereabouts; and soon after we find him in Woburn, Massachusetts where he was a proprietor in 1643, freeman May 26, 1647, selectman in 1649. He was one of the founders of the town of Billerica in 1654; joined in the settlement and lived on the "Farm" a mile southwest of the village his house standing a little west of the place where Mrs Judkins his descendant lately lived. In April 1663, he gave to the town one half acre of land for a burying ground and he died on April 29 following, doubtless the first person buried in the new graveyard known as the old south cemetery.

    Historic homes and places and genealogical and personal memoirs ..., Middlesex, Mass.Volume 4 - edited by William Richard Cutter

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