The Wainwright Family of Essex County Massachusetts

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The Wainwright Family

Last Updated 03 June, 2007


he family name Wainwright originated in the midlands of England and comes from the old English Waegnrig meaning "wagon maker". An analysis of the demographic distribution of families bearing the Wainwright name from the 1851 British Census reveals a swath through the industrial heart of 19th century England beginning in Lancashire and Yorkshire to the north, and extending southeast as far as Essex in East Anglia. Because so few individuals bearing the name immigrated to this country, the occurrence of the Wainwright name in the United States is rare.  Despite my most diligent efforts, I must report that I have been unable to trace my  line back to an immigrant ancestor. There is no reference to my family prior to 1761 anywhere in Colonial New England. 

How and when did my Wainwright progenitor first arrive on American shores?  There are several possibilities.  He could have come late from England.  Peter Wainwrightimmigrated to Boston in the mid-18th century... Although he returned to England, his children remained in America.  His descendents include General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright  (Hero of World War II), and Henry C. Wainwright, (founder of the Wainwright Bank in Massachusetts).  

He may have come to this country involuntarily. Indeed, the Colonies were used until the 1760s as a place of exile for convicts. "Immigrants to America" mentions a Thomas Wainwright who arrived in Connecticut on 10 July 1678 from Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, as an exile aboard a prison ship. He later appears in town records of Dedham Massachusetts.

He could have come to New England as a British soldier.  New Castle, an island at the mouth of the Piscataway River, was the location of Fort William and Mary, a British garrison guarding the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor.  Because of its strategic position as gateway to the New England frontier, this fort was heavily defended against possible attack by the French.  Many British and Colonial soldiers were stationed there and on the opposite bank at Kittery Point in Maine throughout the eighteenth century.  Because British military records of the period do not include enlisted men, I cannot prove or disprove this theory.

He could have migrated north from one of the Southern Colonies.  There were many Virginia men in New England, mostly seamen who participated in the three way trade between the Colonies, the West Indies and Africa.  Recent testing performed on the compiler's DNA has determined that our family DNA matches exactly the y- DNA markers of certain Wainwright individuals currently living in New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina.  A peculiar article from the Boston Observer dated 8 July 1898 bears additional weight to this possibility.  The article was written in conjunction with the visit to Gloucester of Lt. Commander (soon to be Rear Admiral) Richard M. Wainwright, Captain of the USS Gloucester which was cited for bravery in actions around Havana Cuba during the Spanish American War. 

"A singular coincidence has been developed in connection with the gallant cruiser "Gloucester" and her equally gallant Commander, Lieutenant-Commander [Richard M] Wainwright.

"It has been ascertained that the ancestors of the Wainwright family came from England to Gloucester about one hundred and fifty years ago and settled there. Their descendants in turn moved to other sections of the country, one to the south, from which branch, Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright is descended. The old Wainwright house here stands near the Methodist Church in East Gloucester.

"The family in the male line is not represented here but is collaterally in the female and their descendants. Isaac Stanwood, the sail maker, is a third cousin of the Cruiser's commander, his mother being a Wainwright. Thus the connection of the "Gloucester" and the Wainwright family seems in the natural order of things."

This story was also told to me by my father and is something of a family legend.  As he related the story, Rear Admiral Wainwright made time to visit our family when he visited Gloucester and recounted our family connection. 

Rear Admiral Richard M Wainwright was the son of Lt. Col. Robert Dewar Wainwright (US Marines) and the grand-son of Richard Wainwright, a planter from Charleston, South Carolina.  The Wainwright plantation was located in Summerville, a village just outside Charleston that is part of Dorchester County, settled in part by immigrants from Ipswich Massachusetts in 1696. 

The story leads me to an intriguing possibility that occupies my attention currently.   My ancestor could have descended from the family of Francis Wainwright of Ipswich Massachusetts.  Francis arrived in Ipswich about 1638 from Chelmsford, Essex England, an apprentice of Alexander Knight.  He fought bravely in the Pequot War and received large grants of land for his service. His children Francis and John became prominent merchants in the fish and lumber trade in Ipswich.  His son Simon was the first merchant recorded at Haverhill Massachusetts, and was killed there during an Indian raid in 1708.  Simon had three wives and five children but only one son, John born to Ann Pierce in 1690.  John married Hannah Redford of Portsmouth New Hampshire in 1712 and had five children before he was drowned while aboard a Rhode Island Sloop carrying oak planking in 1721.  His only recorded son, Redford died unmarried in Newbury Massachusetts in 1746.  This Wainwright family used the family crest (left)  in all their official papers, and several of their tombstones have the crest prominently displayed.

John's wife, Hannah Redford was born in 1691,  the daughter of William  Redford and widow Sarah (Frost) Shipway.  Sarah died in 1695 and William married as his second wife Elizabeth Dew.  William Redford died in 1697 and Elizabeth married as her second husband Richard Wibird, of Portsmouth, a prominent merchant and a man influential in the affairs of the New Hampshire Colony.  Elizabeth and her husband raised young Hannah with great affection, and after the death of Hannah's husband John Wainwright, they took in Hannah's young daughter Mehitibel.  She would, in 1746, become the wife of Meshach Weare,  the first Governor of the State of New Hampshire.  Hannah married as her second husband John Pecker in Haverhill and lived with him in Boston, though all their ten children were recorded at Haverhill.  No further mention of this Wainwright family can be found in New Hampshire records.

There has been mention of another son of Francis, named Benjamin who fought in the Pequot War and was supposed to have died in Deerfield.  In 1696 a group of colonists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony traveled aboard a ship to settle in South Carolina, at the invitation of that province's Governor.  The ship was wrecked on the outer shoals of North Carolina, but nevertheless these colonists founded the County of Dorchester in South Carolina.  One of those ship board passengers was named Benjamin Wainwright, possibly the same man as the Benjamin, son of Francis, who was supposedly killed in the War.  If this is so, then it is likely that this individual founded the plantation that was later to be the home of the Admiral's family. 

I can trace my Wainwright line to one Thomas Wainwright of Portsmouth New Hampshire, a Revolutionary War soldier who served in the Continental Militia from Rowley Massachusetts and later settled in Gloucester Massachusetts.  His origins are obscure, but there are a few tantalizing clues. Ebenezer Pool of Rockport Massachusetts wrote of Thomas that he was "a Virginian, a soldier and a tailor by occupation".  Thomas Wainwright was baptised on November 9, 1766 at the Queen's Chapel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the  child of Mary Wainwright.

Thomas Wainwright  resident of the South End of Portsmouth appears on Poll Tax lists from 1764 to the year 1768, when the word "dead" is written across his name. There is, in the New Hampshire Provincial Court records, a judgment issued in 1764 against this Thomas on charges that he defaulted on a bill for thirty two days' lodging for him and his wife, Elizabeth in November 1763. Although I have little other supporting information, I believe that he and Elizabeth are Mary Wainwright's in-laws. He could be an unrecorded son or grand son of John Wainwright and Hannah Redford. He also could have been from the family of Benjamin of Dorchester South Carolina.  

A Hannah Wainwrightis mentioned in the Rowley Selectmen's records in 1761 "from the state of New Hampshire", and in the Gloucester Selectmen's Records of August 1790 "from Portsmouth".  She may have been a sister-in-law of Mary Wainwright and therefore an aunt of Thomas Wainwright.  Her presence in Gloucester in 1790 was likely  that of a wedding guest. I cannot explain Hannah's appearance in Rowley in 1761, but Thomas' later appearance in Rowley must be considered as an extraordinary coincidence. She is likely be the Hannah Wainwright that died a pauper in Stratford New Hampshire in 1790.

Thomas' mother Mary married Thomas Thomas in 1771, but here is no record of their presence in New Hampshire after that year. In spite of this unusual name, we find one Thomas Thomas living in Gloucester and another living in Newburyport Massachusetts from the 1790 US Census. The Newburyport Thomas Thomas was involved in the purchase of large tracts of land in Rockingham County in 1779.

In March of 1780, . Thomas enlisted in the Rowley, Massachusetts Militia.  This was a difficult time for the New England colonies. The Revolutionary War had moved to the southern states, and the new country was on the verge of bankruptcy. To make matters worse, there was a dire shortage of able-bodied men to serve in the military. Congress set up a quota for conscripts from every community, and all over New England, there were bounties offered for young men to enlist. Many enlistees were not from the towns for which they served.  Young Thomas enlisted in Col. Abner Dawes Company, 4th Massachusetts Regiment "for three years or until the end of the war." The muster rolls show that he served for only three months. He received promissory notes from the Town for a total of $163.00 which he later presented for payment. Today, his name is on the Rowley Roll of Honor, those Revolutionary War Patriots who served the Town in the War for Independence.

Thomas Wainwright married Lydia Lurvey of New Gloucester Maine in Gloucester Massachusetts in April 1790.  He was, however, not considered a resident of the Town.  In August of that year, the Gloucester Selectmen  issued a warrant naming "Thomas Wainwright of Rowley, his wife and family" as non-residents and warning them out of town. Also mentioned in the warrant is Hannah Wainwright, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Thomas appears again in the Gloucester Poll Tax list of 1792, where he is listed as owner of one quarter of a dwelling house in the Sandy Bay Parish.  His name does not appear in the Massachusetts Direct Tax Census of 1798.

In 1798,  evidence suggests that Thomas Wainwright signed on to a US Warship for service against the French in the West Indies.  Between 50 and 60 men from the Cape signed up, responding to an appeal issued in the Columbian Centennial by the US Government.. Most sailed aboard the USS Herald, a 20 gun Sloop of War.   The Herald was decommissioned and sold out of service in 1801.

Major John Rowe, a cousin of Thomas' daughter-in-law Mary Rowe, in his will dated 3 August, 1801, lists a promissory note signed by Thomas on 22 April, 1801 in the amount of $7.14. Since there is no further mention of this note in the Essex County Probate records, we must presume that the debt was repaid.

Thomas disappears from public records after 16 May 1812 with the birth of his daughter Lucy. Ebenezer Pool writes that he personally saw Thomas on Flag Day, 17 June 1811, and that he probably died soon afterward in 1811 or 1812.  He may have been lost at sea, or he may have died from disease.  We will probably never know for sure.

It is apparent that his children had no better idea of Thomas' origins.  The death record of daughter Lydia Wainwright Ferrier indicates Thomas' place of birth as England.  Thomas' son George indicates in the 1880 Census that his father was born in New Hampshire.  Pool wrote he was a Virginian.

Thomas, the eldest son of Thomas and Lydia, married Harriett Hale  in October 1814, settled in the Fifth Parish at Sandy Bay (now Rockport), and had a large family of his own. This Thomas was one of those called to muster on 8 September 1814, when the British Man-of War Nymph entered Pigeon Cove and shelled the village. A Cargo Lighter (unloader) by trade, He speculated in real estate in 1816, and in 1830 and 1837 he was sued for default of several loans.  Harriett Hale came from an old New England family that had originally settled in Charlestown Massachusetts.  Her Great Great Grandfather, Reverend John Hale, was the first Minister of the First Parish Church in Beverly from1667 to 1700.  She was a second cousin of the great Unitarian Minister and author Edward Everett Hale, and a distant in-law cousin of the Honorable Edward Everett, Governor of Massachusetts and brilliant abolitionist orator.  Her brother, George Dennison Hale, was for a time the Collector of Customs for the district of Gloucester.

Thomas and Harriett had eight children, but only one son- Thomas, who married Abigail Dodge Brownfrom Boothbay, Lincoln County Maine in 1851. They had three children living in 1858, when Thomas died of Consumption followed by Abby in 1861. All three children were placed with other families.  Charles Thomas, the eldest, was taken in by Eben Blatchford but was soon determined to be "stubborn" and committed to Reform School.  After a time at the Mass Maritime Academy in Marion, Charles left the US for Valparaiso Chile.  Their second son, Everett Wainwright, was the first in the family to be given that name in 1855. He was likely named after the one time Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and then US Senator Edward Everett.  Whatever the reason, at least four other individuals have shared the Everett name in our family since that time.  Everett was taken in by Charles Andrews, and spent his adult years as Steward aboard trans-atlantic steamships. He supposedly had a family in England and another in Brooklyn New York.  The youngest child, Edgar Charles, was adopted by George Roberts, a local Fish Dealer.  He was lost aboard a fishing schooner in 1889.

Martha Hale Wainwright, another child of Thomas and Harriett, married Dean W. Woodbury  in 1849. In 1851 Dean drowned aboard the Fishing Schooner Flirt.  She later married her first cousin John Ferrier, son of her aunt Lydia Wainwright Ferrier.  Both are buried in Everett Massachusetts with the Ferrier family.  

Pool wrote that Lydia Wainwright, another child of Lydia and Thomas,  was married in Boston to John Ferrier of Marseilles France,  She was living in Charlestown Massachusetts  with her  family as early as 1838.  In the 1880 Census she indicates that she was born in Maine. In the 1870 census record, however, she indicates that she was born in Massachusetts.  

Unlike his brother, George Wainwright chose the fisherman's life.  The fishing industry started in Gloucester as a coastal enterprise in the mid-1600s, using small boats with no decking- rowboats, really. In the 18th century, shipyards in the Ipswich Parish of Chebaco (now the Town of Essex) built small fishing boats called Chebacos, suitable for eight men to fish in the Banks around Newfoundland. The fishermen owned shares in these boats, making it a communal affair. Later, large schooners were built that spent months at sea. They fished for Halibut, Cod, and Mackerel using hand lines dispensed from small dory boats. Once caught, the fish was gutted, split, and stowed below decks in salt until it could be landed back in Gloucester. It was an incredibly hard and dangerous life, the stuff of epic romance. One of the best descriptions of the Gloucester Fishermen of the 1800s can be found in Rudyard Kipling's classic novel, "Captain's Courageous".

The Wainwright family experienced the inevitable tragedy of every Gloucester fishing family. In February of 1860, George's eldest son George drowned along with eight other crewmen aboard the fishing schooner William S. Wonson during the Great Gale of 1860.  George's name is now forever recorded on the Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial Cenotaph on Gloucester Harbor.

William Henry Wainwright, youngest son of George was born in 1843., He married Helena Louisa Fowler of Boston.  He spent some of his life as a fisherman, and his later life as a general laborer. He died in 1900 at the Danvers Hospital for the Insane.

Helena Louisa Fowler was the daughter of  Edward L Fowler, a sailor from Nova Scotia and Helena Lander of Boston.  Edward disappears from the public record after the birth of Helena's brother Morris Fowler in Boston in 1853.  Helena's mother then moved to Gloucester and married Samuel Mess, a fisherman from Baltimore Maryland.  It is curious that the record of this marriage lists Helena's family name as "Farmer". 

William Henry and Helena Louisa had four children, all of whom lived at least part of their lives in Gloucester. Their oldest son, Charles M. Wainwright, worked as a clerk in a pharmacy in town. According to my father, Uncle Charlie was a bit eccentric, preferring to stay in his room most of the time. When he died in 1935, he left my father a large stamp collection. William and Helena's two daughters, Susie Alice and May, settled in Gloucester. Their descendents are seen in town to this day. Their fourth child, Everett, eventually left Gloucester for Boston.

Everett spent his early years in Gloucester working for a codfish salting company. After his marriage to Lottie Schwartz, he lived in Gloucester. Everett wanted very much to get a job on the newly built Boston Elevated Railway and when the opportunity came, he took a job as a streetcar conductor. For a time he traveled to his job over the B&M Railroad but eventually he moved his family to West Eagle Street in East Boston near the Lexington Street Car barns. Here they lived until about 1925 when, according to family tradition, the trolley he was riding in was rammed by a fire engine. His injuries were so severe that he could no longer perform his duties as a conductor. For a time, he worked switching trolleys in front of his house, but his condition deteriorated further Eventually, Everett was moved to the Long Island Hospital for the Terminally Ill, where he died in 1926. Throughout this ordeal, the family was forced to live on the donations of fellow transit workers.

Everett and Lottie had four children. Alice Harriett Louisa, who was always known as Harriett, was born in Gloucester. She was of great help in compiling this family history. Mildred Elizabeth  was born during the move to Boston. Fondly remembered by my father, she died at the age of seven from Bright's Disease. Charles Everett, my father, was born in East Boston. Doris Mary was born shortly before Everett died.

Charles Everett Wainwright was the oldest son of Everett.  His physical appearance was forever changed at the age of three, when he fell from a third floor tenement window and shattered his skull.  Doctors placed a silver plate into his forehead to replace the smashed bone.  With the death of his father, Charles Everett became the breadwinner of the family. In the 1920's there was no such thing as Worker's Compensation, Disability Insurance, or Social Security. If a man was unable to work, he had to rely on his family, friends, and the good will of his employer for his welfare. At the age of thirteen, Charlie quit school and took a job as a water boy at the Hotel Bradford in Boston. Every evening he took the penny ferry from East Boston to Rowe's Wharf, then walked to his job. Young Charles began associating with three of his older cousins, Ralph, Lester, and Raymond Brown, who had a dance band. By the time he was 18 the band was playing at a well-known speakeasy on Dover Street in Boston. He later played with Edgar and Dorothy (Dame) Rogers in a small ensemble. Dot, Edgar, and Charlie developed their musical abilities and made a reasonable living playing at clubs and parties. It was at one of these parties in December 1936 that Charlie was introduced to Dot's niece Anna Dame, who had just returned from an extended stay in Norway with her mother and brother. They eloped in 1938 to Hampton Falls New Hampshire.

Charlie and Anna had four children, all born in East Boston or Winthrop.  Deanna Hope married Martin Catyb and live in Revere Massachusetts. Elaine Hedvig lives in Malden Massachusetts. Linda Carole  married John Foley of Malden and later Thomas Cunningham  of West Newbury and Richard Mooreof Malden Massachusetts.  She lives in Malden Massachusetts. Charles Everett Wainwright Jr, your compiler, was the youngest child and only son.

When war broke out in 1941, Charlie registered for the Military Service. Because of his age, and the silver plate in his forehead, he was turned down for all active service. In 1943 he managed to enlist in the newly formed Massachusetts State Guard as a member of the marching band. In 1946, when the State Guard was merged with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, he entered active reserve service as a member of the 567th Band; part of the 102nd Tactical Fighter Wing stationed at Logan Airport in East Boston. He remained with the Air Guard for the next 30 years, retiring with the rank of Senior Master Sergeant; the first in the Wing to attain that newly formed rank.  

Charles Everett Wainwright died 1 Sept 1985 and is buried with his wife Anna at the Forestdale Cemetery in Malden. Engraved on his headstone, below his name is a musical "G" Clef, a symbol of the music that was so important to his life.

Charlie and Anna's youngest child, Charles Everett Wainwright Jr. (your compiler) was born in 1950 in Winthrop, Massachusetts. He graduated Malden High School, and Bryant & Stratton Junior College of Business in Boston and got involved in the burgeoning Computer industry starting in 1970. He developed a great interest in the history of East Boston and, later, in his own family. In 1969 Charles married Deborah June Snowof Malden, Massachusetts, a childhood friend and sweetheart. They had one living child, Nicole Anna, born in 1973. Nicole graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995, and received her graduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1997.

In 1981, Charlie married Candyce Selley Wyche of Weston, Massachusetts and had two children: Charles Cyril, born in 1984, and Sarah Elizabeth, born in 1991. He currently lives in Topsfield Massachusetts.

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