I visited Townsend, the home of the Baldwins, Spauldings, Emerys and Gassets for the first time last week.
Since most of my mother’s ancestors lived within about 50 miles of Rhode Island, I will have an opportunity to visit each place they lived in many times. This visit was just to familiarize myself with the town and visit the historical society and cemeteries.
It’s a Small Town
My first stop was a roadside antiques consignment shop on the way into town. There I met a woman who was related to Richard N. Smith (said she was his cousin, but as genealogists know, that could mean anything), the author of the 1978 history of Townsend called “Divinity and Dust – A History of Townsend, Massachusetts.” I told her if she got a chance to let him know how much I enjoyed the book.
While driving around, I had the wonderful experience of spotting streets named for many of my ancestors: Spaulding Street, Emery Road, Jefts Street, Blood Road.
Townsend Historical Society
I next approached the Townsend Historical Society. I didn’t have an appointment but was greeted cheerfully and shown into an office where I discussed what I was researching. I was able to photograph some membership roles of the Congregational Church from 1847 and 1851. My direct ancestors were out of Townsend by that time, but some aunts, uncles and cousins remained. I recognized many of them in the lists. I was asked not to reproduce those photographs here.
The Historical Society had some files, ephemera and other records but nothing that seemed to fit well with the family names and times I mentioned. But I was able to inquire about old Townsend newspapers and the nearest city newspapers. I purchased a few small items which complete my set of written works on Townsend history (see bibliography below.) I purchased a black and white reproduction of this 1856 Townsend map. I was invited to send in any queries that I might have in the future, and perhaps I will, since I have only just started with this group.
Next I visited Hillside Cemetery. This cemetery is very big but for some reason I drove right up to the memorial I was looking for. It carries the names of many of the siblings of my ggg-grandmother, Polly (Spaulding) Baldwin, 1806-1839. It is a memorial to Miles Spaulding (1819-1896), who was a physician in nearby Groton, and is buried in Groton. It was placed by his widow; they had no children. I wonder if this turn of the century marker replaced some older ones? The earliest death on this memorial is 1834.
I never found the graves of my grandfather’s great grandparents, Eli and Polly (Spaulding) Baldwin. But I knew the cemetery was recorded, section by section, in the Vital Records of Townsend Massachusetts book which I had on order, so I knew I could return with that another time and find everything. My grandfather’s grandfather, Edward Baldwin, and his sister Catherine were left orphans when Eli and Polly died. Polly’s siblings, particularly those mentioned on the marker above, did a lot for Catherine and Edward. So I was touched to see that Catherine (Baldwin) Hunt (1834-1904) was buried in the same plot. She and her husband, William Hunt, did not have any children. I suspect Edward Baldwin died alone, and is not buried here. But there is a lot still to learn about him.
Old Burying Ground
My last stop was the Old Burying Ground on Highland Street. A more manageable size than Hillside, I examined every marker, and also referred to a list I had brought. Even with that, I will need to refer to the Vital Records list and make a trip back. Meanwhile, here is what I found.
My ggggg-grandfather John Emery (1754-1828):
John’s father, my gggggg-grandfather Zachariah Emery, 1716-1804
My gggggg-grandfather Deacon Isaac Spaulding, 1710-1776
My gggggg-grandmother, Sarah (Barrett) Spaulding (1714-1806), wife of Deacon Isaac:
My ggggg-grandfather Lieut. Benjamin Spaulding, 1743-1832
My ggggg-grandfather Reuben Gassett, 1754-1822:
- Go through the cemeteries again with a better list in hand
- Send some questions to the Historical Society
- Explore newspaper resources
- Locate several ancestral homes through the various books and maps available
- Find military records for more of these ancestors
A Bibliography of Townsend Resources:
- Hallowell, Henry C., (“transcribed and edited by”). Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts, Town Records to 1850 with Marriage Intentions to 1873 and Cemetery Inscriptions. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1992.
- The History of the Churches of Townsend, Mass. Townsend: Townsend Historical Society, 1973. (44 pages)
- Sawtelle, Ithamar B. History of the Town of Townsend, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from the Grant of Hathorn’s Farm, 1676-1878. Fitchburg, Mass.: Published by the Author, Press of Blanchard & Brown, 1878.
- Smith, Richard N. Divinity and Dust, A History of Townsend, Massachusetts. Lancaster, Mass: Richard N. Smith and the Townsend Historical Society, Printed at the College Press, 1978.
- Town of Townsend, Incorporated June 29, 1732, 250th Anniversary. Townsend Historical Society, 1982. (88 pages, mostly pictures)
- Wornham, William. The Last Muster: A Survey of the Civil War Veterans Buried in Townsend, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Second Ed., 1998. (36 pages)
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