Monday, March 23, 2009

Mystery Monday - Thomas J. Newton of Maine (19th century)

Amy Crooks on her Untangled Family Roots blog suggested a "Madness Monday" meme to discuss those ancestors that drive us crazy - either because of what they did with their lives or because they are so elusive.

Here's one of my elusive ancestors that is so mysterious that I don't know when he was born, when/where he died, and I don't have any records pertaining to his life - only to those that descend from him.

THOMAS J. NEWTON (born Maine ca 1795-1805)

One of my most elusive ancestors is Thomas J. Newton. Based on information from vital records and census records of his children, I believe that he:

* Was born in Maine (probably Oxford County), probably between 1790 and 1810.
* Married Sophia (Buck) Brigham, a widow with two small children, between 1830 and 1835, probably in or near Sterling, Worcester County, MA.
* Probably resided in Cambridge, Lamoille County VT in at least part of the 1833 to 1850 time period.
* Had at least two children with Sophia - Thomas J. Newton (born June 1833?) and Sophia Newton (born Sept 1834?) in Cambridge VT (the marriage records for both of them claim their birthplace as Cambridge VT).
* Either divorced Sophia before 1850 or died before 1862 leaving her a widow (since she married again in 1862).
* Left no census records in his name in 1830, 1840 or 1850 (at least that I can find).

The above is based on this quiver of evidence:

1) Concerning Sophia (Buck) (Brigham) Newton, I have her birth record on 3 May 1797, to Isaac and Martha (Phillips) Buck, in Holden MA VRs, and her death 6 Jan 1882 in Westborough MA (in MA VR 339:452, as Sophia Stone, widow of Jonathan Stone).

2) I have found no record of Sophia Buck's first marriage to Lambert Brigham ca. 1819, except for the Brigham surname book. That book also lists their two children, Augustus Brigham b. ca 1820 and Aurelius Brigham, born ca. 1830. The book says Lambert Brigham died before 1833, as I recall.

3) In the 1850 census, Sophia Newton (age 53, born MA) and her daughter, Sophia Newton (age 15, born VT) resided in Northborough, MA. Thomas J. Newton, a bootmaker, age 17, born VT, resided in West Boylston MA with the Nathan Daggett family.

4) The marriage of Sophia Newton (1834-1923) to Edward Hildreth (on 25 Dec 1852 in Northborough, MA) indicated her age as 18, her birthplace as VT, her father as Thomas J. Newton and no name for her mother.

5) The marriage of Thomas J. Newton, on 23 Nov 1864 in Worcester MA said he was age 32, born in Cambridge VT and his parents were Thomas Newton and Sophia Buck. Census records in 1900 and 1910 in Albany, VT indicated that Thomas Jr. and his wife did not have any natural children. A brief county history book entry for this Thomas J. Newton does not mention his parents, and states that he had two adopted children, so there are apparently no blood relatives in this line.

6) Sophia (Newton) Hildreth's death record (29 September 1923 in Leominster MA) says she was born in Springfield VT, her father is not listed, her mother is listed as (Buck) Newton, and she was age 86-11-15, making her birthdate 14 Sep 1834, if the record is correct.

7) I checked the Worcester County MA Supreme Judicial Court records for divorces while at the FHL in January, and found none for Thomas J. Newton/Sophia (Buck) Newton for the 1834-1850 time period.

I have no original source, primary information or direct evidence that the subject Thomas J. Newton ever existed. All I have are these bits of secondary information as evidence that he existed.

There is one Thomas J. Newton who fits all of my criteria above, but I am not sure that he is the right man:

* He was born in Dixfield, Oxford County, ME to Jacob and Fanny (Parks) Newton in 1808; Thomas was a grandson of Levi Newton who settled in Dixfield before 1800.
* He married Eliza Coffin in 1838 in Dedham MA, and fathered a baby, Thomas J. Newton, in 1848 who died in infancy,
* He was living in Reading MA in the 1850 census, and died there in 1852 (father listed as Jacob Newton).
* There is no probate record for this man.

For this man to be the "right" one, one has to believe that he:

* Married a significantly older woman (he aged 24, she aged 35) with two small children in about 1833.
* Moved her from Sterling MA to Cambridge VT (over 200 miles by road) for some reason.
* Fathered two children by her, then divorced her.
* Married Eliza Coffin in Dedham MA in 1838, and settled in Reading MA, dying there in 1852.
* Named a second son Thomas J. Newton when the first one was still living.

Is that possible? Certainly. Is it certain? No way.

I wondered about the Cambridge, Vermont records. There was a Gershom Newton who resided in Cambridge, Lamoille County VT in the 1800 to 1850 time frame, and died in 1853. His probate record does not mention a Thomas J. Newton or his offspring. The Cambridge town records don't mention a Thomas J. Newton. Gershom Newton was a first cousin of Jacob Newton.

I have researched:

* Vital records (births, marriages, deaths) in MA, VT and ME,
* Probate and land records in Oxford County ME, Lamoille County VT, Middlesex County MA, and Worcester County MA,
* Census records from 1790 to 1920 for ME, MA, NH, VT
* Online databases (IGI, Ancestral File, WorldConnect, Ancestry, etc)

There were two early Newton families in western Maine before 1800. Levi Newton of Dixfield, Oxford County, Maine, and Nathan Newton of Andover, Oxford County, Maine.

Nathan Newton married (1) Anna Brigham, in Marlborough MA, they had three known children, and the family moved to Andover, Oxford County, Maine. Anna died there and Nathan married (2) Dollie Wood and had several more children, including a Lambert Newton. Recall that my Sophia (Buck) Brigham of Southborough, MA, was the widow of Lambert Brigham and married Thomas J. Newton, the subject of this mystery. Notice the names that keep repeating here? That's a clue! The challenge is to connect Lambert Brigham to Anna Brigham, and perhaps that is a family connection for how my Thomas J. Newton "found" my Sophia (Buck) Brigham in about 1833 and married her.

What now? I continue to pick at this problem, but would appreciate counsel, advice, suggestions and wild-assed guesses. Thanks!

1 comment:

MissMacLeod said...

Hi! I have had a brief look at your puzzle (somehow I followed your link through twitter - glad I did!) I did find a marriage record (online, I know, but it's late, and it is a puzzle) for Lambert and Sophia - Brigham,Lambert,formerly of Westborough,m.Sophia Buck,in Sterling (CC.Feb.22,1817)
Source Information: Massachusetts Centinal Marriage Notices [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 1998. Original data: American Antiquarian Society. Index to Marriages in Massachusetts Centinel and Columbian Centinel, 1784-1840, Vol. 1 A-D. Boston, MA, USA: G.K. Hall, 1961.
I also found a census link - Year: 1820; Census Place: Sterling, Worcester, Massachusetts; Roll: M33_54; Page: 68; Image: 133.
Indicates Lambert in Sterling, with his wife and one child under 10.
I still cannot connect Anna and Lambert - don't forget - Maine is weird- might not be a blood connection that carries the name forward ( it's ok for me to say this, I grew up in Maine). Anyway, great puzzle - I am so glad I found your site! I will try to take a look tomorrow when I'm not so tired and see if I can find anything. Maybe you can help me find my elusive Josiah Parsons....
Thanks for the fun challenge, Georgeia Mangione - you can reach me at