|Conserving the Historical Tapestry|
Just last Saturday, my husband Joel and I went to Gloucester to visit my sister and brother who reside there, but I had already decided to make a few stops along the way to satisfy my curiousity and to take some photos of the ancient 1st Parish Burial Ground where I knew some of the family of James and Sarah Bray Sawyer were probaby interred. I also knew that this site was close to the place where Thomas Skillings had lived, although there would be no way of identifying exactly where. None-the-less, I knew this would give me some tangible inspiration to get to the business of another post for this blog. I sometimes need that! Here are some photos and information that I think may be of interest to the Isaac and Anthony Sawyer descendants who follow this blog.
|Gravestone for infant Benjamin Sawyer, died at 4 weeks old in May,1746|
He was the son of James Sawyer III and Deborah Webber Sawyer,
the grandson of James and Hannah Babson Sawyer, and great grandchild
of James and Sarah Bray Sawyer
|Deborah Sawyer, born, November 10, 1741, died in July1746,|
just two months after her infant brother Benjamin,
shortly before her 5th birthday, and in the same month of her father.
|James Sawyer III, born October 20, 1715 to|
James Sawyer (1691-1730) and Hannah Babson (1695-1747)
Died: July 16, 1746, the same year as his two children.
|A tremendous undertaking to preserve this ancient burial ground is creditted to|
a team of wonderful volunteers whose work of conservation is long-term, but has
resulted in preserving so many of these memorial stones, most in remarkably good condition.
In all probability, James Sawyer I and his wife, Sarah were probably interred here, however, I did not find records. Other Sawyers of that early ancester for whom there is some evidence are: Abraham Sawyer, born in 1680 and died in 1752. Isaac Sr., his brothers John and Jacob inherited some of his estate. Although, James Babson indicated in his history of Gloucester that he was probably unmarried, there is a record of his marriage in Rowley to a woman named Margret Hidden on February 17, 1737. Babson mentions that Sarah Bray Sawyer ived with her son Abraham until her death.
Three other children of James Sawyer I are mentioned as interred at the 1st Parish Burial Ground: Mary Sawyer Ring, born 1672, died 1717, was married in 1699 to William Ring (1676-1737), Nathaniel Sawyer, born on October 29, 1677 in Gloucester where his parents had moved, probably from Ipswich or Rowley. Nathaniel was married to Hannah Parker on November 4, 1706 and died on April 11, 1741. and finally, Sarah Sawyer Mariner, wife of John Mariner (1682-1748) who was born on June 19, 1683 and died, August 26, 1724.
Last Saturday was a rainy, dreary day, but despite the inclement weather, we were able to meet some of the wonderful volunteers who helped us locate some of the graves. We hope to return in the future to find the other Sawyer burial sites and to add some additional threads to the tapestry.
I also wanted to find and get my own photo of the James Sawyer house which I mentioned in my last post, and was pleased to locate it off the western side of the Annisquam River, close to the Magnolia line. What I found was a young man, Colby Morrissey and his girlfriend who live in the house standing outside. Not wanting to barrage them with all my questions on such a rainy day, I've decided to write to him to get answers to some of my questions. Colby is a descendant of James Sawyer and seemed quite familiar with the Sawyer's history, including Isaac Sawyer and his brothers emigration to ancient Falmouth in the mid 18th century. I am grateful for our brief encounter!
|Colby Morrissey a descendant of James Sawyer|
and his girlfriend live in his ancester's home
|Side view of the house at 268 Western Avenue built in 1714.|
I will add an interesting photo before moving on of a monument for the Rev. Edward Payson's wife, Hannah. Wonder if they are related to the Paysons here in Portland? I hope anyone with information will share their comments.
Moving on! In my last post I listed the six Gloucester men who emigrated to Falmouth and purchsed grants on Back Cove from George Cleeve in 1658 and was particularly focused on the Thomas Skillings' farm which, ultimately, ended up in the ownership of Isaac Sawyer, Sr. A great deal of genealogical material exists about the Skillings family, along with many questions. For the purpose of this post I will focus on how the property transitioned to various family members to John Wass who acquired the property in 1719, and then sold it to Isaac Sawyer in 1725.
Thomas Skillings/Skellen was born about 1614 in Lavenham, Suffolk, England. Some accouts say he may have been born in Topsfield, MA? He married Deborah Prince, the daughter of Thomas Prince,III and Mary Patch who was also born in England about 1623.
Thomas and Deborah were married in 1642, probably in Salem. Babson records that Thomas came from Salem to Gloucester about this time, and we know from the record I included in my last post, that he lived near what would be set aside for the 1st Parish Burial Ground. Babson mentions that Thomas skillings was brother-in-law to Thomas Prince IV who was married to Margaret Skillings, his sister.
Thomas Skillings moved to Falmouth in 1651, but it's unclear how long he stayed, since Babson says he was living in Gloucester in 1658 and then moved again, that same year to Falmouth when he purchased the grant from George Cleeves for the farm. He remained there until his death on October 2, 1667.
|The grant lists 55 acres and the abutters and the requirements for ownership.|
On November 14, 1666, Thomas Skillings made his will giving some of his farm animals and tools to his oldest sons, Thomas, Jr.(Nov, 1643 - 1676) and John (1644 - 1689), and the bulk of his estate to his wife Deborah with the provision that if she should marry, she would retain one third, and the remainder would be divided between his children.
Thomas Skillings died the following year in 1667 and Deborah moved back to Cape Ann, probably with her younger children. On June 29, 1668, she was married for a second time, to George Hadley ( c. 1614 - 1686).
It appears that Thomas Skillings did have other children although they are not specifically named in his will. Here is a listing which I will include and hope that it is somewhat accurate, although there is some question about Elizabeth Skiillings who married Edmund Clarke. Some genealogies name her as a daughter to Thomas skillings, others as his granddaughter and daughter to Benjamin Skillings. My opinion is that she was his daughter.
Children of Thomas skillings and Deborah Prince Skillings
Thomas Skillings, Jr., Born in Gloucester or Salem, on Nov. 14, 1643 , and died on December 30, 1676 in Salem, age 33 years). He married Mary Lewis in Falmouth about 1669.
John Skillings, born in Gloucester in 1644, married Elizabeth Ingersoll in 1672. He died in 1689, probably killed at Long Creek about 45 years of age.
Deborah Skillings, born in Gloucester in 1648. She was living in Gloucester unmarried in 1715 when she made an oath in support of her younger brothers'Joseph and Benjamin's claims to their father's estate.
Abigail Skillings, born in Gloucester, in 1652, married John Curney, November 18, 1670, and died in Gloucester on Febraury 16, 1722.
Elizabeth Skillings, born in Gloucester in 1654, married to Edmund Clarke.
Joseph Skillings, born about 1656 in Gloucester, married Elizabeth Warner/Gott in Ipswich on May 22, 1713. He resided in Marblehead.
Benjamin Skillings was born about 1664 in Falmouth. He resided in Marblehead. There is also mention of a Benjamin Skillings in Rev. Thomas Smith's Journal that he (Benjamin) was 100 years old at the time of his burial on his own property in the Stroudwater Village on December 11, 1764.
There is a lot more to include here, but for now, I will post the deeds which show the distribution of property between Joseph Skillen (note that the spelling of the name is different.) to Edmund Clarke, with their wives' consent, Edmund Clarke to John Wass, and finally Benjamin Skillings to John Wass, all dated 1719. You will undoubtably notice as I did that the original grant from Cleeves for 55 acres had expanded over time. Joseph and Benjamin split 100 acres which is what John Wass received.. This 100 acres plus additional land holdings is what Wass sold to Isaac Sawyer, Sr. in 1725.
Before returning to fill in other details about the Skillings family and its relevance to the Grand Trunk Cemetery and the souls interred there, I need stop for a while, but not before calling attention to our upcoming annual Fall Cleanup and Planting Party. If you are living locally in the Portland area, please consider spending a little time visiting the Grand Trunk Cemetery and helping out that day. We enjoy each other's company while raking, picking up spent plants and planting bulbs. We would love to have you join us next Sunday afternoon, October 28. Look for our new sign on Presumpscot Street in front of the school!
You can also get some additional bits and pieces by following our Facebook page at