Massachusetts is certainly one of the best states to start doing genealogy. I am lucky enough to have American colonial ancestry, which has been given extensive treatment by genealogists. If your genealogy lies in the Northeast, The New England Historic and Genealogical Society is a must use library. After an extensive commute from Shirley to the Back Bay of Boston, I turn the corner that leads my eyes to the 100 foot brick building nestled on Newbury Street. My search began on the sixth floor of the library which contains genealogies and family histories. Without having entered college, I already became familiar with a scholar’s necessity to check previous scholarship before he dives into the records. At this time, I had traced back to the Revolutionary War and knew my soldier was Elisha Freeman, possibly of Connecticut. I found a three part genealogy called Freeman Families in New England by Robert R Freeman. The lineages were traced to original migrants who settled along the Eastern Seaboard.

Elisha Freeman is listed a descendant of Edmund Freeman of Sandwich, Massachusetts. In my goal of joining the SAR, visiting the NEHGS proved another big break. In the same genealogy Freeman Families of New England, Elisha Freeman was mentioned with some good information.

Elisha Freeman
b. 10 Aug 1747 in Mansfield, Tolland, Conneticut
Event: in 1773 in Hanover, Grafton, New Hampshire
Event: circa 1775 in Norwich, Windsor, Vermont. He removed to Norwich, Gloucester County, New York (now Vermont)
Event: circa 1777 in New Hampshire, Revolutionary War Service as a corporal in Olcott’s Regiment of Vermont Militia
Event: on 25 April 1777 in Norwich, Windsor, Vermont. He was noted as living on Norwich on this date.
Event: in 1790 in Norwich, Vermont. He was listed as a the head of a household with one male age 16 or great, four males under 16 and four females in the First U.S. Census

Those Company Pay Rolls of Pvt. Elisha Freeman from the 8th Connecticut Regiment are  not the one I was looking for.  Doing Google searches, I couldn’t find much on Olcott’s Regiment, but that his militia were not part of the Continental Army, so therefore a locally organized militia.

I then went straight for the collection of local histories at the NEHGS, where I read History of Norwich, Vermontby M.E. Goddard & Henry V. Patridge. I learned that Peter Olcott’s militia were organized around 1774 or 1775 and it was purely voluntary group of “young, patriotic men”. Peter Olcott emigrated to Norwich in 1772/3 and was a leader amongst the township.

Learning that Norwich was once part of New York, I also learned about the boundary changes in this area.  The first town meeting was held at Mansfield, Tolland, Connecticut on 26 Aug 1761 where Norwich became a recognized township. However, on 20 July 1764, England extended the boundary of New York to the West Bank of Connecticut River, which made New York part of New York. Initially in 1766, Norwich was a part of Cumberland County, New York but a new division made in 1772 made Norwich part of Gloucester County, New York.

The migration of the Freeman family from Mansfield, Conneticut to Norwich makes more sense now. According to Freeman Families of New England, Elisha’s grandfather, Edmund Freeman, who moved to Mansfield, was one of the original land grantees of Hanover, Grafton, New Hampshire. Hanover is in proximity to Norwich and lies east of the Connecitcut River.

Source: Freeman, Robert R. Freeman Families of New England. Vol. 1. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books Inc., 2005.

Goddard, M. E., and Henry V. Partridge. History of Norwich, Vermont. Hanover, NH: The Dartmouth Press, 1905.

I am posting Edmund Freeman’s biography and genealogical profile written by the author.

Edmund Freeman was born on 25 June 1596 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. In his pre-imigration life he lived not only in Pulborough but he moved to Billinghurst, Sussex in 1619-1620 and lived there for seven or eight years. On 16 June 1617 in Cowfold, Sussex, England, he married Bennett Hodsoll, daughter of John Hodsoll & Faith Gratwick Bacon.  Bennett bore him at least six children before she died on 12 April 1630 in Pulborough. On 10 August 1632, he second married Elizabeth Raymer in Shipley, Sussex, England. She was born about 1600 in Englad.  Edmund Freeman sailed on the Abigail from London, arriving in Boston, Massachusetts on 8 October 1635, infected with smallpox.  On board the Abigail with him was his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Freeman as well as 4 of his children, Alice, Edward (Edmund), Elizabeth, and John.

He moved to Saugus, Essex, Massachusetts first, noted as living there on 10 December 1635.  It is recorded that he presented the colong with twenty pieces of armor plate. Within two years, however, he removed to Duxbury in Plymouth Colony, where he was admitted as a freeman on 2 January 1636/1637. He was present at a general meeting of the freemen of Plymouth on 7 March 1636/1637.

 On 3 April 1637, ten men of Saugus, including Edmund Freeman, gained the agreement of the General Court of Plymouth Colony to commence the establishment of the first English Town on Cape Cod, extinguishing the Indian’s Title to the land. It was written at the time that they went to Cape Cod “to worship God and make money”. Within two years, the settlement was legally incorporated as the town of Sandwich. Edmund and Elizabeth settled near Scusset Marsh in 1638 and also owned land in Ploughed Neck in East Sandwich.  

Edmund was very active in public affairs. In 1640, he was appointed as the representitive of Sandwich and with Thomas Dimmock of Barnstable and John Crow of Yarmouth, met to discuss the causes/controversies with the three townships of Cape Cod. He was elected as one of the 7 Assistant Governors of Plymouth in 2 June 1640 and re-elected annually thourgh June 1645. When the government of Plymouth realized the need for a means to resolve small legal cases on Cape Cod with the parties having to go to Plymouth, Edmund Freeman was appointed head of a court of three men to hear and determine such cases.

He showed himself to be of tolerant and liberal views through two cases. Late in 1645, Captain William Vassal petitioned the Plymouth Court to legalize for men of every religous belief who would still “preserve the the civil peace and submit unto government.” The Plymouth Couty of 7 plus the Governor were evenly divided, with Edmund Freeman among those in favor of the petition. The conservative faction obtained a delay and the matter was never raised again, while Plymouth became steadily more rigid in it’s intolerance of beliefs other than those of the established church.

The second incident came when, during the Quakers troubles in the Colonies, which reached Sandwich 16 or 17 years after its settlement, he counselled moderation. Edmund Freeman opposed the enactment and enforcement of severe and illiberal punishments for the Quakers. This principled stand put him in opposition to many others in the Plymouth Colony government and resulted in not being re-elected. Edmund and Elizabeth Freeman of being undevoted to the established Separatist church of Plymouth Colony, when on 7 October 1651, they, along with 11 other people of Sandwich, were  presented to the court for not “frequenting the publick worship of God”. Nevertheless, according to Frederick Freeman, he was “pre-eminently respected, always fixed in principle, and decisive in action, nevertheless quiet and unobtrusive, a counsellor and leader without ambitious ends in view, of uncompromising integrity and of sound judgement,…”

Elizabeth Freeman died in Sandwich on 14 February 1675/1676. Edmund Freeman wrote his will on 21 June 1682 (proved 2 November 1682), which he assigned as executors his son, John, his daughter, Elizabeth Ellis,  and his son-in-law, Edward Perry. He gave his land to them, as well as to his other son, Edmund, and his grandson, Thomas Paddy. He referred also to land he had already given to his grandson, Matthias Ellis on 24 February 1678 in Sandwich.

Edmund and his wife were both buried on a hill at the rear of his house under rustic stone monuments, known as “the saddle and pillion” which he selected himself at the time of his wife’s death, the oldest burying ground in Sandwich. The graves are now marked by metal plaques on the original farm, located on Tupper Road, just east of Route 6A in Sandwich.

Source: Freeman, Robert R. Freeman Families of New England. Vol. 1. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books Inc., 2005.

There is even more information, relating to proof of these events and how some long unresolved answers came to be known.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Jake Fletcher.

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