In an earlier story about my grandparents (*1), I told how the mother (Annie Merrill) of my grandfather (Harold Pierpont) passed away as a result of childbirth and how he was “given away” to be raised by another family, Samuel and Hattie Nichols, in Prospect. His father (Wilson Pierpont) went on to remarry a few years later to Anna [Root] Hall, but my grandfather continued to be raised by Samuel and Hattie. I wondered why he was given to this couple and what connection they may have had to his birth parents. But this investigation uncovered much more than I thought.
I initially tried doing some detailed genealogical searching, looking for a relationship, and I did find such a connection.
Harold’s great*5 grandfather was James Nichols (Harold <- Annie [Merrill] Pierpont <- Eunice [Hoadley] Merrill <- Alma [Frisbie] Hoadley <- Daniel Frisbie <- Hannah [Wakelee] Frisbie <- Elizabeth [Nichols] Wakelee <- James Nichols). And James Nichols is also the great*3 grandfather of Samuel Nichols (Samuel <- Samuel <- Erastus <- Samuel <- Richard <- James). So that would have made Samuel his 4th cousin, twice removed. But that is much too distant a relation and would likely not have been known by the parties involved.
In the process I also discovered that Annie’s mother, Eunice, was a distant cousin of her father, Nathan (Nathan Merrill <- Elijah Merrill <- Sarah [Frisbie] Merrill <- Elijah Frisbie -> Reuben Frisbie -> Daniel Frisbie -> Alma [Frisbie] Hoadley -> Eunice [Hoadley] Merrill).
I also noted that the names of some of the Wolcott schools (Wakelee and Frisbie) are referenced here and I know that I am related to these families (*2).
But while all of these facts are interesting, it does not really give a satisfactory answer to my initial question.
There is also an interesting note in the Pierpont genealogies (*3) that says that Harold was “raised in ProspectCT by Anna Root Hall Pierpont”. I knew that this was not totally correct, as when Harold was orphaned in 1898 Anna was a widow living in the Mill Plain section of Waterbury and she didn’t marry Wilson Pierpont until a few years later. But was this note part of the key to the solution?
I decided to look at what all these families had in common and that was a connection to my hometown of Wolcott. Thus, by eliminating the Pierpont and Prospect from the question and concentrating on the geography of Wolcott and who lived where I found the solution.
My grandfather was born and his mother died in 1898. In the 1900 census, he is living in Prospect with Samuel and Hattie. So any answer must lie in the years before this. The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, so I did my initial investigation in the 1880 and 1870 census. Here are some of the things I found.
I had noted (in *1) that Anna [Root] [Hall] Pierpont, then just Anna Root, was a 17yo school teacher in Wolcott in the 1870 census, living in the home of George Atwood. I thought at the time that she would have been teaching in the center school as that is the one closer to the Atwood family when I lived there. But on further investigation I found that Anna is actually listed twice in that same census. On one page she is listed as living with her parents (Timothy and Celia) and on another page she is listed as living with the Atwood family. What is going on here? In looking at the dates on the top of the census page she was at the Atwood family on 7/14/1870, but she was at home on 7/18/1870 a few days later. I decided that some geography research was in order.
There is a very nice map of Wolcott from 1868 on the wolcotthistory.org website (*4). You can find the home of George Atwood near where the New Britain reservoir is located today in the Northeast school district. (This also gives some insight into the later connection between the Atwood family who a few years later marries into the Upson family located not that far away (*5)). So, if Anna was living there during the week, it would be because she was the teacher in that school district. But where were her parents living?
The Root family name does not appear on this map. However, in the 1870 census Timothy Root is living next to the Willis Merrill family who can be found in what is now the middle of Scovill Reservoir on the continuation of Todd Road north from where it ends today. In fact, some checking also revealed that Timothy’s wife Celia is actually Lucelia Merrill and her parents were Willis and Julia [Alcott] Merrill living next door. So that also gives me another connection to John Alcott/Alcox (Julia’s great-grandfather). And it may also give a connection, as yet unverified, between Wilson’s first wife, Annie Merrill, and his second wife, Anna Root. Finally, living with the Root family is a lady Hannah Hall – is this another, yet undocumented, connection between the Root and Hall families?
Thus, Anna was not hired as a school teacher who was from Plainville, but because her family had moved into Wolcott sometime between 1868 and 1870. But it was too far for her to commute from her family home to the Northeast School and thus she boarded with the Atwood family during the week and returned home during the weekends. In the process, she would have gone past the home of Orrin Hall (located where Ransom Hall road is today and marked “O Hall” on the map) and seen 17yo Ransom Hall, whom she married a few years later. It appears on the 1870 census records that Ransom was living with his grandparents, Orrin and Nancy Hall (also see *6 for information on the Nancy Hall bible).
Other families living in the same Woodtick area of Wolcott in 1868 include the Frisbie family (noted above in the genealogy connection), and just beyond the Wolcott Paper Mill and the school the family of “S. Nichols”, the family into which Samuel Nichols would be born a few years later.
Finally, I looked at the 1880 census. There we find the following families in close proximity:
· Page 9, Erastus Nichols living next door to his son Samuel Nichols and grandson Samuel Nichols Jr (the eventual foster father of my grandfather Harold Pierpont)
· Page 9, Timothy Root and his wife Lucelia [Alcott]
· Page 8, Orrin Hall, now widowed
· Page 5, Ransom and Anna [Root] Hall and two children
While genealogical connections exist between all these families, those connections are often driven by geographical proximity. Here we see the Merrill, Hall, Root, and Nichols families all in proximity in the Woodtick area of Wolcott. In addition, a few years later the widow Anna [Root] Hall was living in the Mill Plain area of Waterbury and would have likely been attending the Mill Plain Union church which is where Wilson and Annie [Merrill] Pierpont were also members.
Thus, when Annie passed away in 1898, the note that Anna Root Hall Pierpont helped raise Harold in Prospect did not mean that she actually raised him. Rather, it meant that she introduced Wilson to Samuel and Hattie Nichols, a young couple who were not able to have children of their own. She knew Samuel as he lived just a few houses away from her family in Wolcott where she grew up.
These types of interrelationships between history, genealogy and geography are fascinating to me. And as this research has shown, you may find what you are looking for in places that may not have occurred to you.