Our Bolton Family: Who were they...  

The search for our Bolton family began in the early 1850s with Louisa Agnes Shove (1841-c1943), this researcher's Great Grandmother, who was disappointed that her mother, Elizabeth (Bolton) Shove (1806-1864), could tell her so little about her ancestors. Elizabeth Bolton was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1806 and her mother, whose name she thought was "Gilpha", died when Elizabeth was only two years old. Elizabeth's father, whose name she knew was John Bolton, also died when she was quite young. Our first break-through came in 2005 when we linked a public transcription of the 1803 Boston marriage of John Bolton and Zilpah Peirce with a harder to find Boston church transcription of Zilpah Bolton's death in 1808.  We finally had both names to work with! Because of Louisa, who inspired and challenged her own descendants with the search, we have been able to learn who these people were.

Elizabeth Everett Bolton
of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Illinois

Elizabeth Everett Bolton (1806-1864) was orphaned at a young age, and we know nothing about her very early years. Where was she living -- and with whom -- between the time of her mother's death, and then her father's death, until her marriage in Milton, Massachusetts at the age of 17?  We still don't know.

Elizabeth married James Ormond Brown in Milton in 1823 and they had three children: James Ormond Brown, born about 1824, Elizabeth Everett Brown in 1826 and George Washington Brown in 1828. It is not known where the family lived or who the parents of Elizabeth's husband were.

In 1836, the widowed Elizabeth married a second time to Samuel Shove of Woonsocket and Providence, Rhode Island. Samuel's first wife, Lydia Buffum, had died in 1833 leaving Samuel with four children: William Buffum Shove, Hannah Baxter Shove, Nancy Hacker Shove and Josiah Shove. Together, Elizabeth and Samuel Shove had two more children: Clarence Vinton Shove in 1837 and Louisa Agnes Shove in 1841.

By the early1840s, Samuel and Elizabeth, with their younger children, had relocated to Knox County, Illinois. It is suspected that the three older boys, all old enough to be on their own, William Shove at age 33, Josiah Shove at 23, and James Brown, also 23, remained in Rhode Island, at least for a while. Josiah Shove was located in New York some years later and it is known that both he and William Shove were still living in 1874. James Brown was a teacher in Boston in 1850, and married to a woman named Amelia Louisa. By 1860 James had relocated his family to McLean County, Illinois. George Brown was married in McLean County, Illinois in 1850 to Eleanor Kenyon. He was a farmer with real estate valued at $3,000 in 1850, and by 1860 George and Eleanor had four young children. George's younger half brother, Clarence Shove, lived in the Brown household and helped with the farm labor and George's older brother James and his family were enumerated at the next household.

Elizabeth Bolton Shove was 57 when she died in 1864 at Oneida, Knox County, Illinois.  Her husband, Samuel Shove , died almost ten years later at the age of 85. 

John Bolton and Zilpah Peirce of Boston

Elizabeth's parents, John Bolton (1756-1819) and Zilpah Peirce (c1782-1808), were married in Boston, Massachusetts in 1803.  She was their only child. When Zilpah died in 1808, Elizabeth was only two years old. Although Elizabeth "thought" her father died in 1812 or maybe when she was twelve years old, we now know that he died in 1819 when she was thirteen.

Three generations of descendants had been searching for clues about the origins and lives of John Bolton and Zilpah Peirce. While many clues had been collected and analyzed, until recently no conclusions had been made. We now have learned that at least John, and possibly Zilpah as well, were born in Plymouth County, Massachusetts and that John was married to and "divorced" from Betsey Denny (Dana or Dennie) before his marriage to Zilpah. We wonder about Zilpah. Was Samuel Peirce the baker Zilpah's brother? Were Samuel Peirce the shipwright and/or the third Samuel Peirce her relatives? All three Samuels were listed in the Boston Directory in 1796. Was the name "Everett" of family or other special significance? Everett was John and Zilpah's daughter's middle name and she, in turn, gave the same middle name to her first daughter. Elizabeth's son James named his second son Everett. We wonder if Nathaniel Everett of Boston could be the Everett connection we've been looking for. Nathaniel Everett and Zilpah Bolton applied for membership in the Second Baptist Church of Boston at the same church meeting in 1805 along with eight other candidates, Although we can acknowledge that we've made some significant progress, we are fully aware that we still have more questions than answers.

It's sad, how little we know...

At this point in our research, we realize how very little we know about the five short years of marriage that John Bolton and Zilpah Peirce had together.  We know nothing of Zilpah or her family before her marriage and we know nothing of the early life of their daughter. The first link below lists the known people who were a part of their lives in Boston and the second link lists their descendants, descendant families and associates.

John Bolton, of Bridgewater

John Bolton (1756-1819), the original subject of our ancestor search, was born in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts in 1756, the third of four children and the only son of John Bolton (c1730-1762) and Elizabeth Hayward (c1726-1801). As a young man he enlisted in the Continental Army and served in the Revolutionary War until its end in 1781. In 1797, after just a few months of marriage and no children, he divorced his first wife, Betsy Denny, very publicly in the Boston newspapers. He married Zilpah Peirce, our ancestor, six years later and they had one daughter, Elizabeth Everett Bolton, in 1806. Zilpah died when Elizabeth was two years old and John's health and finances went steadily downhill. He died in Boston in 1819.

With scarcely any time at all to celebrate our ancestor John, we realized that both his parents, like Zilpah's, were mysteries needing to be solved. So, our next Bolton tasks, in addition to trying to identify Zilpah Peirce's family, were to determine the accurate parentage of both of John's parents, John Bolton and Elizabeth Hayward.

John Bolton and Elizabeth Hayward of Bridgewater

John Bolton (c1730-1762) and Elizabeth Hayward (c1726-1801) were married in Bridgewater in 1751 and had four children: Mary Bolton who married her first cousin, Joseph Bolton Jr., Ann Bolton who married Jeremiah Pratt, their third child and only son, John Bolton our ancestor, who married Betsy Denny first and Zilpah Peirce second, and Betty Bolton who died in 1812, unmarried.

Descriptions of the father John Bolton's parentage were conflicting and unclear. In 1897, Nahum Mitchell in his History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater stated it was uncertain whose son John, who was sometimes called John Jr., was. In 1903, Chesebrough researchers placed him as the only son of Ensign John Bolton (1686-1755) and Ruth (Hooper) Bolton (1691-1755) and in 1908 Thomas Hooper in his Hooper Family Genealogy noted only five children, all daughters, for Ensign John and Ruth Bolton. Our own research efforts took us to the 1755 will of Ensign John Bolton where we found no mention of a son John, or of any sons for that matter. Only his five "well-beloved" daughters and his sister, Abigail, were mentioned.  It appeared clear to us then, that John Bolton Jr. (c1730-1762) was not the son of Ensign John Bolton (1686-1755). Our research also indicated that John Bolton Jr. was most likely the grandson of Ensign John's father John Bolton (1660-1721) and therefore the son of one of Ensign John's brothers.

Further study on the subject of names taught us that it was a common practice of the times to identify younger and older generations with the same names, and living in the same town, as "Junior" and "Senior".  So we concluded that, although he was identified as "John Bolton Jr." in the record of his marriage in Bridgewater to Elizabeth Hayward and also in the Bridgewater records relating to the births of his children, the title of "Junior" was used only as a means of distinguishing him from his uncle, John Bolton (1686-1755), also of Bridgewater, who was identified as "Senior" in at least one land record.

So, while it appeared probable that John Bolton "Jr." was the grandson of John Bolton (1660-1721) and Sarah Chesebrough (1663-1743), and therefore the great grandson of Nicholas Boulton (c1600-1683) the Immigrant, his parents remained uncertain and needed to be determined.

John Jr.'s grandparents, John Bolton (1660-1721) and Sarah (Chesebrough) Bolton (1663-1743), had eleven children, six of them sons. The only son we could eliminate from consideration, once the facts were learned, was the eldest, John Bolton (1686-1755) who, according to land records, his will and the division of his estate, had five daughters and no sons. The remaining five brothers and therefore possible fathers, in order of birth were Samuel Bolton (1688-1753), Nicholas Bolton (1695-1750), Elisha Bolton (1700-1777), Joseph Bolton (1704-1751) and Nathaniel Bolton (1706-1770).

Samuel was married at least three times, twice before July of 1726 and from the aspect of timing could have been John's father. He married third Rebecca Simmons in 1742. Nicholas married at least once, the year not known, but possibly before 1730, to a woman named Mary. Elisha also married a woman named Mary, the year not known, but it could have been before 1730.  They had four sons we could fairly quickly identify, although none was named John. Elisha had a son who died in the army in 1762, but was not identified by name in the Pembroke, Plymouth County, Massachusetts church records. This definitely needed to be researched further because John "Jr." had not been found in any records after the birth of his youngest daughter in 1760. Joseph married Deliverance Washburn in 1740 and had two sons we could identify, but neither named John, and Nathaniel married Deborah (Washburn) Ripley in 1739 and had three sons we could identify, but no John. Joseph and Nathaniel were both considered more questionable candidates from a timing standpoint.

The brothers had four sisters who lived to adulthood. Sarah Bolton married William Leonard, Elizabeth Bolton married Michel May, Mary Bolton died unmarried and Abigail Bolton married Samuel Ripley.

All of the brothers were alive and residing in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, when they were collectively named as defendants in a court action in March 1730/31. After eliminating brother John from consideration, we continued our research on the remaining five.

As we began to research the third brother, Elisha, we decided to try to determine which of his sons had served, and which one had died in the army.  Imagine our amazement when we learned that Elisha had not just four sons, but six, including one named John, and that all six had enlisted and served in the French and Indian War.  Even better, the sons enlisted in pairs and all were found alive in a variety of records after 1762 -- except his son John.  So...  then we knew...  John Bolton "Jr." (c1730-1762) who married Elizabeth Hayward (c1726-1801) in 1751 was the first-born son of Elisha Bolton (1700-1777)!

It's very exciting to celebrate the recognition of our elusive Bolton men.  We have to laugh, though, if we were thinking that identifying them would have actually meant the solving of our Bolton Brick Wall. Without even pausing for breath, our project continues with the Bolton wives.

Our Bolton "Brick Wall" Wives: Zilpah, Elizabeth, Mary, and also Betsy Dennie

Zilpah (Peirce) Bolton

Our search for Zilpah Peirce (c1782-1808), seven years after learning her name, has produced only a few pieces of actual proof that she lived. Her marriage in Boston in 1803, her membership in the Second Baptist Church in Boston in 1805, her death in the church records in 1808 and the notation in a manuscript listing of 1808 deaths in Boston that she was 26 years old when she died. Even though we have a tiny collection of additional "clues", she's still, at this point, not much more than a name.

So, much as we did with our search for John Bolton, we have begun the process of researching all of the families in Massachusetts known as Peirce, Pierce, Pearce, Pearse, Pers and any other variations of the name that present themselves. The link below will introduce you to the extended Massachusetts families and individuals we have identified so far as potential candidates to have known her.

Elizabeth (Hayward) Bolton

In his 1897 History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater, Nahum Mitchell speculated that Elizabeth Hayward (c1726-1801) was, perhaps, the daughter of Nathaniel Hayward (1690-1755) and Mary Harvey (c1679-1756) of Bridgewater. In Oscar J. Harvey's 1899 Harvey Book, the children of Mary Harvey and Nathaniel Hayward were not included. In Paul Dillon Hayward's 1985 publication of Thomas Hayward of Bridgewater, although the author listed Elizabeth as the daughter of Nathaniel and Mary (Harvey) Hayward, he also stated in his Preface that the book was his third compilation on the Haywards and that most of the data presented had been obtained from previously published sources. He warned that there are undoubtedly many errors, some of which may invalidate entire sections of his book.

Just in case Elizabeth was not the daughter of Nathaniel and Mary, we have begun to look for other Hayward (and spelling variations of Hayward) families in Massachusetts who had daughters named Elizabeth born about the same time.

Mary (__?__) Bolton

We know almost nothing about Mary ______ (c1709-1786) who married Elisha Bolton (1700-1777) of Bridgewater.  They were the parents of Elizabeth's husband, John Bolton (c1730-c1762) and at least five other sons.  We have nothing but wild guesses, like Washburn, Hooper and Pratt, at this point to help us determine Mary's maiden name.

Washburn was selected as an "interesting possibility" for two reasons. First, because Mary's gravestone in the Bolton plot of the Old Graveyard in Bridgewater is very near the gravestones of Benjamin Washburn(c1718-1812) and his two wives, Susanna (Battles) Washburn (1723-1744/45) and Mary (Cushman) Washburn (1725-1808). The second Washburn connection is that two of Mary's Bolton brothers-in-law married Washburns. We've not yet begun to study the Washburn family in any depth.

Hooper is "interesting" because Mary's memorial gravestone was erected by an individual named John Hooper, whom we now believe was John Hooper (1739-1807) of Bridgewater. He seemed to be about the right age, served in the French and Indian War with Mary's son who died in the army, John Bolton (c1730-c1762), and after the war was called "Money John Hooper". We haven't yet learned why he erected her gravestone, which is likely critical in helping us learn more about Mary and her life before she married Elisha Bolton (1700-1777).

Pratt as Mary's surname was reported by John Arnold Byram in both the first and second editions of his Byrams in America, although neither edition notes any documentation or sources for the information provided. Byram, reporting on the marriage of Bethiah Ripley 1745- ) Jabez Bolton (c1737- ) in 1765 stated incorrectly that Jabez's father was John Bolton (c1730-c1762).  John was actually Jabez's brother, and both were the sons of Elisha Bolton (1700-1777) and our elusive Mary. The Byram source named Jabez Bolton's mother as Mary Pratt. Increasing our interest in Pratt as her maiden name is that the names of Mary's sons Jabez and Seth appear frequently in the Pratt family. At this point in our research, we know we must pursue every clue to Mary's identity that presents itself.  We've done almost nothing yet about the Pratts, although we have identified one Mary Pratt (1708- ), a daughter of Jabez Pratt (1673- ) and Elizabeth Cobb (1671- ), who could be a possibility.

What went wrong for Elizabeth "Betsy" Dennie?

Elizabeth "Betsy" Dennie (1769-1846) was the first wife of John Bolton (1756-1819) of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. They married in Dec 1796 in Boston, Massachusetts, and John very publically divorced her 6 months later. Betsy had become pregnant with another man's child, and her hurt and angry husband published her sins in multiple newspapers. The advertisement he placed in Boston and Bridgewater newspapers read:

"Whereas, my wife Betsy, has eloped from my bed and board, and has behaved in an unbecoming and indecent manner, by propagating the human species in a way other than the one prescribed by law: this is to caution all kinds of people, black, white, or pie-balled, against trusting her on my account, (harbour they may if they can) as I will not pay one mille of her contracting after this date. JOHN BOLTON. Bridgewater, June 14".

From our 21st Century perspective, we thought her behavior unusual for such a new bride and decided to learn more about her. Of course, the more we learn, the more questions we have.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Dennie was baptized in Jun 1769 at Brattle Square Church, Boston, where her great-grandfather, the Reverend Benjamin Colman (1673-1747)  had been the much respected pastor until his death in 1747. Betsy was the daughter of John Dennie (1738-1778 or 1805) and Elizabeth Jackson (1731-1811) of Boston. Three generations of Dennie men had been wealthy and prominent Boston merchants, although we have found no evidence that Betsy's father, who had been raised in his Grandfather Colman's household, followed in the Dennie family footsteps.

Betsy had two older brothers and a younger sister, and yet the next record we found for Betsy was her admittance to the Boston Almshouse in 1778. She was all alone, and only 9 years old. We've not yet learned why she was there, or where her parents and siblings were. Her father may have died as early as 1778, which would explain his absence, but her mother lived until 1811 and her brother Ebenezer Dennie (1768-  ) became a tailor of men's clothing in Boston.

The Almshouse records have provided additional information about Betsy's life before her marriage, and also information about the years following her divorce. Before she married John Bolton (1756-1819), she had given birth to at least three illegitimate children, and she had one or two more after she and John were divorced. At least one daughter, born in 1802, lived to marry and have a family.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Dennie Bolton (1769-1846) never married again and she kept the Bolton name after her divorce. She died almost 30 years after her only husband, and called herself the "widow of John Bolton".

In our attempt to learn more about her choices and her reasons, we have begun to research her extended family. We've gathered some additional information, and now have many new questions.

Another Bolton Family Project

Where Does Jeremiah Bolton Belong?...

Jeremiah Bolton, who was born in Connecticut and raised his family in New York, represents yet another Bolton Brick Wall. Researchers of Jeremiah's family initially believed he was the youngest son of Gamaliel Bolton, a 2nd great grandson of Nicholas Boulton, the Immigrant. Although Jeremiah's researchers are now seriously questioning Gamaliel as Jeremiah's father, it is still thought possible that Jeremiah was descended from a Plymouth County or Bristol County Bolton who moved to Connecticut. Another possibility, of course, is that his Boltons arrived in Connecticut from somewhere else. Their research continues.

The link below lists Jeremiah's known descendants, descendant families and associates.  Among the descendant families and associates, ancestors of some individuals may also appear, and by necessity, there may be duplication of some of the people between other lists found on the site.

Our Original Bolton Project: A Summary

Our Bolton People

What began as our Bolton Brick Wall project, with John Bolton and Zilpah Peirce as our only two "problem" people, grew to include John's parents, John Bolton "Jr." and Elizabeth Hayward, and the search to identify their parents.  For three generations our family had been trying to identify who these Bolton ancestors actually were. We finally began to make some progress after we decided to methodically research and eliminate, one-by-one, the members of every Bolton family we identified to have been living in Massachusetts during the targeted time period. To keep them all straight, we gave the most likely John Bolton candidates identifying names and also grouped the families by their primary counties of residence.

Our John Bolton, we discovered, was a descendant of Nicholas Boulton, the Immigrant. Nicholas is the earliest known ancestor of most of the Boltons of Plymouth and Bristol Counties and the link below lists his known descendants, descendant families and associates.  Among the descendant families and associates, ancestors of some individuals may also appear, and by necessity, there is duplication of some of the people between other lists found on the site.

The Five "John Bolton" Primary Candidates

Our research included twenty-one John Boltons who resided in Massachusetts during the time period we identified as probable, their families and associates. All but five of the Johns were eliminated relatively quickly for a variety of reasons, and the remaining five were then researched thoroughly enough to determine sufficient evidence to eliminate them (or not) from further consideration.

We gave each of these five candidates a descriptive name in order to keep them straight as we pieced together their lives. The first two of this group to be researched and eliminated were John Bolton of Vermont and John Bolton of Lowell. The final three, John Bolton (the Nephew) of Bridgewater, John Bolton of Berkley and John Bolton (the Uncle) of Bridgewater were more difficult to eliminate, until finally, the Uncle of Bridgewater was the only one left.

Other Bolton Families in Massachusetts

In order to organize the several other Bolton families we found in Massachusetts during the same time period, we attempted to group them on the lists linked below by their primary County locations. In doing this, we have kept family lines together, even though various members and/or generations of the family, may have originated from or moved to other locations.

Our Extended Bolton Family

Nicholas Boulton, the Immigrant, is the earliest identified ancestor of our Bolton line. He was Elisha's grandfather, the great grandfather of Elisha's son John "Jr." and the 2nd great grandfather of our "original" brick wall ancestor John. The link below lists his known descendants, their extended families and associates in Suffolk, Plymouth and Bristol Counties, Massachusetts and beyond. Among the descendant families and associates, ancestors of some individuals may also be included.

Who were these people...?

If you know anything that may help us chip through these bricks, or learn more about these people and their lives, please contact us!  Corrections of all kinds are also welcome.