Monthly Archives: September 2011

George Wills’s Descendants: Additional Photos

Further to the last post about the Simpson family, here are a few more photos. Again, Zillah Simpson was a daughter of John and Phoebe (Wills) Simpson. The Phoebe here is that Phoebe (George Wills’s fifth daughter) who died in 1890.The last photo is of the Simpsons’s granddaughter Ella Caswell, daughter of Sarah German Simpson and Henry Slee Caswell.

Zillah Simpson (1843 - 1920), George Wills' granddaughter

Zillah Simpson (1843 – 1920), George Wills’ granddaughter

Zillah Simpson

Zillah Simpson

Phoebe Simpson

Phoebe Simpson

Ella Caswell (center), Sarah German Simpson Caswell's daughter; one of the two ladies seated is a sister-in-law, spouse of William Henry Caswell, Ella's brother

Ella Caswell (center), Sarah German Simpson Caswell's daughter; one of the two ladies seated is a sister-in-law, spouse of William Henry Caswell, Ella's brother

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, Caswell, England, Roade, Northants, Simpson, Wills | Leave a comment

Trowbridges and Tudor Tavern, plus Trowbridge web links

Tudor Tavern, 15 Fore Street, Taunton, Somerset, England

Yesterday I came across this old image of Tudor Tavern at 15 Fore Street in Taunton, Somerset, England. It’s the building to the left of the shop with the “F. Mead” sign. For a contemporary view of the tavern, visit the English Heritage site. The Tudor Tavern’s “bones” date back to the 14th century. The initials TT and IT are carved into a panel attached to the front of the building. Between the sets of initials is the date 1578. Today the building is operated as a Caffe Nero coffee shop according to Wikipedia. Why would this tavern be interesting to our family? Well, for good reason. It was leased and operated for over thirty years, beginning in 1578, by our ancestor Thomas Trowbridge (1542-1619), a prominent wool merchant, and his wife Joan Hutchins. They remodeled it in 1578 and affixed their initials to it (apparently “J” and “I” were used interchangeably at the time).

For more illuminating information on Thomas and his family, visit this useful website:

By the way, I have discovered that the Trowbridge family history is extremely well documented. The below websites contain a sampling of the copious amounts of information available. The fourth site listed is the 1908 book, History of the Trowbridge Family in America, written by Francis Baker Trowbridge and published in New Haven, CT. Its copyright has expired so it is available for free for viewing online or downloading. Happy reading!

Categories: Taunton, Somerset, Trowbridge, Woodruff | 4 Comments

George Wills’s Granddaughters

George Wills's descendants, Northamptonshire, no later than 1897

George Wills's descendants, Northamptonshire, no later than 1897

12/14/2011: Please see the update to this post.

To the left  is a photo taken no later than 1897. In the wheelchair is Phoebe and John Simpson’s daughter Zillah Wills Simpson (29 Jul 1843 – 10 Apr 1920). Standing in the rear are the elder Simpsons’ daughter Sarah German Simpson Caswell (30 Mar 1849-8 Jan 1929). Seated on the right is the elder Simpsons’ daughter Mary (2 Feb 1839-6 Feb 1917).

The photo was obtained by my grandmother Zillah Trewin from her cousin Ella Caswell Carter, Sarah German Simpson Caswell’s daughter, during a July 1935 trip to England. I presume the 1897 cut-off date for the photo was because John Simspon did not live beyond that year. My grandmother Zillah Trewin was named after Zillah Wills Simpson.

John Simpson and Phoebe Wills had six daughters and one son. Missing from this photo are daughter Ann, who married Hercules Smith and emigrated to Australia; Martha, who died at age four; Phoebe, who married Phillip Barnes; and John Simpson who married Fanny Smith and then Mary Bell. I do not know whether Hercules Smith and Fanny Smith were related.

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, Caswell, England, Gardiner, Roade, Northants, Sargent, Simpson, Wills | Leave a comment

William Sargent

I came across an old album of a trip to England taken by my grandmother and her family. In it I was surprised to see a photo of William Sargent (b. 1929), Mary Wills’s husband. It was taken in Northampton, England. Since the family supposedly left for the US right after the end of the Civil War, he would not have been any older than roughly 38 here. Not a very “happy chappy,” but folks did not seem to smile much in photos back then. His daughter Elizabeth’s resemblance to him is striking.

William Sargent

There were also photos of the Blisworth Church in Northamptonshire where Mary and all of her sisters were allegedly married. I’m not certain this was the case and am hoping to find some concrete evidence of that.

Blisworth Church, July 1, 1935

Blisworth Church

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England, Roade, Northants, Sargent, Wills | Leave a comment

My great aunt Bertha W. Woodruff (1888-1973)

17 Wilder Street

17 Wilder Street, Elizabeth, NJ

You may recall the posts about William E. Woodruff, who as a teenager received Civil War letters from his uncles Uzal and Henry Trowbridge. Well, Bertha Winans Woodruff was the youngest of the six daughters William had with his wife Wealthy A. Angus. Bertha passed away in the early 1970s. I recall visiting her on a number of occasions as a child.

She lived in a big rambling house at 17 Wilder Street in Elizabeth, NJ, that belonged to her eldest sister, Jennie, and  Jennie’s husband, successful banker Clarence Coleman. Sadly, the house was torn down (in the mid 1970s) and replaced with a large brick apartment building called Wilder Manor.

I remember the old house had a spiral staircase so we could look down from the third floor all the way to the entry hall below. For a child, the house was quite magical; we enjoyed exploring it and playing hide-and-seek. There was a little fish pond in the backyard garden. I remember admiring the gold fish in it as well as the garden’s beautiful spring- and summertime  flowers.

In her younger years, Bertha had a very successful career in Manhattan as a quilt designer (visit this follow-up post), and she enjoyed watercolor painting. Her niece, Jennie Belle Coleman, inherited the bulk of her paintings. I only got a glimpse of them once, at the last house Jennie Belle lived in, which was on Colonia Road in Elizabeth, NJ, with her live-in helper/companion. Once Jennie Belle died, the executor of her estate must have sold/destroyed the paintings. Family was not consulted about them, or anything else for that matter. Not notified about the funeral until after it had taken place!

From what I heard Bertha very much enjoyed traveling and even ventured on a round-the-world journey. She never married, although she apparently came very close after meeting a nice single gentleman (supposedly a member of the South African Parliament) on her globe-trotting vacation. But, alas, that did not pan out, and she has no descendants to whom she could pass on details about her life. We have some wonderful photos of her as a young woman, so I thought I would post them here. I would not want her to be forgotten.

Categories: Angus, Coleman, Elizabeth, Union Co., Family Homes, Woodruff | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Old New Jersey School House

We have had this photo in our possession for a very long time. I believe it may have belonged to the Francis Woodruff family of Elizabeth, Union County, NJ, but I am not sure. I’ve scanned all the faces and don’t recognize anyone. If anyone has any information about the photo, by all means, please get in touch!

Old NJ School House

Categories: Elizabeth, Union Co., Woodruff | Leave a comment

George Wills’s Snuff Box

Further to all the previous posts on George Wills, I am including here some photos of a shoe-shaped snuff box that belonged to him. It was passed down by his youngest child Mary Wills to my great grandmother Elizabeth Sargent and so on. These shoe-shaped snuff boxes were very common. Northamptonshire, England, was a major center for shoe-making. George was originally from Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, but spent part of the 1840s in Blisworth, Northamptonshire overseeing building projects. A number of his descendants settled in the vicinity of Roade and Blisworth.

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England, Roade, Northants, Sargent, Wills | Leave a comment

The Fate of Mary Wills (1829-1877), Part III

Altogether William and Mary  had 12 children including 2 sets of twins. Only four of the children survived to adulthood. These were the children who had traveled with them from England: my great grandmother Elizabeth Sargent (a twin), a brother Samuel who became a Methodist minister (his portrait once hung in a chapel in Ocean Grove–it may still be there), Sarah (nickname “Sadie,”) and William Jr.  Samuel married Ella Tunison and they had two children: Vivian Sargent, who married into the Packard family (the automakers), and a son Norman Vincent Sargent, who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Methodist minister.

William Sargent (Sr.) remarried, how long after Mary’s death, I do not know, but it was within the space of a few years. His second wife was a wealthy widow named Mary Bowley Pitt who had a son named William Pitt. This Mary Bowley Pitt also had some connection lineage-wise with prime minister William Pitt. With the financial backing of his second wife, William got into the spring bed business (as a salesman) and the family’s financial position improved.  The 1880 Census shows the newly blended family living in Jersey City: Wm. Sargent (51), Mary (41), Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) (24), Sarah (“Sadie”) (21), Wm. Jr. (19), and Wm. Pitt (17). By then Elizabeth was near to being married to William Trewin, and Samuel may well have been married.

Elizabeth Sargent

Elizabeth Sargent, circa 1881

I do not yet know what became of Sarah and William Jr., e.g. whether they married, had children, etc. Sarah died at age 45, and William died at age 35. I have no record them ever marrying, and I think my grandmother would have mentioned that. Elizabeth, Sarah, and William are all buried in the family plot at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, NJ.  As for William Sargent Sr., I do not yet know when he died or where he was buried. Perhaps in time, I will make those discoveries.

Elizabeth Sargent Trewin and daughter Zillah, 1919

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, Census Records, England, Jersey City, Hudson Co., Methodist, Roade, Northants, Sargent, Slaymaker, US Federal 1880, Wills | Leave a comment

The Fate of Mary Wills (1829-1877), Part II

The lure of fortune in America was too much of a temptation for William. He sold his share of the business to John Simpson and decided to emigrate to the US in roughly 1868, shortly after the Civil War when the country was at its lowest, with Mary and three  of their four children: Elizabeth (14), Sarah (9), and William Jr. (7). The oldest son, Samuel, remained behind to finish school and lived with one of his aunts; eventually he left for the US as well.

Prior to leaving for America William had the family’s surname changed from Slaymaker to Sargent. We have no idea what prompted that decision or why he chose “Sargent”. Mary’s sisters were very much against the idea of Mary, who was pregnant at the time, leaving them, and argued with William about it. Mary, in her mid-thirties my then, did not want to go, but William was adamant. The family set sail across the ocean and ended up settling in Jersey City, New Jersey. The child Mary was carrying died shortly after they arrived.

Jersey City, NJ, marked with the red balloon

William Sargent went into the mason contracting business in Jersey City in a big way and lost everything he had including his sizable inheritance from George Wills. For some time the family was in dire straits, living off welfare with the oldest children, Samuel and Elizabeth, forced to find work of any kind. I believe Elizabeth worked as a household servant.

Mary died in 1877 at just 48 years of age. Elizabeth converted William to Christianity at that time–the lowest period in his life, a time when he had truly lost everything.


12/14/2011: Please see the update to this post.

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England, Jersey City, Hudson Co., Roade, Northants, Sargent, Simpson, Slaymaker, Wills | Leave a comment

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