The Loyalists of Sheffield

Family history has changed the Fourth of July for me.

The grand holiday we call Independence Day has always been filled with the celebration of liberty. We put up the flag, planned festive physical activities and lit the night sky with fireworks every year as we contemplated the brave men and women of the revolutionary era.

But learning where our Westover family was and what they thought has brought sobering reality to our festive day. The Westover’s of the revolutionary era were conflicted.

Jonathan Westover, son of Jonas and Hannah Westover, and brother to Jonas Jr, was among the founding members of what was then the American Frontier in the 1720s. He settled and raised the orphaned youngest sons – John, Nathaniel and Jonah III – in the beautiful Berkshires in a place that would become known as Sheffield.

Sheffield, Massachusetts

The little town of Sheffield has about 3000 residents – not much more than during the times of the American Revolution.

John, Nathaniel and Jonah III would settle this fertile country and contribute to the new town in various ways.

Nathaniel was the oldest of these surviving siblings. He built his home on the road that led through Sheffield from Albany to Boston. It became a popular place, known as Nathaniel Westover’s Inn – a tavern.

From this base Nathaniel Westover served the town in various capacities, including town surveyor, constable, bark measurer, tythingman, surveyor of highways and member of both the school and bridge committees. He and his wife Mary Eno raised a family of 14 children.

Westover Bacon Potts Farm

The home built by Jonah Westover III in Sheffield.

Jonah III married Deborah Eno, who was sister to Nathaniel’s wife Mary. They had 9 children. Jonah is known now for building the home that still stands today that is known as the Westover Bacon Potts home in Sheffield. He was a farmer whose history is less known than the history of his brothers.

John, from whom our Westover line descends, is perhaps better remembered than most due to his position with the local branch of the Church of England in Sheffield.

Sheffield Church

This is a drawing of the church where John Westover served as clerk of the church.

He married Rachel Morton and they had 10 children. John’s position as clerk of the church tells us a lot about him. He was respected and well-known in Sheffield. And he was no doubt a loyalist.

Being a loyalist in Massachusetts in the mid-18th century was not an unusual thing.

In fact, the more you dig into the debates of the age the more one realizes that our grade-school learning of the American Revolution was very one-sided.

The sons of John and Rachel Westover teach us this lesson. These six sons were born between the years 1739 and 1753 – meaning they all came of age just as the American Revolution was beginning.

The records show most of them served at one time in local militias in support of the Colonies.

But the record also shows that several among them could hardly be called “patriots”, at least as they were so labeled at the time.

In May of 1775 at least three of these brothers were sought out by a committee in the little town of Sheffield – John Westover Jr (b. 1739), Job Westover (b. 1742) and their younger brother, Noah (b. 1751).

It was called the Committee of Observation for the Town of Sheffield.

The record states, “Complaint being made to this Committee that John Westover, Job Westover, and Noah Westover, had, in various instances, contravened the doings and Resolutions of the General and Provincial Congresses; and that the said John, Job, and Noah, were enemies of American liberty…”

How did things get to this point?

Sheffield is located about as far west and south of Boston as a place could possibly get in Massachusetts. But the events of Boston, of Concord and Lexington, were well known and debated in Sheffield.

In 1773 several prominent citizens in Sheffield drafted the Sheffield Declaration, also known as the Sheffield Resolves.

The first resolution of this document stated a now-familiar sentiment: “Mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property…”

On July 6, 1774, 60 delegates met at a convention in near-by Stockbridge and endorsed a “league and covenant” to boycott all British goods and merchants who sold them.

These resolutions were clear to communicate their loyalty to the sovereignty of the king, but firmly insisted that “the inhabitants of his Majesty’s colonies in America are justly entitled to all of the rights and liberties that the inhabitants of Great Britain are entitled to,” and pledged to face existing violations of these rights through economic action.

The growing appetite for revolutionary action spurred an upheaval in the local political structure in Pittsfield, where Tory leanings were found predominantly among the families of its earliest settlers and included some of its prominent leaders.

For logical reasons, those wealthy in land and property tended to fear the outcome of agitation against the crown more than did the majority of families at the time.

In fact, it was through the political orchestrations of one local attorney, Woodbridge Little, that local towns had passed a resolution chiding the illegal actions taken by parties involved in the Boston Tea Party.

Clearly the entire populace was conflicted and apparently the Westover sons of John and Rachel got caught up in it. The Committee wanted to deal with John, Job and Noah Westover.

The Committee said “John hath affirmed that the late Continental Congress, in their doings, were guilty of rebellion against the King.”

They complained that “Job hath affirmed that the Parliament of Great Britain had a right to tax the American; and that each of them had said many things disrespectful of the said Congress, and the Provincial Congresses.”

Curiously, the Committee never mentions Noah Westover again. Why? Well, they couldn’t find him. He had gone into hiding. But they were able to bring in John and Job to be questioned.

To both men was posed this question: If an engagement should unfortunately happen between the British and American Armies, which they would choose should prevail?

John Westover candidly admitted it was a difficult question and he could not give a direct answer to it.

Job was more forthcoming: “…he supposed the consequences of a victory on the side of the American Army would be more prejudicial to this Country than the contrary.”

After this, John “voluntarily and solemnly engaged, that at no time hereafter will he do any thing detrimental to the cause…”

Job remained silent.

The committee voted and declared John Westover’s declaration satisfactory.

But of Job they unanimously labeled him an “enemy of American liberty and that it is the duty of all those who wish well to the cause of freedom, from henceforth to break off all dealings with the said Job.”

John’s history documents his service to the Colonial cause serving both in 1776 and again in 1777 with Colonel John Ashley’s regiment. (Ashley was a local leader who was vociferous in the fight against England).

Job Westover served in a like fashion, with the same units.

Curiously, when it was over, John with his brother Moses headed north to Canada, where the king was bestowing land grants to loyalists. John’s children all resided in the Canada the rest of their lives and grew that branch of the family there.

But Job stayed in Sheffield, living until 1813. It was his son, Job Jr, who pioneered Missouri and raise a large branch of the family that still prospers there. Another son, Calvin, headed to Minnesota and raised a large family as well.

Grave of Job Westover of Sheffield

This is the headstone over the grave of Job Westover in a Sheffield cemetery.

Younger brother Noah also survived the war. In fact, in 1775 in the middle of it he got married. He too stayed in Massachusetts to raise a family and lived a long life, dying in 1834 in Hartford, Connecticut.

The youngest of the six sons of John and Rachel Westover was Amos, our grandfather. Though born in 1753 he was definitely of age during the Revolution. But no known records exist showing military service for Amos.

Like Noah, he married during the Revolution. But most of his children would be born in Sheffield until about 20 years later, when he tried to settle near his brothers who had moved to Canada. But Amos was clearly not possessed of the sentiments of any of his brothers.

Was Amos a patriot…or a loyalist? That fact is lost to history.

What is not lost is that the children of John and Rachel Westover survived the American Revolution. Whatever their feelings and political leanings were gave way to industrious lives that contributed to the building of not one but two nations.

Their children would live to thrive under the banner of liberty. That is still something to celebrate.

Shay's Rebellion

After the Revolution the conflict was not quite over in Sheffield. It was the site of Shay’s Rebellion, a famous skirmish led by a local farmer, Daniel Shay, to contest heavy taxes by the newly formed State of Massachusetts.

Mum Bett

“Mum Bett” was the first woman to be declared free from slavery under the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. That document joined the Declaration of Independence in declaring: “All men are born free and equal.”
In 1781, with mere months left in the American Revolution, Mum Bett decided to put those words to the test—in court. It couldn’t have been easy. Her owner, Colonel John Ashley, was a powerful judge in Sheffield, Massachusetts and the leader of the local militia, under whom the Westover boys served during the Revolution.

American Revolutionary War

Westovers of the American Revolution

We received an email requesting more information about the John Westover family of Sheffield, Massachusetts of the mid-18th century.

The inquiry was specifically about which of the many sons of John and Rachel Westover were loyalists and which were colonialists.

It is an interesting question simply because it was the American Revolution that really started the spread the Westover family across North America.

The answer to that question is quite complicated, however.

Living in those times in New England tried the loyalties of nearly everyone. It was a dangerous time.

The key fact to bear in mind lies with the patriarch of the family, John Westover. He was the clerk of the Church of England in Sheffield. The Church was headed by the King of England. His loyalty had to be to King and country.

But by the mid-1770s his sons were grown men.

The sons of John and Rachel Westover were, in order of age: John Jr., Job, Moses, William, Noah and Amos.

Many of these sons served in the colonial side during the American Revolution and are identified in historical records as patriots:

John Jr — 3rd Co., First Regt. of Berkshire Co. Militia, 11 Jul 1776
Job — 3rd Co., First Regt. of Berkshire Co. Militia, 11 Jul 1776
Moses — In the 3rd Co., 1st Regt., Berkshire Co. Militia, 11 Jul 1776. He was a private in Capt. Enoch Noble’s Co., Col. John Ashley’s Regt., Berkshire Co. Moses entered service on 1 Aug 1777 and was discharged 20 Aug 1777. The Company marched to Bennington, Vermont by order of Brig. Gen. Fellows and the Committee of Saftey at the request of Gen. Stark.
Noah — 3rd Co., First Regt. of Berkshire Co. Militia, 11 Jul 1776.

However, despite their service record, each are mentioned in various histories as loyalists to the British Crown.

For the video titled Brothers we referenced several books, including an 1847 publication by Lorenzo Sabine titled The American Loyalist: Or, Biographical Sketches of Adherents to the British Crown in the War of the Revolution. Below is a snip of all that is written of Job Westover:

Job Westover

Another volume, this one titled American Archives: Consisting of a Collection of Authentick Records, State Papers, Debates, and Letters and Other Notices of Publick Affairs, the Whole Forming a Documentary History of the Origin and Progress of the North American Colonies; of the Causes and Accomplishment of the American Revolution; and of the Constitution of Government for the United States, to the Final Ratification Thereof (They had insanely long titles in those days), written in 1839, the actual notes of the committee action noted action against three of the Westover family: John, Job and Noah.

That record agrees with the other accounts listed here but it does not give any mention of the activity or disposition of action against Noah Westover.

Another book, A History of War Resistance in America by James M. Volo, gives us a little more information:

Job Westover

Moses Westover’s history is a little more well known. What we learn of Moses comes from histories written in and about southern Canada, where many New England loyalists fled to after the Revolution.

From a book titled Contributions to the History of Eastern Townships: A Work Containing an Account of the Early Settlement of St. Armand, Dunham, Sutton, Brome, Potton, and Bolton, with a History of the Principal Events that Have Transpired in Each of These Townships Up to the Present Time, published in 1866 by Cyrus Thomas, we learn:

Moses Westover, in 1796, settled in North Sutton, about three miles east of the place where the settlers named above took up their residence. A part of the lot on which he pitched is now owned by Roswell and Stephen Westover, his grandsons. Mr. Westover was a loyalist. He lived in Sheffield, Massachusetts, at the opening of the revolution, but finding his life in jeopardy in that place, he fled and came to Canada. Previous to coming to Sutton he lived at Caldwell’s Manor. He was granted two lots of land by the British Government on account of his loyal principles; one was located in Stanbridge; the other was the one on which he settled in Sutton.

This nice bit of history is significant because it was from Moses that the Canadian branch of the Westover family was born. He had a large family and was quite prominent in that area.

Moses’ brothers would also have large families. His brother John Jr moved to Canada near Moses.

Job, the one identified as the enemy to liberty in Sheffield, actually stayed there after the war and raised his family. Some of his children would leave Sheffield to raise large branches of the family elsewhere. It was his son, Job Jr, who left for Missouri and founded the family branch there. His son, Luther, had 10 children of his own including William Westover, who would later in life become a founding father of some fame in Bay City, Michigan.

William Morton Westover, another son of John and Rachel, born in 1746, does not have much of a historical record. We do not know how long he lived, if married or if he lived long enough to see the American Revolution like his brothers.

Noah Westover would stay in New England, marrying around the time of his military service. He and his wife raised 5 children – 1 son and 4 daughters. This family would spread further into New England and the American Midwest.

Amos Westover – father to Alexander and grandfather to our Edwin Ruthven Westover – never served in the war. He did follow his brothers into Canada for a time but migrated back to the United States through Vermont, eventually making his way to Ohio. All of his children moved west with the Mormon migration in 1848.

The children of John and Rachel Westover included 4 daughters, too: Rachel, Abigail, Joanna and Rhoda.

The two oldest girls either died in infancy or as small children. Joanna married in 1763 to Moses Ashley Eggleston and they had two children. Daughter Rhoda lived a very long life of 96 years, bringing five grandchildren to the Westover family, who settled between New York and Vermont.

In all, John and Rachel Westover had 10 children and 47 known grandchildren. Their youngest grandchild was John Race, who was born to Rhoda in 1810 and died in 1895.

These three generations – John and Rachel, their children and their grandchildren – covered roughly 190 years on this earth. But more impressive is the distance and the number of places where they settled all over North America. From Massachusetts to southern Canada, westward to Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and then to Utah, Idaho, Arizona and California, and also all over New England – we are trying to map it all.

But most interesting and central to it all is the American Revolution. That was the trigger event and it was a big one.

Other events would further spread out the family. We will get to those in time. But in my view there is still a lot of work to do to document the many histories of each of these individuals, starting with the children of John and Rachel. We have a start in that we know when they lived, who they married and the children they had.

But we don’t know much of their individual stories. I believe each of these stories are compelling – if we can learn them.

If you are a descendent of the children of John and Rachel Westover, we’d love to hear from you. With grandchildren of theirs living nearly until the 20th century the possibility exists that there may be photos. Perhaps written diaries survived. Maybe something out there exists that can tell us more of their story.

We hope you might share.

Baptist Cousins of Piscataway

Today, the 9th of June, I received an email from FamilySearch.org reminding me that my 7th great grandfather, Jeremiah Drake I, would be celebrating his 312th birthday.

It is not often that I cannot immediately make the connection between myself and a name on our tree. But for the life of me I couldn’t remember which line the Drakes came through.

Confusing to me even more was a memory of someone telling me that we’re related to Sir Francis Drake, the famous explorer of the oceans who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

DrakesSo I had to go look, if anything to properly celebrate the birthday of Grandpa Jeremiah. After all, he’s waited a long time, eh?

So I went to FamilySearch to look at his profile and to no surprise it is mostly empty – there is nothing there other than his June 9th birthday in 1707 and his death in 1759. He lived to be 52 years old, got married and had five kids. End of story, right?

Wrong. Catching my eye was the fact that Jeremiah was born in Piscataway, NJ. I had to laugh a little at that fact. In my present employment I manage a number of projects in New Jersey – Piscataway, Woodbridge Village, Rahway, etc. What are the odds that I would have a grandfather from there?

I began to wonder if the Drake family had anything to do with the founding of Piscataway. 312 years is a long time. Just how old is Piscataway anyway? And where did that name come from? And how am I related to Jeremiah Drake again?

I read this email from FamilySearch, by the way, at about 1 am.

Going down these paths to research a little family history is what makes for sleepless nights. Did I really want to do this?

Yeah, I did.

The first thing I did was to discover our connection. I was surprised to learn it came through my Westover line.

Ruth Althea Rowe Westover – wife of William Westover, born in 1861 – can claim Jeremiah Drake as her 3rd great grandfather.

That means all descendants of William and Ruth have Jeremiah Drake as a grandfather.

Ruth’s grandparents – David and Hannah Rowe – came from Ohio before heading west to Utah. While in Ohio, David and Hannah were strong Baptists. Hannah Rowe’s maiden name was Manning, which is quite a famous last name in the history of the Baptist church in the US. Hannah, coincidentally, was born in Piscataway.

Her father was a Baptist minister hailing from Piscataway. His name was Enoch Manning. Enoch was ordained a minister by his father, Joseph Manning, who was also from Piscataway. Joseph was married to Martha Drake, daughter to our Jeremiah Drake – also from Piscataway.

Martha was named after her mother, Martha Dunn. Remember that name, Martha Dunn. We’ll get back to her in a minute.

If you research the Rowe line on the tree on FamilySearch you will see names like Manning, Dunn, Martin, Fitz Randolph and Drake all tied together by one place: Piscataway, NJ.

In my mind the next question was this: Could it be possible that family would have something to do with the founding of Piscataway, New Jersey?

Um, yeah.

Piscataway, New Jersey is one of the first 50 towns established in the British Colonies.

In 1664 King Charles II (remember him?) gave his brother James, the Duke of York, the land that would later be known as Piscataway.

The Duke later gave that land to two of his friends and one of them appointed a cousin, Philip Carteret, as governor of New Jersey.

A grant was then given by the governor to settlers in New Hampshire, who were none too pleased with how they were being treated in the Puritan community they lived in there.

One of these settlers was a man named Francis Drake – grandfather to our Jeremiah Drake.

Who was Francis Drake?

No, he’s not Sir Francis Drake but he is Captain Francis Drake.

Our Francis Drake was born in 1615 in England to Robert Drake, a fairly wealthy and connected “sergemaker”.

Robert Drake was a contemporary to Sir Francis Drake’s brother, Thomas. Thomas was given the estate of Sir Francis Drake upon his death. Robert Drake is believed to be related to another Robert Drake, who was famously burned at the stake in 1556 for his religious defiance. When asked by a priest to renounce his faith Robert Drake of 1566 said, “As for your Church of Rome, I utterly deny its works and defy its power, even as I deny the devil and defy all his works”.

That passion for religion seems to be a family trait. The next several generations of Drakes were driven by their religion.

So how did Francis Drake come to America?

It appears he came to New Hampshire with his parents around 1640. They were Puritans.

His father, Robert, was a sergemaker – which is described as a kind of textile producer – who became a shop keeper in Hampton, New Hampshire, selling fabrics he brought over from England.

Robert Drake was father to many children.

It is said that two of his older sons – Nathaniel and John Drake – came ahead of Robert and his younger children, including Francis Drake. They settled in an area near Piscataqua River in New Hampshire.

Politically, this part of New Hampshire was part of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Company even though many of the early settlers in that area were Baptists and Quakers.

Those religious differences wormed their way into families – including the Drake family. While the Puritans fled England due to religious persecution it proved as well to be a challenge to them on the other side in coming to the New World.

As such, many living in this mixed religious base of New Hampshire felt harassed by the combined forces of Puritan church and state and began looking for a way out through a new frontier.

That new frontier came from the land grant by Governor Carteret given to four men disaffected in New Hampshire.

After a falling out with his Puritan father Robert over religion, new Baptist Francis Drake followed the original four settlers of what would come to be known as Piscataway, NJ and he was granted 245 acres there.

It was there that Francis married, raised a family, became a surveyor, opened a tavern and served in local government and as captain of the local militia (thus the name Captain Francis Drake that you see on FamilySearch).

The many children of Francis and Mary Drake were all Baptists.

In fact, they were prolific Baptists. Their names are associated with nearly a dozen Baptist churches in New Jersey and the most famous descendant of Francis ended up being Reverend John Drake, who founded the Stelton Baptist Church as the First Baptist Society of Piscataway.

The children and grandchildren of Captain Francis Drake also had huge families. And they served in the militia. Captain George Drake, the son of Captain Francis Drake, had 17 children. One of them was Captain Andrew Drake, who was married to Hannah Fitz Randolph and had 15 children, including our grandfather, Jeremiah Drake.

Not much is really known about Jeremiah – except that he was born in Piscataway, he was a Drake and he was very Baptist.

He married Martha Dunn. Who was Martha Dunn?

Martha appears to be a lot like Jeremiah. She was born in Piscataway, she was a Dunn, and she was very Baptist.

Martha was the fourth child of Hugh Dunn, Jr and Elizabeth Martin of Piscataway. Both the Dunns and the Martins had a big history in Piscataway long before Martha was born.

Her grandfather, also named Hugh Dunn, was famous for his piety and his singular devotion to the Baptist faith. Hugh Dunn Sr. was married to…Elizabeth Drake.

Elizabeth’s father was…Captain Francis Drake.

So our Jeremiah was a great grandson of Captain Francis Drake…and his wife Martha was a great grand daughter of Captain Francis Drake. Cousins!

So it was destiny, I suppose, that they would remain in New Jersey and raise their family among the Baptists.

They had a daughter, whom they dutifully named Martha Drake.

This Martha Drake would grow up to marry…a Baptist minister.

Joseph Manning was the son of a Baptist preacher and grandson to James Manning, who was president of a Baptist college in Rhode Island.

Hannah ManningThat brings us to Hannah Manning – born in Piscataway, New Jersey – grandmother to Ruth Althea Rowe Westover.

What does this late night adventure into the 312th birthday of an ancestor teach us?

It teaches us that we have a 500 year history through the Drake line of very real religious independence. It teaches us that the cords of religion and family both unite and divide. It teaches that faith is a dominating part of life.

It also teaches that faith stokes the fires of liberty. The Drakes, the Mannings, the Dunns, the Martins and all others associated with the broader family in New Jersey were patriots. They fought in the Revolution and they escaped the religious persecution in Old England.

Though we lack details of much of their lives we do not lack their lessons.

When the Worlds of Westovers and Smiths Collide

My great grandfather is Arnold Westover. He married Mary Ann Smith.

Both the Westovers and Smiths have great histories. You will learn a lot more about the Smiths in an upcoming video about another Utah pioneer named Albert Smith, of Manti, Utah.

But for now I want to focus on his great grandfather, a man with one of the great names in the family, Chileab Smith.

Albert’s history speaks of his Ashfield, Massachusetts roots and the strong religious history of the family in the Baptist faith.

Chileab was the man in Ashfield, hugely influential and a founder of the Baptist church there.

When he died at the age of 93 in the year 1800 he had at that time 145 living descendants – eleven of them were Baptist ministers and ten others had married ministers – at least when they stopped counting in the 1850s.

(Just one, our Albert Smith, was once a resident of Nauvoo, a member of the Mormon Battalion, and a temple pioneer. What a rebel).

Anyway, I was reading this morning yet another history of Sheffield, Massachusetts — looking for a little new information about our Revolutionary war generations of that area.

But in reading again of the founding of Sheffield – and the contributions there made by Jonathan, Nathaniel, Jonah and John Westover – I can across the name of another area settler in the 1730s.

His name was Chileab Smith.

Could it actually be possible that the grandfathers of Arnold Westover and Mary Ann Smith were actually neighbors in settling Sheffield, Massachusetts? Could they have possibly known each other?

The answers: yes and yes.

Chileab Smith and John Westover sat on a town council together, it turns out.

But wait…there’s more: Chileab Smith married a woman named Sarah Moody.

Where have we seen that name Moody before? Well…Moody was the maiden name of Electa Beal Westover’s mother.

(You following all this?)

So…is it possible that Chileab’s wife is related to Arnold Westover’s great-great-grandmother?

I haven’t solved this one yet. Sorting through all the Sarah Moody’s in New England of the 18th century is like trying to find a Wong in a Chinese phone book.

But nothing shocks me anymore.

This is a good genealogical mystery to solve. It all hinges on who the parents of Daniel Moody are.

Who is Daniel Moody?

He’s Electa’s grandpa.

Daniel and Rebeckah Moody were parents to Rebecca Moody, who married Obadiah Beal. Electa was their sixth child.

Oh…if you’re still following along with this…here’s another mystery to solve:

Obadiah Beal was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts (say that fast) but moved at some point to northern Vermont, not far from the Canadian border.

It was there, I believe, that the Beals and the Amos Westover family came to know each other. This was around the year 1800. Alexander was born in 1798 – likely in Canada – and Electa was born in 1802 in Bristol, Vermont (not far away).

Curiously, the Beals and the Westovers somehow both next appear near each other in Ohio – in about 1810 or so.

Alexander and Electa would marry in 1823. In Ohio.

Electa had several older siblings, including a big brother named…Daniel. His full name was Daniel Moody Beal. (Named after guess who?)

Just to add to your confusion…big brother Daniel married a girl named Olive Westover. Who was Olive? She was Alexander’s little sister.

Want more?

How about this one: Amos Westover – Alexander’s Dad – married Ruth Loomis.

Her parents were Timothy Loomis and Mary Morton.

Where have we seen that name Morton before?

Well, Amos’s mother – Rachel – her maiden name was Morton.

Yep – Rachel and Mary are sisters – making Amos and Ruth first cousins.

It’s a wonder any of us were not born with six heads.

(By the way, if you want to dig into the early history of Sheffield to see the link between Chileab and John, click here). It is “Western Massachusetts, a History 1636-1925” Volume II, published in 1926.

Brothers

The years of our family history from 1714 to 1834 is something of an emotional journey for me.

I think the more we invest in discovering the lives of our ancestors the more they jump off the page and become real to us. Such is certainly true of Jonathan Westover, brother to Jonas Jr.

I have learned what a critical role he played in the early history of the family. To be honest, I had never considered him much before doing this research. His journey is part of a compelling story, a story marked by one generation after the other where Westover brothers left a mark and had a profound influence. Watch our latest video:

I had never considered Jonathan Westover because he was “just a brother” of my 9th great grandfather, Jonas Westover, Jr.

He’s a good example of the “cousins” initiative put forth by the Church on family history.

The Church is encouraging us to work on the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins in our lines because our temple work is never truly done. We all tend to focus on the Mothers and the Fathers, and well we should. But these from whom we are not directly descended are important, too.

Our Jonathan Westover is a prime example of that.

For me this began in validating some dates — a common task in genealogical work. And I discovered something I had never considered before: I noticed that Hannah Westover, Abigail Westover and Jonas Westover Jr all died within a month of each other. Immediately it led me to question: what about the kids?

You do that don’t you? I do. In the dark of night I’ve had the conversation many times with my wife about what would become of our children if both of us suddenly died. It is horrific to contemplate and it DOES happen to some people. It happened to Jonas, Jr and Abigail.

That’s where I learned about Jonathan. I wanted to find out who took charge of the kids. That wasn’t a necessary question for the purposes of genealogy or temple work. I just wanted to know.

At first I was impressed to look at the sisters of Jonas Jr. It seemed logical to me that one of the aunts would take charge. But that search never really bore fruit.

Then I found the will of Abigail Westover and noticed that she had listed two of her own brothers and the brother of her husband, Jonas Jr, as executors. I decided those were the people I needed to look into.

I never had to look further than Jonathan. I started, as one usually does, with the hard data: when was he born, when did he die, where did he live, when did he marry, how many kids, etc.

I discovered that he was unmarried when Jonas Jr. died and that he himself didn’t marry until years later.

Curious about that, I started looking closer at dates and places. Then I searched for anything I could find about Jonathan in those places.

I found a gold mine about Jonathan in Sheffield, Massachusetts. And by discovering the story of that place I was able to put together the story of Jonathan Westover.

What a story it is! And what a service he performed for the family.

It is hard to me to think of him in terms any less than I feel for others here we have profiled. He was a great, great man and I am proud to be related to him. I’m glad I know this story.

It helps me to better consider my own actions as a man and as a brother. It inspires me to become better.

That’s the value of real family history.

These people are bearing their testimonies to us. They are sharing the lessons of their lives.

And we are better for it.