Monday, April 21, 2008

Did You Know #8

In the fifth installment in my “Did You Know” postings we examined one of the most popular accounts of the arrival of our Bragg ancestors in Virginia. In this posting let’s consider other Bragg families who were flourishing a bit to the north of William and Molly Newport Bragg. It is not really clear whether these are the offspring of Thomas' English-born brothers, John and William (although it is very likely some of them were). A strong concentration of these families made their homes around Salem, MA (the Boston area). One of these the groups descend from the English-born Edward Bragg (in 1616), who married Elizabeth Whittridge in Ipswich, MA, near Salem, sometime near April of 1642 [10]. Other Bragg families trace their lineage from Henry Bragg, who was born in Salem, MA in 1659 (no information has of yet surfaced to identify his parents) and his wife, Elizabeth Mackmollen (or MacMillan) [1]. About twenty years after their marriage, on December 17, 1677, their family had moved to Rhode Island, where Henry passed away in 1723. One of Henry's sons, Nicholas Bragg, Sr. (who was born on May 23, 1696), became a sea Captain and, just seven years after being married to Bethia Howland (on May 19, 1725 in Bristol RI) died in Surinam, South America (on February 8, 1732).

A third group is the descendants of John Bragg, who had been born in England about 1659, who married Elizabeth Miller on October 12, 1684 in Rehoboth, Bristol, MA. He married Elizabeth Miller October 12, 1684 in Rehoboth, Bristol, Mass. When the couple died in the mid 1740's their family had moved to Bristol, RI. The relationship between these three patriarchs, if any, is not clearly established. Yet, it is interesting that each group settled in or near Salem, MA and subsequently relocated to Rhode Island sometime between the 1680's and 1740's. What happened between those years? Salem, and that entire area of Massachusetts, was embroiled in the hysteria surrounding the "witch trials," in which twenty innocent victims were executed as witches [2]. Six men and fourteen women were killed, unlike the popular notion that they were burned at the stake, most of them were hung while one was killed while being "pressed" by heavy stones in an effort to extract a confession (1692). One family hit particularly hard by this insanity was the Towne family. William Towne, who was born in England around 1600 in a highly respected family. He immigrated to America with his wife, the former Joanna Blessing, and their six children, making their home at Salem. In the following years two additional children were born into this family. The children all grew up, starting families of their own, and settled in the Salem area. The curtailing of the "witch" hysteria began to curb following the execution (hanging) of two women, Rebecca Nurse (or Nourse) and Mary Estey, who refused to confess to being a witch, and thereby escaping the death penalty, and challenging the evidence upon which they were convicted, the charges of young girls who said they were being afflicted by their spirits. Both of the condemned women were daughters of William and Joanna Towne. In 1694 a grandson of William and Joanna, also named William Towne, took as his third bride widow "Margaret Willard, whose first husband, John Willard, had been executed on the charge of witchcraft at Salem, some two years previous" [3]. Another interesting marriage occurred on October 12, 1684 as Elizabeth Miller, a granddaughter of William and Joanna Towne, became the wife of John Bragg, from whom the third of the three groups of Braggs introduced in the previous paragraph [4]. The condemned witches, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Estey, would have been John's aunts by marriage.

These were obviously dangerous times, especially in that part of Massachusetts. While there is no evidence that the Salem hysteria prompted the relocation of the Bragg families to Rhode Island, it is clear that the family did relocate either during or shortly after this terrible miscarriage of justice transpired. Following the death of Henry Bragg, the patriarch of the second group of Braggs settling near Salem, some of his descendants continued migrating northward. Alexander Bragg [5], Henry’s sixth grandchild (through Henry's fifth son, also named Alexander), showed up with his brothers, Nicholas and William Bragg, and a nephew, Nicholas Bragg, Jr., in the 1800 Vermont census [6]. Others, descending from Edward Bragg, were moving into Maine. The first Bragg on record as being married in Maine was Nathaniel (1766), with his son Thomas being the first Bragg listed as being born in that state (1768). Others of this clan migrated into Massachusetts. Still, there are only a few cases of westward migration as many settled near their relatives and began raising generation after generation in the same geographic area. Exceptions, of course, can be found: Irving Albert and Mabel Bragg moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and two sisters (daughters of David and Eliza Bragg), Lucinda and Keziah (she married Alexander Carr) settled in Alpena, Michigan [7].


[1] New England Historic Genealogical Society.
[2] Robinson Genealogy.
[3] The Descendants of William Towne.
[4] Ancestry of Albert Fish. Fish was six/great grandson of William and Joanna Townes. He is remembered as a infamous killer and cannibal, having "killed his first victim in 1910. He Mutilated and tortured his victims, most of which were young children. Fish claimed that god-like voices told him to kill. Fish's most famous murder was that of Gracie Budd ... who was nearly 11 years old." Six years after Gracie's "disappearance," her family received a letter from her killer, which eventually led to his arrest and conviction. "The letter told in detail what happened to Gracie. The letter was traced back to Albert Fish. It told about how Fish had chocked Gracie to death, and then cut up and ate her body. Fish was also suspected of the kidnapping of Billy Gaffney and Francis McDonnell" (Ancestry of Albert Fish).
[5] Ancestors from New England and Europe.
[6] 1800 Windsor, VT Census.
[7] Descendants of David Bragg.


FamHist63 said...

This is very interesting information! I am trying to find possible connections with Alexander BRAGG, and his wife Sophia (nee unknown). I believe these are the parents of Roxana Bragg b.VT,who m. Dexter B. Allen of RI.,( her death record is in Pawtucket,RI) and possibly the parents of Emily (m, John ALLEN of RI) , and Lydia Ann (m. Geroge H. HATTEN of RI . All three b. VT , and closely associated through census etc.) in RI. I am exploring these connections hoping to find solid information. In 1860 Census of Waterbury,VT
Alexander, age 72,and Sophia, age 58,had living with them 2 sons , Alonzo age 22, and Edmund , age 20.

I believe strongly there is a connection between all the above, just have not found solid evidence yet. They would be related through my sons' paternal ancestry.

Bragg Family said...

Thank you for your response to this particular posting. Since I was unable to reply to you via e-mail, I wanted to at the very least with the following …

The material presented on this blog reflects information gleaned first from our own family records and memories coupled with the information available on the internet. I have attempted to combine these in an effort to connect our family line with other Bragg families. While this task has been more complex than I ever imagined, it has also been a highly enjoyable process.

Unfortunately, I am really not able at present to elaborate on the Alexander Bragg alluded to in the above post as this is the only information I have been able to locate. If I can tie this section of the Bragg family to my line I will be sure to add that information to a future post. By the same token, if you should discover anything that you think might help me, please feel free to contact me via this blogsite.


David Bragg