In modern times, both of my grandmothers and one of my great grandmothers all lived good long lives, into their 90’s. However, I only have one centenarian in my direct line that I know of and it’s a looonnngg stretch back to Joseph Eveleth, as he is my 8x great grandfather. On the plus side, the Eveleth family has been well researched and published by Jonathan B. Butcher in 1980-1981 in the New England Historical Genealogical Register, 134:299-309 and continued in 135:23-35 , 98-108.
Joseph Eveleth, or Everleigh as the family name was first spelled, was born about June 1641, as his baptismal record at the First Church, Boston, noted that he was one year and three quarters old on 26 March 1643. No birth record has been found for him and he may have been born in England, as it is believed that his parents, “Silvester” and Susan “Nuberry” Eveleth arrived in Boston about 1642. The family appears in parish records of Exeter St. Thomas until 1633 and then disappear from sight until they resurface in Boston, Massachusetts when Susan Eveleth, wife of baker Silvester Eveleth, was admitted to the First Church on the 19th day of the first month of 1643. It is not known whether the start of the English Civil War in 1642 influenced the Eveleth family’s migration to New England or whether political, religious and/or economic views brought them to their decision to leave Exeter.
Joseph was one of six known children of Silvester and Susan. His eldest sister, Margaret, was born probably in the 1630’s, likely in Devonshire. Second sister, Mary, was baptized on 30 June 1633 in Exeter. Sister Susannah was likely born between 1635 and 1640. Joseph had one younger sister, Hannah, baptized on 8 October 1643 in Boston and one brother, Isaac, born in the 1640’s, probably in Gloucester.
Joseph married Mary Bragg on 1 January 1667/68 at Gloucester, where the family first lived, but removed to nearby Chebacco, part of Ipswich, about 1675.
Joseph and Mary were the parents of eleven children:
1. John, born 18 Feb 1669/70, Gloucester, MA; a Harvard-educated preacher who died 1 August 1734, Kittery, York, ME; married Mary Bowman, 2 December 1692, Charlestown, MA
2. Elizabeth, born 17 December 1671, Gloucester, MA; died 10 May 1727, Gloucester, MA; married (1) Francis Perkins, about 1696 (2) George Giddings, intentions posted in Ipswich on 18 January 1706/07
3. Joseph, born 31 May 1674, Gloucester, MA; probably died young
4. Isaac, born 11 October 1676, Ipswich, MA; died 23 March 1755, Gloucester, MA; married Sarah (MNU), about 1699
5. Edward, born 25 July 1679, Ipswich, MA; died 5 November 1759, Ipswich, MA; married Elizabeth Perkins, 4 January 1704/05, Ipswich, MA
6. Moses, born 13 Feb 1681/82, Ipswich, MA; probably died young
7. Mary, born 13 November 1683, Ipswich, MA; died 17 January 1718/19, Ipswich, MA; married Stephen Perkins, 13 July 1709
8. Hannah, born 1 October 1685, Ipswich, MA; living in 1739 but unmarried
9. Jacob, born 4 February 1687/88, Ipswich, MA; died 16 February 1738/39; did not marry
10. James, born about 1690, probably Ipswich, MA; died 3 June 1773, Ipswich, MA; married Elizabeth Cogswell, 26 February 1715/16,Ipswich, MA
11. Sarah, born about 1692, probably Ipswich, MA; died 19 March 1716, Ipswich; married Stephen Glasiar, intentions published 26 September 1713 at Ipswich
Jonathan B. Butcher, the author of the “Eveleth Family of Colonial New England” in NEHGR went beyond simply recreating the names, dates and places in a family history and instead sketched a picture of the day-to-day social and economic status of the Eveleths in New England.
Joseph, he found, was among the richer strata of Chebacco citizens and his wife was of similar economic status. It seems that although he was a land owner, he did little to further his own prosperity. His focus seemed to be to help his children continue on their own upwardly mobile social trajectory.
He likely thought that his life was drawing to a close in 1719, when at the age of 78, he divested the last of his real estate holdings to his children. His wife, Mary, had already passed away in 1713/14 at the age of 64. Little did he know that he would live for another 26 years.
Butcher notes in his article that Joseph had a minor involvement with the witchcraft hysteria as he was a member of the 1692 jury that tried John Proctor, but he later signed a petition of regret for participating in the witchcraft trials.
There is nothing in the longevity of his parents or his own children to suggest that his life would be atypically long. Like my previous post about Peter Hay, I would question whether Joseph was over 100 when he died. Yet, like Peter Hay, there are records still in existence proving his age.
The 1980-1981 study of the Eveleths noted that Joseph was well remembered for posterity by William Preble Jones in Four Boston Grandparents. cited in NEHGR, volume 134, page 305:
He celebrated his one hundredth birthday in 1741, taking a scythe in the morning and mowing a field of grass. A sumptuous dinner followed, with a sermon by a minister.
Then, quoting Babson’s 1860 account in The History of Gloucester:
A venerable descendant, not long deceased, remembered to have often heard her mother, who was born in 1730, describe the life, person and character of Joseph Eveleth, who was her great grandfather, and with whom she was fifteen years contemporary. Among her interesting recollections of her aged ancestor was that of a visit made to him, just before his death, by the celebrated Reverend George Whitefield. Her mind always retained a vivid impression of the solemnity of the scene that was presented, when Mr. Whitefield knelt upon the floor and received, from the lips that could relate a Christian experience of a hundred years, a truly patriarchal blessing.
Joseph Eveleth died on 1 December 1745 at the age of 104 1/2 years. Pretty amazing for any time period, but even more so for a man born in the early days of colonial New England.