William Hay of Stoneham, MA: A New Look

For being a lifelong New Englander, pinning down some of the details of the life of my 6X great grandfather, William Hay, of Stoneham, Middlesex, Massachusetts, hasn’t been easy.

William was born on 18 September 1744 in Stoneham, the son of Peter Hay and Lydia Lynde. The Hay family was prominent in the area and William’s grandfather, another Peter Hay, left a sizable estate after living to the advanced age of 93 years old. I mention this because it is an important part of William’s story.

William Hay was a shoemaker by trade, so he could work anywhere.

Peter Hay Sr. likely had an important role in raising William for Lydia Lynde, William’s mother, died when William was just three years old and his father died a few days before William’s 20th birthday. Undoubtedly, William lived with his grandfather on the old family homestead.

William Hay married at a young age compared to his peers – 20 years and 4 months – when many Massachusetts men were closer to 25 when they first married. His bride was Phebe Brown, daughter of Abiel Brown and Sarah Green, who also lived in Stoneham. Phebe was born on 29 March 1747 and two months short of her 18th birthday on her wedding day.

This brings up the first question about William and Phebe. Why did they marry in Medford? They didn’t marry in the town where they both lived, they married in Medford, which is 5 miles due south of Stoneham.

Medford Vital Records

It appears that William and Phebe eloped, likely because neither was of legal age (if 21 and 18, respectively) and would have needed consent of a parent or guardian.

William and Phebe were the parents of four children – no, the first baby didn’t come early so that doesn’t explain Medford- all born in Stoneham.


1. Phebe, born 9 December 1765; died 5 November 1789, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; unmarried.
2. Abigail, born November 1768; died 19 September 1854, Glenburn, Penobscot, Maine; married Joses Bucknam, 19 September 1786, Wakefield, Middlesex, Massachusetts
3. Marmaduke, born 20 August 1771; died 11 March 1851, Melrose, Middlesex, Massachusetts; married Martha Barrett, 28 April 1793, Stoneham, Middlesex, Massachusetts
4. Charity, born 31 March 1775; died 4 August 1859, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; married Israel Hemenway, 4 December 1794, Stoneham, Middlesex, Massachusetts

Phebe (Brown) Hay died at the young age of 36 in Stoneham on 17 February 1783.

It is unusual to have only four children in that era, particularly when Phebe was a very young woman when she passed away. Note that Charity was born just as the American Revolution was about to begin.

This opens up an entire set of questions. Where was William Hay during the war?

William Hay of Stoneham is credited with military service as he answered the call to Lexington on 19 Apr 1775 in Capt. Samuel Sprague’s company of Minutemen.

After that time? William disappears forever from the Stoneham town records!

Years later, I discovered a William Hay living in Vermont and was able to prove that he was MY William Hay. When his grandfather died in 1790, William received an inheritance. Suffolk County, MA Deed Book 102:506-507 between William Hay and David Hay, dated 30 June 1790, is the acknowledgement by William, of Addison, Shoreham, Vermont that he has received his legacy left to him by Peter Hay.

Since then, new clues have been popping up that are making me ask if William abandoned his family and removed to Vermont during the war.

Here is the evidence:

American Ancestors has a set of index cards relating to the early settlers of Vermont. Here we have Sgt. William Hay living in Rockingham, Windsor, Vermont in 1781. Note the last line – Politics LBTY PTY TEND, which I assume means Liberty Party Tendency, which would certainly fit a man who marched to Lexington on 19 April 1775.

Further research uncovered Sgt. William Hay, Olcott’s Vermont Regiment, Militia, 21 August 1783. William Hay does not appear on a 1784 list of Stoneham residents, although his other family members are on it, including some relatives who didn’t own real estate.

2. The 1790 census of Bow, Rockingham, New Hampshire has an entry for a William Hay, living alone. Could William have stopped in Bow for a while before returning home to Vermont? Or was he just moving frequently? No other William Hay appears in the 1790 census in New England.

3. There is a marriage record for one William Hay and Betsey Currier on 4 December 1791 at Pembroke, Merrimack, New Hampshire. My William would have been only 47 in 1791. Both the bride and groom are listed as residents of Bow in Rockingham County.

4. There is a William Hay in the 1800 census in Pittsford, Rutland, Vermont. The family is enumerated as 01001-001. The History of Pittsford includes a notation during the commentary on the War of 1812 that, on 9 September 1814, men were raised for service in the war. It also noted that “William Hay was discharged on the 11th inst. on account of old age.” No other mention is found of William and Betsey Hay and what appears to be their young son. The son would be about 9 (in the 10-16 age range on the 1800 census) with William being 45+ and Betsey in the 16-26 age range.

This mention of William Hay in Pittsford on 9 September 1814 is the last record I have found. I have not found a single land deed for William Hay and I believe that is because he was a shoemaker.

Here is a map detailing the presumed migration of William Hay, from Stoneham to Bow to Shoreham to Pittsford:

Stoneham to Bow to Shoreham to Pittsford
Google Maps

Readers, what do you think? There are not many William Hays in New England in this time period. Is Sgt. William Hay in the Vermont militia MY William Hay?

At the moment, my thinking is that William might have married too young and when the war began, it presented a perfect opportunity to leave gracefully. His family lived in the homestead with his grandfather, so they were well cared for.

It would also explain the abrupt end to children being born after 1775.

Of William’s four children, Phebe predeceased her grandfather and Nabby married several years before Peter Hay died. Marmaduke and Charity were still at home but well into their teen years and likely remained with family in the house until they married a few years later.

I wish I could find more about William’s presumed second wife, Betsey Currier and the boy in their home, but, for now, they have been lost to time.





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