Those Places Thursday – Petersham, Massachusetts

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One of our many ancestral hometowns is Petersham, Massachusetts, population 1234 as of 2010. In 1733, land was granted to a group of men to found a town in central Massachusetts. Even before this time, though, our Wilson relatives were already in residence – Joseph Willson, my 7G-grand-uncle, was said to be the first white man to winter here, and Abner, son of Joseph and his wife Rebakah, was born here in October 10, 1732.

Joseph’s brother Samuel, my 7G-grandfather, was born about 1702 in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, then known as Billerica. Tewksbury’s state hospital once housed Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller‘s teacher, as a child. Samuel Willson married Mary Davenport on November 25, 1734.  He had 13 children, all of whom appear to have been born in Petersham. Either Mary’s approximate birthdate of 1696 is incorrect, or Samuel may have been married more than once.

John Willson (my 6G-grandfather), born July 3, 1735
Mary Willson, born March 12, 1737
Olive Willson, born February 13, 1739
Benjamin Willson, born November 24, 1740
Molley Willson, born December 13, 1742
Samuel Willson, born October 3, 1744
Ester Willson, born February 26, 1747
Eunice Willson, born March 3, 1750
Louis Willson, born July 20, 1752
Persis Willson, born August 12, 1754
Jenne Willson, born February 2, 1757
Nahum Willson, born July 14, 1759
Elizabeth Willson, born 1761

In 2002 Mom and I visited Petersham, explored its cemeteries and encountered a wild turkey. We also spent time in the Petersham Country Store. We were sad to learn later that the store had closed, though it appears that the store still has a lot of supporters in the area. While in Petersham Mom and I also learned about the building of the Quabbin Reservoir between 1930 and 1939, which flooded four towns: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott. I am thankful Petersham was spared.

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