Joseph Underwood was born March 1, 1708 in Charlestown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America. Joseph married Ruth Parker on March 22, 1739 in Reading, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Joseph Underwood died April 4, 1745, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Joseph Underwood was born on March 1, 1708 in Charlestown, now part of Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, the oldest child of Joseph Underwood and Susanna Parker. Joseph had 12 known siblings, 6 brothers and 6 sisters. Joseph lived in Charlestown until about 1721 when his family moved to Chelmsford, Massachusetts. In 1729, the portion of Chelmsford where the family lived became the town of Westford.
Joseph attended Harvard University and graduated in 1735, likely the first in the family to graduate from Harvard or any other college in America. He was the first teacher employed in Westford and he also taught school in Reading until 1739. Joseph studied for the ministry and while there is no record that he was ordained, in 1738 there is a record that Joseph was one of the men who preached in the Chelmsford church due to the “weakness and inability” of their minister, Reverend Samson Stoddard. “Weakness and inability” is a nice way of saying that the Reverend Stoddard had become increasingly deranged and, in 1740, drowned himself in a well.
In October of 1737, Joseph received a gift of land from his father, 50 acres in Chelmsford called “Flaggy Meadow Plain”. The deed suggests the esteem that Joseph held as the deed described Joseph’s father’s socioeconomic class as “Yeoman” and his as “Gentleman”. The deed was conveyed in the presence of two of Joseph’s brothers Jonathan and Phinehas, and of a sister Ruth Read.
Joseph married Ruth Parker, the widow of Joseph Bancroft, in Reading on March 22, 1739. Ruth had a daughter by her first marriage, Ruth Bancroft. Ruth was the daughter of the Justice of the Peace, Captain Kendal Parker, and his wife Ruth Johnson. Capt. Parker was a Deacon of the Church in Reading as well. Six days after their marriage Joseph wrote his will, which is unusual. Joseph devised all his estate both real and personal to his new wife Ruth, and then after her decease to his heirs and her heirs. At the time the will was written, Joseph did not have any heirs. It is not known why Joseph felt the need to write a will so soon after his marriage.
Joseph and Ruth Underwood had 1 known child:
According to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, from 1739 until his death in 1745, Joseph was a preacher in the towns of Groton, Woburn and Chelmsford. It is unclear where the family resided during this period, however it was likely that they lived on the 50 acres in Chelmsford since Joseph was preaching in Chelmsford and due to its proximity to both Groton and Woburn. In 1741 Joseph is mentioned in the church records of Hollis, New Hampshire. Coincidentally in 1741, Ruth’s father Capt. Parker became guardian to Ruth’s daughter, Ruth Bancroft. Was this because Ruth and her 2 year old son Joseph Jr. accompanied Joseph to New Hampshire? Or did Joseph’s absence required another person to take over as Ruth’s guardian.
In 1745 at the age of 37, Joseph Underwood died. He was buried in the Old Burying Ground, at the time in South Reading, but today in Wakefield, Massachusetts.
Genealogical Research and Life Sketch completed: 2 July 2021
"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood, 1 Mar 1707; citing Birth, Charlestown, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009468.
"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood and Ruth Bancrof, 4 Mar 1739; citing Marriage, Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009686.
"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Joseph Underwood, 1739.
Massachusetts Land Records, Middlesex County, Volume 45 Folio 29.
“Vital Records of Wakefield, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850”. United States: Wright & Potter printing Company, 1912.
“Probate Records, 1648 - 1924,” Middlesex County Massachusetts, Probate Court. Probate papers 23100-23228. Family Search, FHL microfilm 007553794.
“Probate Records, 1648 - 1924,” Middlesex County Massachusetts, Probate Court. Probate papers 891-972. Family Search, FHL microfilm 007552903.
“The New England Historical and Genealogical Register - Volume 32”. United States: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1878.
Lucien Marcus Underwood, “The Underwood Families of America,” New Era Printing Co., Lancaster, PA, 1913 at Internet Archive.
Wilson Waters, “History of Chelmsford, Massachusetts,” United States: town, 1917.
Edwin Ruthven Hodgman, “History of the Town of Westford, in the County of Middlesex, Massachusetts, 1659-1883,” Morning Mail Company, 1883.