Joseph Underwood Life Sketch

(1739 - 1795)

Joseph Underwood was born December 20, 1739 in Reading, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Joseph married Mary Pool on June 3, 1762 in Reading, Massachusetts. Joseph died on June 26, 1795 in Fitchburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts.


Joseph Underwood was born in Reading in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on December 20, 1739. He was the only child of Joseph Underwood and Ruth Parker. It was the second marriage for his mother Ruth, and Joseph had a half sister, Ruth Bancroft, who was 12 years older.

In 1745 when Joseph was 5 years of age, his father died. Joseph Sr. wrote his will 6 days after his marriage to Ruth in which he devised all his property to Ruth and then after her death to pass to his heirs. His only heir was Joseph.

Ruth’s father, Kendal Parker, appears to have taken care of the family after Joseph’s father’s death. In 1751 Kendal amended his will, leaving Joseph a legacy “2 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence to be paid to him at the age of 21”. When Kendal Parker died in 1755 Joseph was 15 years of age. Following Kendal’s death Joseph chose a guardian, Jonathan Eaton.

Joseph’s paternal Grandfather Joseph Underwood also devised Joseph a legacy, 40 pounds to be paid to Joseph when he reached 21 years of age. Grandfather Underwood died in 1759 when Joseph was 19.

While a young man, Joseph learned the trade of cordwainer which became his profession. When he reached majority in December of 1761, he received the legacy from the estate of Grandfather Parker. It is not clear if Joseph received the legacy from the estate of Grandfather Underwood as Grandfather Underwood’s estate was declared insolvent in December of 1762. If he did not receive the legacy prior to 1762, he likely received a portion of the legacy from the widow’s dower when his grandmother died in 1769 .

On June 3, 1762, Joseph married Mary Pool, daughter of Samuel Pool and Rebecca Williams. Mary’s brother Jonathon married Sarah Eaton, sister of Joseph’s guardian, in 1760. Joseph and Mary probably became acquainted as a result of this relationship. Joseph and Mary had the following known children:

  1. Mary Underwood
  2. Rebecca Underwood
  3. Patty Underwood
  4. Sarah Underwood
  5. Lucy Underwood
  6. Joseph Underwood
  7. Lucy Underwood
  8. Sally Underwood

In October of 1762 Joseph sold 30 acres of his father’s 50 acres in Chelmsford known as Flaggy Meadow Plain.

The family settled in Reading. Mary was born in 1763 followed by the birth of Rebecca in 1765. In February 1768, Joseph purchased a 6 acre tract of woodland in Reading. In May Joseph sold his homestead via a bond to David Mansfield, another cordwainer, and moved the family to Lynn in Essex county. David paid off the bond the following year and became the owner of the property.

In April 1770, while still living in Lynn, Joseph sold the 6 acre woodland he had purchased in Reading in 1768. Lynn, Massachusetts, is likely where Patty and Sarah were born since their births are not recorded in Reading’s records. All the Underwood daughters were christened in Reading on the same day in June of 1770, the christening record affirming that the family lived in Lynn, “Lynn End” to be specific, today’s Lynnfield. By 1771 the family moved back to Reading where daughter Lucy was born, followed by the birth of Joseph in 1773. Lucy, a little over 2 years of age, died a few months after Joseph Jr.’s birth.

By 1773 tensions between England and the Massachusetts Bay Colony were increasing as England started to pass the “Intolerable Acts” following the insubordination of the Boston Tea Party. By 1775 the Colony was on the brink of war with England. It is unproven whether 35 year old Joseph participated in the Revolutionary War in any capacity.

The Underwood’s experienced the death of two more children in 1775. In July, Joseph Jr. died of dysentery at the age of 3 and in September, Sarah died of a fever at the age of 5.

In 1776, another daughter was born to the Underwood’s and again named Lucy. In 1777, Joseph’s mother Ruth in her 73rd year, released her brother-in-law from an obligation set by her father’s will. Joseph witnessed the agreement. Ruth likely moved in with Joseph and his family until the end of her life. In the same year, Joseph appealed to the Middlesex Probate court that he was an heir to the estate of Ebenezer Parker who had died in 1749, his widow in possession of her dower’s third, was recently deceased. The judge sided with Joseph and awarded one third of the estate to Joseph proving a familial relationship, still unknown, either between Joseph and Ebenezer, or Joseph and Ebenezer’s widow Mary.

At this point in his life, Joseph appears to have taken on apprentices to learn the trade of cordwainer or was employing associate cordwainers. In 1779, Joseph Underwood, “cordwainer”, Paul Sweetser, “cordwainer”, and John Lambert, “Gentleman” purchased 7 acres of property. Shortly afterward, Joseph and John Lambert relinquished their right and title to a portion of the land to Paul Sweetser, making 8 pounds in the deal, a deal which appears to be an investment in a junior cordwainer. Joseph also sold land to his brother-in-law Jonathan Pool, who was also a cordwainer.

In 1780, the family grew by one more daughter, Sally.

In 1785, the year eldest daughter Mary married Thomas Miles, Joseph’s economic and social status had changed. In a land transaction in which Joseph purchased an additional 20 acres of land adjoining his house, he was referred to as “Gentleman”.

Two years later, the Underwood’s daughter Rebecca married Elias McIntire. In 1791 Rebecca and Elias moved 50 miles west to Fitchburg in Worcester county. In 1793, the family decided to join the McIntires in Fitchburg. Between May and July, Joseph sold a little over 110 acres of land in Reading. He also sold his pew, #52, in the First Parish of Reading.

In Fitchburg Joseph purchased a 64 acre farm. Joseph was active in the affairs of Fitchburg. In March of 1795 he became a town officer and in April he was 1 of 4 men chosen to decide on a gospel minister. On June 2, Joseph added 11 acres of land to his estate lying partly in Fitchburg and partly in Ashby. By the end of June, Joseph was dead at the age of 55. According to probate papers, Joseph attempted to make a will but it was not legal since it only had 2 witnesses instead of the required 3.

At the time of Joseph’s death, Sally was a minor and was appointed a guardian. Daughter’s Patty and Lucy were unmarried. When Joseph’s estate was inventoried and his debts summed, the estate was found to be insolvent. The court set off the widow’s third for Mary, then ordered that the remaining two thirds of the estate be sold. When the final account was administered, the administrator followed Joseph’s will. Daughters Mary and Rebecca had each £15 prior to the final account. The balance was divided among the remaining children. Patty, Lucy and Sally Underwood each received $41.52.

According to the Fitchburg Historical Society, Joseph is buried in Dean Hill Cemetery in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Genealogical Research and Life Sketch completed: 1 June 2020


Sources:

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood, 20 Dec 1739; citing Birth, Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009686.

“Probate Records, 1648 - 1924,” Middlesex County Massachusetts, Probate Court. Probate papers 16661-16760. Family Search, FHL microfilm 007553727.

“Probate Records, 1648 - 1924,” Middlesex County Massachusetts, Probate Court. Probate papers 23100-23228. Family Search, FHL microfilm 007553794.

“Probate Records, 1648 - 1924,” Worcester County Massachusetts, Probate Court. Probate estate files 60481-60545. Family Search, FHL microfilm 101448211.

"Massachusetts Marriages, 1695-1910, 1921-1924", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood, 1762.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Mary Underwood, 1763.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Rebeka Underwood, 1765.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Sarah Underwood, 1770.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Patty Underwood, 1770.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Mary Underwood, 1770.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Rebecca Underwood, 1770.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Lucy Underwood, 1771.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Joseph Underwood, 1773.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Lucy Underwood, 1776.

Thomas W. Baldwin. “Vital Records of Wakefield, Massachusetts, to the year 1850”. Wright & Potter, Boston MA, 1912. FHL.

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"United States Census, 1790," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood, Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; citing p. 499, NARA microfilm publication , (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll ; FHL microfilm .

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Joseph Underwood Life Sketch genealogy research