Susanna Parker was born December 29, 1687 in Reading, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America. Susanna married Joseph Underwood on May 27, 1707 in Reading, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Susanna Parker Underwood died February 18, 1769, in Groton, Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Susanna Parker was born December 29, 1687 in Reading, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America. She was the 5th of 12 known children of Nathaniel Parker and his wife Bethiah, although 2 of her older siblings and 1 of her younger siblings died as infants. Susanna grew up in Reading, a town with a population of about 100 families. At the time, the town of Reading was geographically much larger and included today’s Reading, Wakefield and North Reading. While many of the families lived in the area known today as Wakefield, Susanna’s family lived in the center of today’s Reading.
At the age of 19, Susanna married Joseph Underwood. Joseph lived in Reading following the death of his father and where Susanna must have met him. After their marriage, Susanna moved with Joseph to Charlestown End, today’s Stoneham, where Joseph owned land, about 5 miles south of where Susanna grew up.
Susanna and Joseph had the following known children:
Susanna and Joseph’s first son, Joseph, was born in 1708. The family remained in Charlestown End for the next 12 to 14 years where the family grew with the births of Thomas, Mary, Elizabeth, Jonathan, Anna and Ruth.
In 1719, Susanna’s husband Joseph purchased land in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, northwest of both Charlestown and Reading, 70 acres including a house and a barn. Why Chelmsford? In 1719 Arthur Crouch, husband to Joseph’s aunt Elizabeth Underwood, died in Chelmsford. Arthur and Elizabeth Crouch were some of the early residents of Chelmsford and owned a beautiful property on Tadmuck Hill. However, they were apparently childless. In 1706, well before his death, Arthur deeded his 70 acre property to Joseph Herrick reserving a life estate to himself and after his death, a one-third dower for Elizabeth. Joseph Herrick died in 1717 and devised the property to his two sons Joseph and John with the stipulation that they “take care of it and Arthur Crouch and his wife do not suffer for want during their lives.” When Arthur Crouch died in 1719, Joseph along with his aunt Elizabeth, administered the estate of Arthur Crouch. Joseph purchased the 70 acres from Joseph and John Herrick
for £166. Joseph, Susanna and the family may have moved to Chelmsford in 1719 at the time of the purchase and provided housing and help for Joseph’s aunt. Or they may have moved to the property following the death of Joseph’s aunt in 1722. Since son Phinehas was born in 1721 it is uncertain whether he was born in Charlestown End or in Chelmsford.
The part of Chelmsford where Susanna and the family lived became the town of Westford a few years after their arrival. In Westford the family grew to 12 children with the births of Timothy, Susanna, John and Bethiah. Sadly, daughter Susanna died at the age of 4 in 1729. In 1731, son James was born followed by the death of Thomas the next year at the age of 23. Oldest son Joseph was off to Harvard where he graduated in 1735.
Also in 1735, Susanna’s children began to marry when Elizabeth wed Joseph Fletcher. The Fletcher’s moved to Dunstable, Massachusetts Bay Colony, near the border of the Colony of New Hampshire, which at the time was almost unbroken wilderness. Fletcher family lore relates a story that Joseph went to Westford to use the mill, a distance of about 8 miles so he spent the night. Elizabeth, alone in the house, heard a noise which sounded like a screaming child. When she opened the door she saw the eyes of a catamount, a cougar, glaring at her from a tree. Fearing that the catamount might gain access through the window, she crept into a barrel and spent the night. Joseph became a leading man in the community and a deacon in the church. The Fletchers raised 9 children in Dunstable where Elizabeth lived until her death in 1802 at the age of 88. Today the land on which the Fletcher’s raised their children produces milk used to create Cabot Cheese.
Daughter Anna married James Spaulding in 1736. Following their marriage, James’ father gifted the Spaulding’s 23 acres of land in Westford which included a house and a barn and was located near the Underwoods. Anna gave birth to 13 children although not all survived to adulthood. Anna died in 1770 prior to the Revolutionary War in which several of her sons served.
Daughter Ruth married Joseph Read in 1737 and also remained in Westford. Ruth’s husband Joseph was a prominent figure in Wakefield, serving on the Massachusetts General Court for 20 successive years. Ruth, along with 2 of her children, Sampson and Molly, all died within a 2 week period in February of 1777, most likely due to an epidemic or virus.
Son Joseph married the widow Ruth Parker Bancroft in 1739 and moved nearby to Chelmsford to property his father had given him. He was a teacher and a preacher. Unfortunately, Joseph did not live long and died at the age of 36 in 1745, leaving one son.
Son Jonathan married his cousin Hannah Richardson in 1739 and lived in Westford until the death of his father in 1761 and then moved to Suffield, Connecticut. In April 1775, he was part of a company of men who marched from Connecticut to Cambridge upon hearing the news from Lexington and Concord. About 1776, the family moved to Marlboro, Vermont where he was a representative to the General Court and a moderator of town meetings. He died in Marlboro in 1794.
Son Phinehas married Mary whose maiden name is unknown and lived in Dunstable, New Hampshire, today’s Merrimack. Phinehas was Dunstable’s first town clerk and also an innkeeper. Phinehas’ life ended early at the age of 36, leaving a widow and 2 young children.
Son Timothy married Rachel Russell around 1746 and lived in Westford near his parents. When his father died in 1761, Timothy was the executor of the estate and traveled between his siblings locations for several years while settling accounts. In 1775, Timothy was Captain of a company of minutemen in Colonel Prescott’s regiment which responded to Lexington, In 1778, Timothy sold his property in Westfield and moved to Putney, Vermont where he lived for the rest of his life.
Spinster daughter Mary finally married in 1748 at the age of 37, the widower John Bulkley. The family lived in Groton, Massachusetts, where Mary had two children, John and Elizabeth, in addition to several step-children. John was a graduate of Harvard and an extremely wealthy man. Mary’s son John also attended Harvard, graduating in 1769, and became the first lawyer in Groton. Sadly, Mary’s husband died in 1772, followed by the death of her son in 1774 and daughter in 1775. Mary lived until 1799, dying at the age of 87. Her will, dated May 1792, devised legacies to her surviving Underwood brothers as well as her nieces and nephews, children of her Underwood siblings. It also included the interesting item “I bequeath to such of the children of my sister Bethiah Prescott, wife of Oliver Prescott of Westford, as are not, or shall not be at the time of my decease followers of the deluded sect called Shaking Quakers, the sum of 6 pounds to be equally divided”. Daughter Bethiah married Oliver Prescott in 1749. Following their marriage, Oliver’s father gifted the Prescott’s 150 acres which Oliver eventually grew to 500 acres of land located in easterly Westford and westerly Groton. Bethiah gave birth to 15 children although not all survived to adulthood. Oliver was a Deacon in the First Parish Church of Westford. From the language in her sister Mary’s will, one can surmise the religion called Shaking Quakers, or Shakers as they were known, had a profound impact on the Prescott household and upon further research, that appears to be true. According to a biography about Oliver and Bethiah’s daughter, Lucy Prescott, Lucy and one of her sisters, along with their mother, would walk from Westford to the town of Harvard, a distance of about 12 miles, to hear the Shaker preacher Ann Lee. Other research shows that by 1783, Bethiah’s daughter, also named Bethiah and her husband Jeremiah Williard, lived in the Shaker village at Harvard.
Lucy joined the Shakers along with her sisters Hannah, Elizabeth, Phebe, Martha and Mary. In 1794, Oliver Prescott sold all his land to 2 of his sons, Abram and Isaac and in 1796, Isaac sold his share to Abram. In the 1796 deed there is a reference to a bond made in 1790 between Abram and Jeremiah Willard for the care of Abram’s and Isaac’s mother Bethiah Prescott. The deed specified that the sale shall be void if Abram did not perform the duties specified in a bond which provided for the care of their mother. So, apparently Bethiah left Oliver in 1790 and lived with the Shakers. In the US 1800 census, Oliver Prescott appears to be in the household of his son Abram while there is no older female in the household. In 1803, Oliver died and was buried in the West Burying Ground in Westford. Unusually, there are no records of a Will or administration of his estate which would include a widow’s dower. This, along with the mentioned bond, implies that the accounts had been settled prior to Oliver’s death and that the relationship with his wife had been severed. Bethiah lived until 1813. She was buried in the Shaker Burying Ground in Harvard, Massachusetts.
Son John married Hannah Wright in 1749. Six years later, John drowned in Nova Scotia while serving the Colonial Army, leaving a widow, 2 young children and a newborn.
Youngest son James moved to New Hampshire sometime after 1750 and married Mary Lund about 1752. He settled in Litchfield where he became the representative to the Colonial General Court of New Hampshire 8 times between 1765 and 1778. In 1781 he was a delegate to the Second Constitutional Convention of the state of New Hampshire. He went on to become a Judge. James died in 1808.
Susanna’s husband Joseph died in 1761 and was buried in Westford. Susanna’s ⅓ dower included the east end of the dwelling house and half the cellar underneath the house and also half the corn barn with half the cellar under it. Also included were 5 acres of pasture land adjacent to her son Timothy, 9 acres of orchard and plow land and 3 acres of woodland as well as a yearly allowance.
Sometime prior to her death in 1769, Susanna appears to have moved to Groton and lived with her daughter Mary. Susanna Parker Underwood died in Groton on February 18, 1769 at the age of 81. Susanna was buried in the Old Burying Ground in Groton, not in Westford with her husband Joseph. Possibly winter weather made it difficult to travel to Westford for the burial.
Genealogical Research and Life Sketch completed: 8 July 2021
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