Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rev. Ralph WHEELOCK, 1600-1684, Shropshire to Massachusetts

The Reverend Ralph WHEELOCK is the 8th great-grandfather of my ex-husband's RICE line, 9th to the children of the brothers Jack & Bill, and 10th great-grandfather to the Lewis grandchildren. He and his wife and first few children emmigrated in 1637, part of "The Great Migration".

The Wheelock surname is variantly spelled: Whelock, Wellock, Wholock, and is traced back to the 10th century in Wheelock Village in Cheshire county. Although it is suggested his family must have been well-educated and of the 'gentry', there are no verified details of his parents or family. to date.

Born around 1600 in Shropshire, Ralph WHEELOCK entered Clare Hall/College at Cambridge, [image above, CCO, public domain]. He matriculated in 1623, BA in 1626, and a MA in 1630.  It is important to know that Cambridge was a centre of the religious movement from which came Puritanism, and his fellow students included John Milton, John Eliot and other well-known men who were active in the religious dissension.

Ralph was ordained priest on May 6, 1630, by Francis White, Bishop of the Norfolk Diocese. Less than two weeks later, he married Rebecca CLARKE on May 17th in Wramplingham at St Peter & St Paul Church. This church is one of the round-towered churches, many of which can be found in East Anglia.  

Rebecca was one of 7 children of Thomas CLARKE and Mary CANNE, bap Aug 26, 1610 in Banham. At least one other sibling, Joseph Clarke, also immigrated to the new colony in Massachusetts.

Children of Ralph and Rebecca follow, the first three children were baptised apparently in Banham, Norfolk, at St. Mary the Virgin Church. This church from the 14th Century, is known for its beautiful stain glass windows. [© Evelyn Simak, CCO] 

   1.   Mary, bap Sep 2, 1631, m. Joseph Miles in Medfield, MA; no further research done.
   2.  Gershom [ancestor], bap Jan 3, 1631/32; m. May 18, 1658 to Hannah STODDER in Medfield, MA; 7 known children
   3.   Rebecca, bap Aug 24, 1634, d. Nov 28, 1667 in childbirth, Roxbury MA; m. 7 Jun 1654 in Roxbury MA, to John Craft
   4.   Peregrina, b. 1637 onboard ship to New England, d. Apr 1, 1671 Medfield MA; m. Oct 26 1669 to John Warfield; no further research done.
   5.   Benjamin, b. Jan 8 1639/40 Dedham MA, m. May 21 1668 to Elizabeth Bullen, in Medfield MA; no further research done.
   6.   Samuel, b. Sep 22 1642 Dedham MA; d. Oct 23 1698 Medfield MA; m. Apr 3 1678 to Sarah Kendricke in Medfield MA; no further research done.
   7.   Record, bap Dec 15 1644 Dedham MA, d. Jul 26 1726 Marlborough MA; m. Oct 3, 1672 to Increase Ward, in Medfield MA, 7 known children
   8.   Experience, bap Sep 3 1648 Dedham MA, d. Feb 27, 1709/10 Medfield MA; m. May 21 1668 to Joseph Warren, in Medfield MA; no further research done.
   9.   Eleazar, b. May 3 1654 Medfield MA, d. Mar 24 1729/30 Medfield MA; m. Apr 17 1678 to Elizabeth [Fuller?] Rehoboth MA; 3 known children.

Ralph WHEELOCK, although ordained a priest [in the Church of England], and occasionally did preach, he preferred to teach. He was very active in the running of the the new church as well as the new town of Dedham in Massachusetts. He was given the prefix of "Mr." - of which only a few men in the town were given this - an example of his status. He also was appointed to assist the measurer in laying out the town, and did a variety of other town business and court activities. He appears to have been highly regarded. The town decided to have a school, supported by a town tax, rather than supported by the students as was more normal in Massachusetts. That is, this school was the very first free school in MA, and Mr. WHEELOCK was the first teacher of that famous school, from 1644 to 1651. As stated in the book, "Mr. Ralph Wheelock, Puritan", "...he had in his school the ancestors of at least five college presidents." A number of his children were teachers, as were several grandchildren as well.

In May 1651, the new town of Medfield was granted independence by the General Court of Massachusetts, and Ralph WHEELOCK along with other colonists, moved with their families to Medfield. All signed "An Agreement" - apparently chiefly the work of Ralph Wheelock. Because of his activities regarding the work to have Medfield granted independence as a town, and the Agreement, he is regarded as "the founder of Medfield." He was chosen to be one of the town's selectman for 5 years, as well as taking other actions relating to the Great and General Court in Boston for a number of years, as a Deputy. His house-lot was the first granted in Medfield, at the corner of now Main and North Streets, including 12 acres of land.

However, aside from his social/political activities there are records and various statements which indicate his principal endeavours and passions were in education: "instruction of youth". This was to the point that he also financially supported not only the school in Medfield, but the early Harvard University.

On Jan. 1st, 1680/81, his wife, Rebecca, died, aged 70 years.

Three years later, Ralph died on Jan 11th, 1683/84, aged 83 years. He and his wife were apparently buried in Vine Lake Cemetery, Medfield, MA, but no gravestones are found.

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If you have further information or questions about the WHEELOCK family, I am happy to share and hear from you. Contact me via the email address at the bottom of the blog posts.

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Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis