Wodell #11220

William Wodell (1614-1693)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in the mid-1630s (1637 at the latest) and subsequently settled in Rhode Island by 1642.

Mary (1621-1676)

Born in England.  Arrived in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island by 1639.

Wodell #11220

Wodell family_title pageSome information on the Wodell family can be located in a volume entitled Genealogy of a part of the Wodell family, from 1640 to 1880: with notices of some other families, and a condensed biography of the author as written by himself by Eli Wodell[1] (Unknown publisher, 1880).  The second half of the book is autobiographical.  The tone of the volume is somewhat strange.  Eli was inordinately peeved that people were changing the spelling of his surname[2].  Even his children were adding an R to his surname, with good reason I might add.  You have to read the second half of the book to find out why.  One hint: until that upstart Lizzy Borden[3] came along, Eli was the most famous murder suspect in Fall River Massachusetts (he wasn’t convicted either). Eli Wodell’s wife committed suicide by hanging under suspicious circumstances in 1875.  He was tried for murder and ultimately was acquitted in what was the most scandalous trial in Fall River history until, a few years later, the trial of Lizzie Borden came along!  Eli wrote at length of his life in general and the death of his wife and his subsequent trial in particular in Genealogy.  He concludes his account with an epic poem he penned himself: “My wife is dead, she hanged herself of course she gone to glory. She tied the knot and hanged herself, Lamentable the story. And I was persecuted by “the people called Christian” They raised a cry that murder foul had surely been committed, That ninety-nine of every hundred believed that I did it.” and “One brazen hag with lying breath. Declared I plunged my wife to death. One drunken fellow who deals in ice, said he could prove I killed my wife.”

The place of birth and parentage of William Wodell (variously spelled as Wordell, Wadell, Wardell, Woodell, etc.) is obscure.  According to some sources, his father’s name is Gershom Wodell, and this may be the case, especially since the Gershom name was used in subsequent generations.  However, their does not seem to be any proof.  It is assumed that William was born in England, since he had a child born in 1640 and he was presumably older than the Plymouth settlement of 1620.  He probably immigrated to Massachusetts in the mid 1630s.  He is known to have been in Boston by 1637.  In Boston, he got involved in political and religious controversy and was accused of treason against the colony.  The charges were based on: “the opinions and revelations of Mr. Wheelwright[4] and Mrs. Hutchinson[5] which seduced and led into dangerous errors many of the people here in New England.”

Resisting the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, he was nevertheless brought before the court in Boston, charged with heresy and sedition, and with others was ordered by the town council to give up all arms and ammunition. The entire company was sentenced to prison, with the death penalty added should they attempt to escape. Though most of his companions were imprisoned, William remained at large until the following March, at which time he was banished from Massachusetts.

Following the lead of many political refugees from Massachusetts, William went to Rhode Island where he was one of the first settlers of the new colony.  In 1642, he and ten others[6] bought the tract of land called Shawomet (Warwick) from the Indians, founding the historic charter colony of Warwick, Rhode Island.  In 1643 he also appears in Portsmouth, Rhode Island where he passed most of his mature life as a leading man in public affairs, filling various important offices until at least 1690.  In 1643, he was one of the company of Groton, serving in the Colonial Wars. He was taken prisoner, and was imprisoned at Watertown by the government of Massachusetts. He was subsequently released. He was a freeman in 1655, Commissioner from 1656 to 1663, Deputy to the General Court in 1664 and succeeding years, member of the special council[7] for the colony of Rhode Island in King Philip’s War 1675 and was appointed Assistant in 1684.

William and his wife, Mary (surname of “Wardwell” or “Gatchell”, depending on the source consulted) had six children:

  1. Mary, born Nov 1640
  2. Gershom Wodell, see below
  3. Sarah, born Oct 1644
  4. Alice, born 10 Feb 1650
  5. Frances, born 6 Jul 1652

Gershom Wodell was born 14 Jul 1642 in Tiverton, Rhode Island and died 5 Mar 1684 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  On 13 Jul 1662 in Portsmouth he married Mary Tripp, daughter of John Tripp and Mary Paine (discussed under their own heading).  They were residents of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  Their children were: William (born in 1663), Mary Wodell, Elizabeth, Richard, Return, Gershom, Sarah and Innocent.

Mary Wodell, who was born 4 Mar 1665, probably in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and she died 14 Jan 1732 at Portsmouth.  On 16 Feb 1681 in Portsmouth, she married Robert Lawton who was born about 1649 in Portsmouth, Newport Rhode Island and died 25 Jan 1706 in the same location.  Not much is known of this couple, aside from the vital details.  Four children were born between 1682-1696: Mary, George, Elizabeth and Robert Lawton.

The lineage of Mary Wodell and Robert Lawton is continued under the heading of George Lawton (1607-1693).

[1] Eli Wodell (1805-1886), my 4th cousin 7x removed.

[2] The dedication reads as follows: “To all present and future descendants of the illustrious and honorable William and Mary WODELL, who cherish their memory and their own proper names, repudiating such corruptions as illiteracy, indifference, and carelessness, may have introduced: this little book, with the well wishes of the author, is dedicated.”

[3] Lizzie Borden was charged with killing her father and step-mother with an ax in 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts. She is related to me through my 11th g-grandfather, Richard Borden, disussed under his own heading.Lizzie was memorialized in a popular skipping-rope rhyme: 
Lizzie Borden took an ax/  And gave her mother 40 whacks / And when she saw what she had done / She gave her father 41.. Folklore says the rhyme was made up by an anonymous writer as a tune to sell newspapers. Others attribute it to the ubiquitous, but anonymous “Mother Goose”. In reality Lizzie’s stepmother suffered 18 or 19 blows and her father just 11 blows.

[4] Husband of Mary Hutchinson, who is the sister-in-law of Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson.

[5] Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson, my 10th g-grandmother, is discussed at length under her own heading.

[6] Including my 11th g-grandfather, John Green (1597-1659), discussed under his own heading.

[7] At the time of King Philip’s War, the most distressing and sanguinary war ever known in New England, the population considered , the Legislative assembly voted in these troublous times and straits of the colony the Assembly desiring to have the advise and concurrance of the most judicious inhabitants, etc…  to select William Wodell as one of these.


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