The Fourth of July, 1824 - For the residents of the small town of Shelburne, New Hampshire, in Coos County, the celebration of our nation's birth had to be put on hold that Sunday morning. 15-year old Abigail Y. Leavitt, who was residing with Mr. Robert Ingalls, had gone missing the night before, failing to return from gathering evergreens. A party of 60-70 townspeople, comprised of those who were able to trek the heavily forested mountains above the Ameriscoggin (ie. Androscoggin) River, began their search. Concord's New Hampshire Patriot was one of many newspapers to write about the actions that day, as described in these clippings:
Did her mother remarry after 1820, when the pension payments ended, and then moved out to Illinois? Did any of her children accompany her on this trek? There are a couple of them not yet accounted for. [Note: pension file not yet available on Fold3's War of 1812 online collection]
Who WAS her mother, other than "Lois"? The marriage intents of Joseph Leavitt in 1804 [Bethel Town Recs, no pg #] failed to name his bride to be. A clue, perhaps, is found in the name of this daughter, "Abigail Y." Leavitt. "Y" surnames were not common, and early Bethel had the York family residing there. Standing out among them is one Abigail York, who was the wife of Jonathan Bean, and they did have a daughter named Lois Bean, born 1786 [Hist. of Bethel, pg 479]. A lead to work on!
Abigail was born on 16 Jan 1810 [Bethel Town Records, pg 78]. She married John E. Swan by 1832 and had two children before she died in 1835. She is buried in the Middle Intervale Cemetery, Bethel. She is found in the Desc. of Thomas Leavitt v.4, pg 50, though there are errors in that connection. The History of Bethel, ME, pg 581, also shows problems with the family genealogy, as copied from the Town Records (pg 64 and 78).
With many annual Fourth of July celebrations, the following day's newspapers are usually filled with stories about the exciting fireworks displays, along with the mishaps that always seem to follow them. The summer of 1859 was no different, and included a Leavitt family member from New Hampshire:
The above news report was printed in the Mirror and Farmer on 9 July 1859, recounting a fireworks accident that occurred in Pittsfield, NH at 9:30 PM that past Monday evening, during a Fourth of July celebration. BENJAMIN F. LEAVITT of Chichester [Desc. of Thomas Leavitt v.4, pg 104-5] was one of several persons who were injured when a pile of fireworks were accidentally set-off and struck the gathered crowd.
While the Manchester newspaper stated that a rocket had struck the right side of his nose, breaking it, and then gouging out his left eye, other accounts claimed "the whole of one side of his face stricken off, carrying with it the eye and nose" [Boston Post, 7/7; and copied by other New England papers]. The papers added: "although alive this morning, cannot survive but a few hours at most".
The Boston Daily Traveller, on the 7th of July, had given a more detailed account about Benjamin F. Leavitt Esq. himself. The New York Herald copied their version, and printed it on the 9th [below, clipped from the Chronicling America website]. Though off on his age by a few years, they added interesting details about his life, including time spent in California, earning enough to pay off family debts back home, and serving in the N.H. Legislature in 1857 and '58.
The Dover Enquirer, dated Thurs., July 14th, while continuing with the horrific description of Mr. Leavitt's face, followed with the postscript:
"We are informed by Mr. Freeze, the driver of the Pittsfield stage, that only three of the above persons (Leavitt, Garland, and Willey) were injured, and that all are in a fair way to recover. - The injury which they received was not so great as reported".
Benjamin Franklin Leavitt survived more than a "few hours". In fact, he lived until 16 May 1882, dying from bronchitis at age 73 [buried in Leavitt Cem, Chichester]. Mr. Calvin Drew (initially called "Daniel" in early reports) Garland, the other man "fatally wounded", would live until 1896. The young boy John Willey was perhaps the son of Hazen Willey, and had just turned 7 years old that July 4th day. He died in 1914.
Joseph Parsons Leavitt, the son of Major John and Mary (Parsons) Leavitt, was born in Effingham, New Hampshire on 4 Sept 1800 [Descendants of Thomas Leavitt, v. 4, pg 77/132]. The twelve acres in Effingham he had purchased from Morris Leavitt in 1823 were sold off in 1826, Joseph having moved to Dover, NH by that time. He remained here through 1833, as the next city directory in 1837 no longer finds him there (though sister Lucinda is now here). He removed to Kingston, Ulster, NY by the 1840 census, which is possibly where his wife Abigail died in 1842. He remarried the following year, with son Charles born "in New York" in 1844. From there he went south to Virginia, and was in the settlement called "New England" by 1847. This unincorporated place was within the Harris District, Wood County.
His younger brother, Samuel Quarles Leavitt, even after buying half of his father's farm in 1832, instead decided to join his brother, either while still in New York, or perhaps after he reached Virginia. Sister Susan, with husband Asa Pease and their children, also made the trek, along with Asa's brother Sylvester. Lucinda P. Leavitt, the youngest child of Major John, who had been living in Dover, NH in 1843, also removed to Wood County with her siblings. Considering the method of travel at that time, where they "traveled from Philadelphia over the Allegheny mountains by stage to Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio River by boat" [Desc. of Thomas, pg 132], it is likely they would made the journey together.
Here on an 1877 map of New England (Harris), West Virginia, the several Leavitt names are marked out. If that straight road from the town center to "Leavitt's Landing" existed, it didn't last long, considering the hilly landscape. The later 1886 map shows that Joseph took an easier way around, using the flatlands to reach his homestead. The blacksmith (B. S.) shop on map was on a 1/2 acre of land owned by Samuel Q. Leavitt, whose home was next door (#3). That house lot of 3 acres was willed to daughter Mary Rhodes in 1877 (on 1886 map, marked as "L. Rhodes Heirs").
Below is the New England community from an 1886 map, now with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad running along the Ohio River. The Leavitt related locations are numbered, with comments below.
1. "J. P. Leavitts Heirs" - family of Joseph P. Leavitt (1800-1881), his wife Mary died in 1887. Purchased 1400 acres of land on the Ohio River in 1847 (Wood County Deeds: Bk 14 pg 215 and 14-337); sold portions off to relatives soon after.
2. "Cem" - The New England Baptist Cemetery
The family of Joseph P. Leavitt is buried here - over a dozen Leavitt names found in the cemetery transcription: Wood County Cemetery Transcriptions, Vol. 1, pg 207 (his family monument includes his first wife Abigail and two young sons, who died before he settled in western Virginia).
3. "P. Leavitt" - Pierce Leavitt (1853-1927), son of Joseph. Bought 56 1/2 acres from his father in 1879, "on the North Fork of Lee Creek". He later moved to Chattanooga, TN. His former homestead may still be standing, though long abandoned. Image clipped from Google satellite view. Located at GPS: 39.202908, -81.699695
4. "V. W. Leavitt" - Virgil Warren Leavitt (1858-1891), son of Joseph
5. "G. E. Leavitt - Store & P.O., Res" - George Elmendorf Leavitt (1848-1930), s/o Joseph. There is a house dated 1860 on south side of the Ridge Road, which is either George's or his neighbor "D. C. Whitlock". A few outbuildings on property are also very aged. Hard to pinpoint, even when trying to trace back land deeds.
6. "Asa Pease" - married to Susan Leavitt, sister of Joseph. Arrived in Wood County, 1847 (dau Lucinda b. Nov 1846 in NH). The house currently standing in area where Asa's property is marked on map is dated 1884, so not original home he lived in.
7. "S. Pease" - Sylvester E. Pease, brother of Asa; married to Lucinda P. Leavitt, sister of Joseph P., in 1857.
On the Vintage Aerial website, there are multiple rolls of film that cover this area in the 1980's and 1990's. I've marked many of them with "New England" for ease of finding. https://vintageaerial.com/photos/west-virginia/wood
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