THE FIRST HARRINGTON IN AMERICA
Robert Harrington (1616 – 1707) was among the author’s earliest ancestors to make a home in the new world. In 1634, Robert made the voyage from England to America, settling in Watertown, which, at the time, spanned current day Watertown, Waltham, Weston, and Lincoln. Robert was among the Puritans who sought religious freedom in America and made a home with Deacon Thomas Hastings. Hastings would later gift Robert this six-acre homestead, leading many to believe that Robert was likely a relative, though this has not been confirmed.[i]
Robert was likely a poor man when he arrived in America, but built a sizeable estate over 642 acres throughout his life time.[ii] This estate spanned what is now part of Perkins School for the Blind and the U.S. Arsenal.[iii] (Coincidentally, the former is where the author is currently employed). Robert was active in the young town, serving as a selectmen intermittently from 1679 to 1700.[iv] Robert earned his living as a miller.[v]
Robert married Susannah George (~1632 – 1694) in 1647 (possibly 1649).[vi] Together, they had 13 children, at least 9 of whom reached adulthood.[vii] Throughout New England there are hundreds of mentions of Harringtons throughout the centuries, most of whom can trace their lineage to Robert and Susannah Harrington.[viii]
While Robert’s children, grandchildren, and further descendants travelled throughout Massachusetts, our story continues through the twelfth child, Edward (1668-1736). Edward was the Robert’s favorite son, or so it was reported. Upon his father’s death, he inherited an “Imposing mansion” on the original six-acre plot, plus a mill house, cider works, barns, orchards, and multi-acre tracts throughout Watertown.[ix]
Edward continued his father’s legacy of civil involvement, serving as a selectmen. He married Mark Ockington in 1692, with whom he had nine children, including Francis Harrington (1709-1793).[x]
MR. HARRINGTON GOES TO WORCESTER
Though born in raised in Watertown, Francis sought opportunity beyond the Boston area. In 1736, he purchased 50 acres in Grafton, Massachusetts, from his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Issac Barnard, for the sizable sum of 500 pounds.[xi] Francis turned a quick profit, selling his Grafton land for 950 pounds in 1740, and sought land in nearby Worcester. In 1741, Francis and his young wife Prudence Stearns (1713-1751) relocated to 93 acres of land in Worcester. The Harringtons’ land was south of the current intersection of Plantation Street and Franklin Street.[xii] Interestingly, there is a six-acre park near this intersection named “Harrington Park” for Francis’ descendent, Mayor Francis A. Harrington.
Like his father and grandfather, Francis immersed himself in civic life. He served as constable, school committee member, highway surveyor, and tax collector in the young town of Worcester.[xiii]
In those days, Worcester was but a town. There would have been only one thoroughfare, Love Lane (present-day Plantation Street nearly follows its route), which would take the Harringtons from their home, down Lincoln Street, to Main Street. Love Lane would also connect to Grafton Street, as is does now, connecting to Heywood Street towards to common. Main Street had only seven buildings in 1750.[xiv]
Francis and Prudence had three children together before she passed in 1751. She was buried in the “Old Burying Ground” on the Common, where her grave was exhumed in 1968 during construction. and relocated to Hope Cemetery, along with many others.
Francis then married Deborah Brigham (1715-1799) in 1752. They had three children.[xv]
Francis continued acquiring land from his neighbors, growing his domain towards Lake Quinsigamond to the east and several plots to both the north and south of his estate. Other plots were purchased throughout Worcester over the coming years.[xvi] Much of Francis’ land was bequeathed to his oldest living son, Nathaniel (1742-?) who continue the legacy of civic involvement.[xvii] However, our story will resume with William (1694-1751), his youngest son with Deborah.
William was living in Worcester at the time of the Revolutionary War. He served as a gunner in Captain William Todd’s Company, Colonel Thomas Crafts’ artillery regiment. He relocated to Southborough after the war, then Framingham, and then Upton.[xviii]
William had three wives, Mary Perry, Eleanor Newton, and Lydia Newton. William and Mary were married for 21 years, but had now children, when she passed in 1802. He married Eleanor Newton in 1808, but they we married but a few months before she passed, too. William then married Eleanor’s sister Lydia, with whom he spent the rest of his life and raised four children.[xix]
William’s youngest son by Eleanor was also named William (1807-1890).[xx] William married Martha Chamberlain, whom gave birth to Martha Ann Harrington (1835-1870), who would marry Augustus Young Coburn (? – 1887). Thus, Harrington line merged with the Coburns.
While many siblings and cousins of this Harrington line have made historic impact on the Worcester area and beyond, the author’s direct ancestors lived otherwise unnoteworthy lives in the opinion of the great white men who write our history. Surely, they lived through individual accomplishment and great personal tragedy, which have been lost from record. Nonetheless, the author takes pause to memorialize these ancestors and the essential traits they have passed on.