Descendants of John Sanford of Taunton, MA

SANFORD. The town of Taunton, which included within its original boundaries the neighboring village of Berkley, has been the home of a branch of the Sanford family for about two hundred years. This Berkley-Taunton branch of the family, in the line of Capt. Joseph Sanford, an active patriot of the Revolution, has been more or less eminent in professional life. Four of the sons of Capt. Joseph Sanford were college graduates and ministers of the gospel; and several of their posterity have followed the learned professions. One of the grandsons of Capt. Joseph was the late Hon. John Elliott Sanford, of Taunton, lawyer, legislator, railroad commissioner, etc., who at the time of his death was characterized by the local paper as Taunton’s “first citizen.”

John Sanford, the first settler by that name in New England, was the son of Samuel and Ellenor, of Alford, Lincolnshire, England. He came to Boston in the “Lyon” in 1631, with Rev. John Eliot, John Winthrop, Jr., and others, and his name stands one hundred and eight on the list of church membership. He was sworn a freeman April 3, 1632, and the same year made cannoneer of the fort. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson mentioned him among the distinguished citizens (Hist. Vol. I, p. 73).

In 1637 he was disarmed, i. e., deprived of his civil privileges because of his support of John Wheelwright and Mrs. Anne Hutchinson in their controversy with the Colonial authorities. In March, 1638, he left Boston for Aquidneck, now the island of Rhode Island, with William Coddington, Edward Hutchinson and sixteen others, having made, as the records show, “an honest purchase of the island.” He held many important offices in the Rhode Island Colony. He was chosen constable for the year 1640 and lieutenant Jan. 13, 1644. The three settlements were united by a common charter in 1647, and on May 21st he was chosen assistant governor, and acted as coroner. He was reelected general assistant May 23, 1649; chosen general treasurer of the Colony May 22, 1655; general recorder and treasurer on May 20, 1656; and “clarke” of the General Assembly, Roger Williams having at the same time been chosen moderator. He was reelected “clarke” in 1657-58. He was later deputy for Portsmouth to the General Assembly at Newport; and Oct. 31, 1677, one of the committee to lay out East Greenwich. At the time of his death he was president of the Colony. He was married (first) about the time he went to Boston, to Elizabeth Webb, sister of Henry Webb. Their children were:

  1. John, baptized June 24, 1632
  2. Samuel, baptized June 22, 1634;
  3. Eliphalet, baptized in December, 1637. He married (second) Bridget, daughter of the celebrated Anne Hutchinson, and by her had ten children.

John Sanford, son of John and Elizabeth (Webb), was baptized June 24, 1632. He was admitted a freeman at the General Assembly held at Newport May 17, 1653. He was a man of learning and filled high offices in the Colony. He married Aug. 8, 1654, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Henry Sparhurst, of Bermuda. She died Dec. 6, 1660. This marriage was blessed with children as follows:

  1. Elizabeth, born July 11, 1655
  2. Mary, Aug. 18, 1656
  3. Susanna, July 31, 1658
  4. Rebecca, June 23, 1660

John Sanford married (second) April 11, 1663, Mary, daughter of Rev. Samuel Gorton, of Warwick, and widow of Peter Green. To this union were born:

  1. Mary, March 3, 1664
  2. Eliphalet, Feb. 20, 1666
  3. John, June 18, 1672
  4. Samuel, Oct. 5, 1677

John Sanford, son of John and Mary (Gorton), was born June 18, 1672. He located in Taunton, that is, Berkley, about 1713, on July 1st of which year he married Abigail Pitts, born 1689, daughter of Samuel Pitts, of Taunton, and granddaughter of Peter Pitts. She received from her father a tract of land described in Liber 4, p. 150. Her brothers were:

  1. Peter
  2. Ebenezer
  3. Samuel

John Sanford was a large land owner and described in one of the records as a mason by trade. To him and his wife Abigail was born, among other children, a son George.

George Sanford, son of John and Abigail (Pitts), born in 1725, lived to the good old age of ninety-four years, dying Feb. 19, 1820. His wife was Mary (or Mercy) Phillips (1727-1793).

Joseph Sanford, son of George and Mercy (Phillips), was born at Berkley, June 24, 1761, and died April 12, 1835. According to his son, John, he was a man who “possessed a strong mind in a strong body.” He taught school in his native town for forty winters. He had a reputation for skill in navigation, algebra and other branches of mathematics, and used to amuse himself in winter, after he had become too old to teach, by calculating eclipses. He was a soldier in the war of the Revolution, with the rank of captain. In 1785 he married Eleanor Macomber, born Aug. 3, 1763, died Aug. 11, 1844. Their children were:

  1. James
  2. John
  3. Eleanor (married Abner Pitts)
  4. Alpheus
  5. Enoch
  6. Joseph
  7. Baalis
  8. Mary

Four of these six sons were graduates of Brown University, James and John in the class of 1812, Enoch in 1820 and Baalis in 1823. They all afterward entered the ministry. James, born May 7, 1786, was for some years pastor of churches of the Congregational denomination in the States of New York and Massachusetts; John, born Sept. 12, 1788, is mentioned below; Enoch, born Nov. 30, 1795, was for two years a tutor at Brown and then pastor of the First Congregational Church at Raynham, Mass., for twenty-five years; Baalis, born July 16, 1801, after his graduation from the Andover Theological Seminary, in 1826, was pastor of the Congregational Churches at East and West Bridgewater, Mass., 1827-49, and of Trinity Church, East Bridgewater, 1850-61.

John Sanford, son of Joseph and Eleanor (Macomber), was born Sept. 12, 1788, at Berkley, and died at Taunton, July 11, 1866. In 1815 he was ordained a Congregational clergyman and for three years preached as an evangelist. From 1818 to 1829 he was pastor of the church at South Dennis, Mass. In 1824 he married Sophia Loud, of Weymouth, Mass., born May 4, 1790; died Nov. 11, 1869. Their children were:

  1. Baalis, born April 20, 1825, died Nov. 29, 1875
  2. Sarah, born March 23, 1828, died Jan. 24, 1832
  3. John Elliott, born Nov. 22, 1830, died Oct. 11, 1907
  4. James, born May 10, 1832, died Oct. 23, 1832

John Elliott Sanford, son of John and Sophia Loud, was born Nov. 22, 1830, at South Dennis, Mass. He had a long and active life, the greater part of which he lived in Taunton, where his death occurred Oct. 11, 1907. The following sketch of his career appeared in the Taunton Daily Gazette of Oct. 12th, of that year:

“His withdrawal from the sphere of earthly activity causes general sorrow, for since he started out as an earnest and ambitious young man, he has been a leader easily in all things in which he interested himself and a guide and safe counsellor for others. No doubt heredity and the healthful associations of early home training had great influence in shaping his life. He was the child of a family where the typical plain living and high thinking of three quarters of a century ago was the rule, for his father was a country minister, and his home life as a youth was that of so many eminent men and women who were fortunate enough to have a similar ancestry.

“Rev. John Sanford, his father, was a native of Berkley, and came of the old-fashioned sterling New England stock which considered it an honor to a family and to a town to have one of its sons assume the responsibilities of the ministerial profession. The Sanford family, too, has made its record for the number of its sons Who in the pulpit, law, medical and business field gave proof of superior ability in the chosen line of service by successful lives in widely diverging paths. During a settlement of the father as minister of the Congregational Society at Dennis, John Elliott was born on Nov. 22, 1830, and Dennis was his home for the early years of his boyhood. Life in a Cape Cod village nearly seventy-seven years ago was not broadening save in the matter of home influence, and the salary of a parish minister of those days, although sufficient for the necessities of life, called for the strictest economy and gave no room for luxuries. One thing is certain, the minister fared as well as his people, and his activities covered a wider mental range and his family felt the vivifying influence. Before his children were old enough to listen to the ‘calling of the sea,’ which used to lure almost all the boys of the Cape, Rev. Mr. Sanford determined to retire from the ministry and live where he could give his children the benefit of a liberal education. He chose Amherst as his home, and there at a good local academy the subject of this sketch was prepared for college and matriculated at Amherst in 1847, in his seventeenth year. He was graduated in 1851 and the character of his work was shown by the fact that he was the first scholar of his class and was awarded the honor of the valedictory address on the commencement program. The promise of his young manhood was not dimmed by neglect and failure in his later years. The high standard set by his ancestors and kinfolk was maintained until the end. For a time he served his college as a tutor and taught in other places, including Bristol Academy in this city, while studying law, which he had selected as his profession. His elder brother, Baylies Sanford, was a member of the Taunton law firm, Sanford and Morton, and with him he was enrolled as a student. In 1856 he was admitted to the bar. He began to practice and until the building was moved away a few years since his sign was over the door of a little office on the northeast side of City Square where an important business block now stands.

“In 1863 his fellow citizens thought well enough of him to send him to the Legislature and his public life began. In 1864 he was chosen senator from this district. His good service attracted the attention of others besides his fellow senators and in 1866 he was made insurance commissioner, holding that responsible place until 1869. In 1871 his Taunton neighbors again sent him to the Legislature and he was made Speaker of the House for the three following terms, declining to be a candidate in 1875. In 1876 and 1880 he was an active member of the Massachusetts delegation to the National Republican Convention.

“In 1882 he was made chairman of the State Harbor and Land Commission and filled that responsible position until 1892. In the latter year he was transferred to the Railroad Commission as chairman and served until 1899, when he resigned. During this time the consolidation of street railway lines in Boston occurred and there were many busy hours in the office of the commission.

“This resignation closed his active service for the Commonwealth covering most of the long period from 1863 to 1899, or over a generation, and all of it in positions dealing with vital interests of the State and its commercial and industrial life. Yet his activities were not so wholly absorbed that he was neglectful of civic duties. During this period he served the city as school committeeman, alderman and councilman, presiding over the latter branch for several years. Even at the time of his death he was a member of the board of Sinking Fund Commissioners.

“In private business matters, too, he was active, and his decease leaves the office of president of the Taunton Oil Cloth Company and the Taunton Gas Company temporarily vacant. He but recently resigned the presidency of the Taunton Savings Bank which he had held since 1876 and to which he always gave faithful service and was a prominent factor in its development. He was also a director in the Taunton National Bank and for years was a trustee of Bristol Academy.

“During all these busy years he did not forget his Alma Mater. He was chosen a trustee of Amherst College in 1874, was the first president of that board, an office still held at the time of his decease. As long as health permitted he was a frequent visitor and regular attendant on college anniversaries.

“A scholarship bearing his name as donor is one of the many proofs of his practical interest in the college and desire to help young men who seek all that a college can give. As a communicant and vestryman of St. Thomas Church his interest in the welfare of the Episcopal body was great. He was often an influential delegate to diocesan and other church conventions and served for some time as president of the Episcopalian Club of Massachusetts. Nor did he lack foreign recognition of his worth. He was an Honorary Fellow of the Statistical Society of London, there being only five so honored in the United States. He was also a member of the Union Club of Boston, of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

“He was married in 1856 to Emily James White, of Taunton, and her death in 1899 was a heavy burden for him to bear. Three daughters survive him.

“Dates and years and official positions catalogued, although they are many, are meaningless things unless they convey the impression to the listener of the unceasing activity, the steady application, the cool-headed devotion to a high standard of duty, the courteous treatment of associates and all others which must be the attributes of the man who fills the positions satisfactorily which came to Mr. Sanford’s lot in his useful life. All these were his with an in-born sense of responsibility, an unassailable integrity and calm and quiet dignity which inspired respect. In thought and act he was an upright man with the temperament of his puritan ancestry tempered by a wide acquaintance with men, mellowed by extensive travel and his life-long habit of keeping his mind open and responsive to new impressions and new ideas, and not permitting his love for accurate scholarship and the good old-fashioned regard for what ancient scholars called ‘the humanities’ to be ground out of his life by the multifarious duties that came to him as a man of affairs. He was most tender to all who were nearest to him and his benefactions to others less fortunate were liberal but carefully concealed. It is probable that no other citizen of Taunton was ever called to undertake more varied duties and certain that all his work as a citizen, an official, a husband, a father, Christian and friend was well done. A city is fortunate to have had such a citizen.

“When the great silence fell upon him in turn, as it does to all men, and all that he said or accomplished in his long and useful life became in an instant a memory, no greater legacy was left to his children than that all his varied successes and honors came not through political manipulations and trickery, time-serving and trading honest manhood for position, but because integrity, ability, faithfulness, dignity and courtesy won them.”

On Dec. 10, 1856, Mr. Sanford married Emily James White, born July 10, 1837, daughter of George Savage and Lavina Frances (Woodward) White. She died Sept. 16, 1899. They had three children:

  1. Kate Irving
  2. Emily Loud, who married Morton Dexter, of Boston, Mass.
  3. Mary, who married (first) Thomas Tempest Meates (died 1901), and (second) John James, both of England.

Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts: containing historical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and genealogical records of many of the old families. 3 Volumes. Beers & Chicago. 1912.

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