The Connecticut-Massachusetts branch of the earlier family of this name of the old Bay State is one of long and honorable standing in New England, and as well of historic connection. The especial family here considered, and which for designation is styled the Taunton family, is that of pome of the descendants of Capt. Jabez Fox, of Berkley, Mass., one of whose sons was the late Henry Hodges Fox and the latter’s son the present Hon. William Henry Fox, lawyer and judge, who for forty and more years has been judge of the First District court of Bristol county and otherwise prominently identified with the public affairs of the city of Taunton.
Thomas Fox, the progenitor of the Cambridge-Woburn family of the name and who is made by family tradition a descendant of Rev. John Fox, a non-conformist divine of the reign of Queen Elizabeth and author of the work entitled “Acts and Monuments of the Church” (more familiarly known as Fox’s Book of Martyrs), a book much read by the Puritan founders of New England, was of Concord as early as 1630-31, and a freeman in March, 1637-38. He removed to Cambridge, was selectman in 1652 and repeatedly afterward, and died there April 25, 1693, aged eighty-five years. He was four times married, his first wife, Rebecca, dying at Concord May 11, 1647. He had no children by his other three wives. He resided in Holmes place, midway between its northeasterly angle and North avenue, until the house was destroyed by fire about 1681 or 1682. With the exception of a very short residence in Watertown he afterward probably occupied the estate, on the east side of the Holmes place, subsequently owned by Steward Hastings, and still later by Abiel Holmes.
“Here was born Oliver Wendell Holmes, our charming poet, philosopher and friend, for whoever has grasped his hand, or received his greeting, gazed on his countenance aglow with inspiration… must so consider him. Here dwelt from 1807 to 1837, when he died, Abiel Holmes, father of the poet, and pastor of the Congregational Church, who learned at all points, but especially historical, wrote his American Annals and other well-known contributions to our literature in that pleasant library lined with books, to the right of the hall in this mansion of many memories…
“Immediately after the battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, the Americans collected by thousands in Cambridge, to defend their chartered rights, and this house was selected by Artemus Ward, their general-in-chief, for his headquarters. Here were planned the occupation of Bunker’s Hill and the raid on the islands. Upon General Washington’s assuming command in July, Ward was assigned to the command of the right wing in Roxbury, Putnam of the center in Cambridge, and Lee with Sullivan and Greene as his brigadiers on Winter Hill, Lee’s headquarters being at what in an invitation to Washington he calls Hobgoblin Hall. The Holmes house continued to be used for army purposes and for the committee of public safety during the siege, the common in front forming part of the camp. In the long, low dining-room fronting on the common, and separated from the parlor by a double vestibule, lighted by small heavily sashed windows on either side, and opening by another main door out in that direction, Ward entertained Washington and the other generals soon after their arrival… Here General Warren rested on his way to that battle in which he lost his life, riding down from Newton…
“The lot was originally assigned in 1707 to Jabez Fox. His heirs in 1737 conveyed it to Jonathan Hastings, father of a son of the same name long steward of the college, who in 1792 sold it to Prof. Pearson. From him in 1807 it passed to Judge Oliver Wendell, who left the estate in his will in 1818 to his daughter, Mrs. Holmes.”
Rev. Jabez Fox, son of Thomas, according to Mitchell, in Newell’s Church-Gathering, was baptized at Concord, where he was born, in 1647, the year in which his mother died. He was graduated from Harvard College in 1665. He was made a freeman in 1667. He had begun to preach and was married when, in 1678, he was invited to Woburn as assistant to Thomas Carter for one year. His ordination as colleague with Carter is supposed to have been not far from the ‘middle of November, 1679. Rev. Mr. Carter, his colleague, died Sept. 5, 1684. Fox died in Boston Feb. 28, 1702-03, and was buried in the old burial ground in Woburn, where from his gravestone it is learned that he was pastor of the Church of Christ in Woburn twenty-three years. He appears to have had the confidence and affection of the great body of his parishioners through life.
Mr. Fox married Judith, daughter of Rev. John Reyner, of Plymouth, and of Dover, N. H. She died in June, 1736, the wife of Col. Jonathan Ling, of Boston. The five children born to Mr. Fox and his wife were:
- John Fox, born May 10, 1678
- Thomas Fox, born July 6, 1680, who died July 10, 1680
- Thomas Fox (2), born Nov. 13, 1681, who settled in Connecticut
- Jabez Fox, born Dec. 2, 1684
- Judith Fox, born June 19, 1690, who died the same year
Of these, John Fox, born May 10, 1678, in Cambridge, was graduated from Harvard in 1698, and took charge of the grammar school in Woburn in 1700, apparently continuing in that employment at his father’s death; and in February, 1702, shortly after that event, he was invited to preach three months upon probation in his father’s place. At the expiration of his term his engagement was prolonged to three months more, and in the fall of 1703 he was ordained over the church and town of Woburn. For twenty years his services were acknowledged with frequent tokens of acceptance and success; such as repeated voluntary grants from the town in addition to his salary. His health finally failed and for the last fifteen years of his life he was totally blind. He died Dec. 12, 1756. Mr. Fox married Mary, daughter of Hon. Edward Twing. She survived her husband and died in February, 1764. Their children were:
- John Fox, born Feb. 13, 1703, in early life went to live with a relative in Ireland.
- Jabez Fox, born May 25, 1705, was graduated from Harvard College in 1727 and commenced to preach, but owing to failing health relinquished his profession; he settled in what was afterward Portland, Maine, where he became a prominent public man.
- Mary Fox, born Oct. 26, 1706, married Rev. Habijah Weld, of Attleboro, Mass.
- Edward Fox, born Oct. 26, 1708, was lost at sea in a passage to England.
- Thomas Fox, born April 7, 1711, was a goldsmith in Boston.
- Judith Fox, born Aug. 10, 1712, married Rev. Nathan Stone in Southborough.
- Jonathan Fox, born March 26, 1716, married Aug. 17, 1737, Ruth Carter, and lived at Woburn, where he was known as Col. Jonathan Fox.
Jabez Fox (2), born Dec. 2, 1684, son of Jabez, became a merchant tailor and manufacturer of woolen cloth, and resided in Boston in 1708, when he and his brother John sold land in Cambridge. He married Hannah Burroughs, daughter of Rev. George Burroughs. He died before Aug. 30, 1736, when his heirs, widow Hannah and children
- Thomas Fox (of Woodstock, born in Boston Dec. 7, 1706)
- Hannah Fox (wife of Thomas Roberts, of Boston)
- Judith Fox (wife of Thomas Prince, of Duxbury)
- Rebecca Fox (wife of James Allen, of Boston), received from Rev. John Fox a quitclaim deed for all interests in the Cambridge homestead.
Thomas Fox, son of Jabez (2) and Hannah, was born in Boston Dec. 7, 1706. With his wife Mercy he moved to Woodstock, Conn., becoming one of the first settlers there, where he established himself in the business of his father. His children were:
- Hannah Fox, born April 27, 1731
- Thomas Fox, born Sept. 7, 1732, who married May 20, 1760, Grace Lyon (he served in the French and Indian war)
- Maria Fox, born April 23, 1735
- Mary Fox, born March 10, 1740
- John Fox, born May 6, 1745
- Jabez Fox, born May 6, 1745
- Fanny Fox, born Nov. 17, 1749
- Rebecca Fox, born July 9, 1753
Jabez Fox, son of Thomas and Mercy, born in Woodstock, Conn., May 6, 1745, was a clothier in East Windsor, Conn. He married in 1769. according to the author of the family sketch in Stiles’s “Ancient Windsor,” Mary Thompson, daughter of William M. and his first wife Janet (Archibal) Strobridge, of North Bridgewater, Mass., who was born in Middleboro, Mass., Aug. 10, 1749. Mr. Fox was killed in a skirmish between Tory dragoons and Connecticut troops May 10, 1780, during Arnold’s invasion of the Connecticut coast. Sergeant Fox raised a company of militia and went to General Putnam’s aid, and was surrounded (in a brick schoolhouse) by a superior force. The command fought until their ammunition gave out, then sought safety in flight across a field, pursued by the dragoons. Fox was among the last to leave and was over-taken as he was getting over a fence and decapitated by a blow from an English broad-sword. The hat which the sergeant wore at the time of his death, with a bullet hole in it, and his coat and sword, are now in a museum in the town of Becket, Mass. The children born to Mr. and Mrs. Fox were:
- Thomas Fox, born May 22, 1770, who died Nov. 1, 1811
- Polly Fox, born Jan. 20, 1772, who died April 5, 1853
- William Fox, born Nov. 12, 1773
- Barney Fox, born Dec. 13, 1774
- Asa Fox, born March 25, 1776, who died Oct. 25, 1800
- Jabez Fox (Capt.), born Aug. 5, 1777
- Betsey Fox, born Feb. 12, 1779, who died Oct. 25, 1830
- Hannah Fox, born July 1, 1780, who died May 5, 1853
Capt. Jabez Fox, son of Jabez and Mary Thompson (Strobridge), was born Aug. 5, 1777, in East Windsor, Conn. On June 4, 1806, he married (first) Sally Hastings, daughter of Lieutenant Governor Hastings, of New Hampshire. She died Feb. 15, 1808, leaving no children, and he married (second) at Taunton, Mass., March 5, 1811, Lydia Hodges, who was born in 1787 in Taunton, Mass. Mrs. Fox died in Berkley, Mass., Nov. 8, 1821. The children of this union, all born in Berkley, Mass., were:
- Henry Hodges Fox, born Jan. 17, 1812, who died March 13, 1869
- Sally Hastings Fox, born Oct. 2, 1813
- William Cowper Fox, born May 18, 1815, who was lost at sea Feb. 13, 1837
- Rev. Jabez Fox, born Oct. 7, 1817
- Barney Newhall Fox, born March 18, 1820
- Noah Allen Fox, born Oct. 25, 1821, who died Nov. 8, 1821
On March 21, 1825, Captain Fox married (third) Rowena Crane, who died Aug. 16, 1828. Two children, a son and a daughter, were born of this union, but both died in infancy. On July 21, 1829, Captain Fox married (fourth) Naomi Newhall, who died in September, 1830, leaving one daughter, Naomi N., born Sept. 13, 1830. He married (fifth) June 26, 1831, Mrs. Sally Burt, who died Sept. 16, 1839, and he married (sixth) Mrs. Sally Paul Baldwin, of Toledo, Ohio.
Captain Fox was less than three years of age when his father died. His mother, having a large family of small children, gave him to her sister Elizabeth, wife of Noah Allen, who had no sons. He lived with these foster parents until he was sixteen years of age, at which time he was apprenticed to the clothier’s trade with his brother Thomas at Westfield. He never worked at the business after his term of apprenticeship expired. He taught school for a while, and in 1800 came to Berkley, Mass., where he kept a store in company with his uncle, Deacon Luther Crane. After this he took a stock of goods to North Carolina, trading through the winter and returning in the spring. He owned and sailed a small coasting vessel, the cargo being principally his own, running this vessel for many years from Taunton to Philadelphia, carrying hollow ware which he exchanged for grain and flour. In 1826 he retired to a farm in Berkley, where he resided during the remainder of his life. His death occurred Nov. 30, 1862. He was honored with many important offices by his townsmen; was a justice of the peace in 1820; and was chosen to represent the town in the convention to revise the Constitution of the State, 1830. Captain Fox died in Berkley, Mass., Nov. 30, 1862.
Hon. Henry Hodges Fox, son of Capt. Jabez and Lydia (Hodges), was born in Berkley, Mass., Jan. 17, 1812. On the death of his mother, in 1821, he went to live with his grandfather in Taunton. In November, 1828, both grandparents having died, he was apprenticed to the carpenter’s trade, and he worked at that at times, building quite a number of houses, but he spent more time as a farmer. He was for two years a member of the State Legislature, and in 1862 was appointed to a position in the customs house at Boston, continuing in such position until his death. He removed from Taunton to Cambridge in 1867, and died there in 1869. His widow, Sarah Ann (Burt) Fox, daughter of Daniel Burt, continued to reside at Cambridge, and died there March 2, 1882. It was due as much to her ambition and energy as to her husband’s strong intellectual and high moral character that their children received an education quite out of proportion to the pecuniary resources of the parents. The children, all born in Taunton, were:
- William Henry Fox, born Aug. 29, 1837
- Sarah Winslow Fox, Feb. 6, 1840
- Daniel Burt Fox, Aug. 29, 1843
- Charles Edgar Fox, March 19, 1847
- Jabez Fox, April 10, 1850 (judge of the Superior court)
William Henry Fox, son of Henry Hodges and Sarah Ann (Burt) Fox, was born Aug. 29, 1837, in Taunton, Mass. He acquired his early education in the public schools of his native place, and later entering Harvard University was graduated therefrom with the class of 1858. Having decided upon the law as a calling he prepared himself for it in the office and under the direction of Judge E. H. Bennett, remaining in study until his admission to the bar, when in 1861 he opened an office in his native place for the practice of the law.
After continuing the practice of his profession for some years he received appointment to the judgeship of the new Municipal court which was created and opened Jan. 4, 1865, when Taunton became a city. On July 1, 1875, that court was superseded by the First District court of Bristol county, to which he was appointed judge, his appointment bearing date July 1, 1875. This official relation the judge has ever since sustained to the judiciary of the county, and his term of service, covering the remarkably long period of forty-five years (1910), makes him the oldest judge in point of service in the Commonwealth, and most likely in the country. This long service in the judiciary of the county and State, and his long residence among the people of his boyhood, his early manhood and his mature years, speak eloquently and impressively of fidelity to trust, and of that confidence in him of his lifelong friends and fellow citizens that must be assuring and satisfying to the Judge. But in reading further between the lines his endorsement by the community is emphasized by other official relations that he has sustained to his fellow citizens and associates in business lines. He is vice president of the Bristol County Savings Bank; a trustee of Wheaton Seminary for twenty-five years and now (1910) treasurer; also of the Taunton Library for thirty and more years; and he was one of the building committee at the time the new library building was erected. He was mayor of the city in 1873.
On Oct. 6, 1864, Judge Fox was married to Anna M., daughter of James H. and Harriet M. (Yale) Anthony, and to them were born children as follows:
- William Yale Fox, June 26, 1865
- Marion Fox, April 12, 1870
- Francis Bird Fox, Jan. 27, 1876