Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Ancestor, Thomas Wheeler

Thomas Wheeler

Thomas Wheeler was born 1602 in Wharley,Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  He was baptized on November 20, 1603 at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  He died in Stonington, CT(America) on March 6, 1686.  His father was also Thomas Wheeler born 1571 at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  He was called the Thomas of the “Town and Wharley end”.  He married Dorothy Holloway on April 13, 1600 at Chalgrave, Bedfordshire.   He died February 11, 1635 in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England(74 years old).  His father was Thomas Wheeler born in 1526 at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  His wife's name is unknown.  He died after 1574 at Cranfield.  

Thomas Wheeler(born 1602) spent his childhood and young adulthood in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  Bedfordshire is a rural area with no large cities.  Along its western border and midway north and south are the parishes of Marston Mortaine and Cranfield.  Families named Wheeler lived in these parishes as far back as the 14th century.   I am not sure of Thomas Wheeler’s education, possibly taught at home.  His family’s occupation has not been determined. Although upon a recent visit to England, I discovered that the Wheelers may have owned their own land, thus being referred to as yeoman.   The exact reason why Thomas left his country to seek out a new life in a young America is unknown, but as history dictates, it may have been to escape religious persecution.  He saw an opportunity to perhaps practice the religion of his choice in the new world.  Other families from his township had left and records show that his brother George also went to America, Concord Massachusetts, in 1638 with his wife Catherine Penn and their three children.  Consequently, George Wheeler’s will dated 1685 proves that he owned large tracts of land and was a wealthy, contributing member of society in Concord, Massachusetts.  (America) Thomas also had a half brother, Jonathan that settled in New London, Ct.

Thomas Wheeler married Penelope Nichols, date unknown.  She must have died shortly after, because they did not have any children.  Thomas left England at the age of 33  aboard the ship “James”.  He sailed to Salem, Massachusetts, America settling in nearby Lynn Massachusetts.  In that very same year he was elected constable and held other official positions.  According to C.M. Babcock, author of The Babcock Family in America, Thomas Wheeler was a miller by trade.  In 1642 he was admitted to the privilege of a freeman of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.  He purchased large tracts of land there, including a mill site, upon which he built and operated a saw and gristmill.   Thomas married Mary Beckley in 1645.  Thomas and Mary had three children, all born in Lynn, Massachusetts.  They were Isaac(b. 1646, d. June 5, 1712), Elizabeth(b. 1648, d. Aug. 5, 1672) and Sarah(b. 1650, d. 1688 in Barbados, West Indies).

Thomas and Mary remained in Lynn until 1667.  He then, at the age of 65, sold his businesses and land and decided to move to Stonington, Connecticut.  Judge Richard Anson Wheeler wrote in his book, The History of the Town of Stonington, that Thomas came to Stonington with his close friend the Rev. James Noyes who moved to Stonington the very same year. 

According to C.M. Babcock, Thomas Wheeler had large tracts of land given to him by the town of Stonington.  He also made large purchases of his own until he owned nearly 4,000 acres.  He was at one time the largest landholder in the Stonington Township.   The land encompassed Wheeler Road from the Pequot Trail to points as far as the village at North Stonington.  His family’s legacy can still be seen today in the Wheeler Library and School, The Wheeler Road, and Wheeler High School.  All named after this illustrious family. 

Soon after Thomas and Mary moved to Stonington, he and his son Isaac built a home.  The homestead was built in 1673 on the site of Col. James F. Brown’s house.  It was a double, two story, wood-colored house.  It was taken down in the mid to late 1800’s due to structural problems.  (Grace Denison Wheeler)  Isaac later built a home for himself and his family.  This home still stands today.  It is on a corner in the middle of the Wheeler Road and was once owned by the Judge Richard Anson Wheeler.  His daughter, the famous local historian, Grace Denison Wheeler lived in the house her whole life.  When she died in 1953, the home was sold out of the Wheeler Family. 

Thomas Wheeler was made freeman in the Connecticut Colony in the year of 1669.   Also in that year, he became a member of the General Court committee that authorized the layout of the various county highways and roads in Stonington.  Thomas became the constable and first selectman in Stonington and was nominated and elected one of the Stonington representatives to the Connecticut General Court in the year of 1673.  On June 3, 1674 Thomas Wheeler was one of the “immortal” nine who organized the first Church of Christ in Stonington.  (This was known as the meeting house and later as the Road Church.) Thomas Wheeler was among the “partakers” at the ordination of the church’s first minister and his friend, the Rev. James Noyes on Sept. 10, 1674. 

The will of Thomas Wheeler was lost in the burning of New London by the infamous Benedict Arnold and the British on September 6, 1781.  This event coincided with the attack at Fort Griswold in Groton, Connecticut.  The existence of his will is proved by his descendants referring to it later by conveying the real estate that belonged to him and given to them in his will.  Thomas Wheeler died March 6, 1686.  he was 84 years old.  Thomas is buried beside his wife, Mary in the old White Hall Burial Place in Mystic, Connecticut.    His legacy and history makes me a very proud descendent of such a brave and successful man. 

Sources Cited

1.    History of the First Congregational Church of Stonington, Connecticut, 1674-1874.  Published T.H. Davis and Company 1875.  By Richard A. Wheeler.
2.    History of the Town of Stonington.  Published 1900.  By Richard A. Wheeler.
3.    Ancestors of Alden Smith Swan and His Wife Mary Althea Farwell.  The Hills Press, New York, MCMXXIII, page 229.  By Josephine C. Frost.
4.    The Wheeler Family in America, The Descendants of Thomas Wheeler, Stonington, Conn.  Pages 289-349.  By Inez E. Coolby-Brayton, 1934.  Located in the DAR Library in Washington, D.C.
5.    A History of the Babcock Family in America.  By C. Merton Babcock.
6.    Fifty Great Migration Colonists to New England & their Origins.  By John Brooks Threlfall, Madison, Wisconsin, 1990.




Genealogical Tree of Thomas Wheeler(1602) from England

1.    John Wheeler was born 1539 in Odell, Bedfordshire, England.  He married Alice Sayre in Bedfordshire in 1560 at 21 years old.  (1541-1567)  John Wheeler died April 15, 1567 in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  He was only 28 years old. 
2.    Thomas Wheeler was born 1561 at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  He married Dorothy Holloway(1574-1653) on April 13, 1600 at Chalgrave, Bedfordshire.  He was called the Thomas of The Town and Wharley End.  He died February 11, 1635.  He was 74 years old.    His wife died 1653.
Thomas Wheeler born 1602 at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.   Thomas was baptized 1603 in Cranfield.   He married 1st to Penelope Nichols, then 2nd to Mary Beckley on April 6, 1635 at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England.  He died March 6, 1686 in Stonington, CT.


  1. I work with a Tom Wheeler. I sent him the link to this blog and I hope he gets in touch with you.

  2. Thank you! I would like to know if we have a family connection.

    1. I am Wayne C. Wheeler and a direct descendant of Thomas Wheeler of Stonington. Also related to U.S. Grant (Timothy Wheeler married Lucy grant).

      Other Wheeler descendants are: Wendy Wheeler, San Francisco and the Rickards of N. Attleboro, MA, Dartmouth, MA and Deep River, CT.

      (828) 225-5572

  3. Hello Steven...always wondered if someone with Wheeler roots would join Geneabloggers! Great to see your blog. I have Wheeler roots also. I have not been able to get any further back than my Calvin Wheeler b c1786 in U.S., he left in his 20's and lived in Canada and the line goes from there. I have only hunches...for parents names and locations are only a guess at this point...

  4. Holly, where was Calvin born? I might be able to help you out, if he was born in stonington. Let me know, Steve.

  5. Well only speculation at this point. [Rumor] has it, VT state. I believe this might be along the border of NY. Haven't found anything yet to verify his U.S.location, unfortunetly.

  6. Steven: I descend from George Wheeler & Katherine Pin/Penn so we are very distant cousins. I have not done much with the Wheeler branch of the family so I will be watching your blog with interest.

    Holly: Have you looked at Calvin Wheeler born 8 Feb 1783, Royalton, VT, son of Josiah Wheeler and Hannah Howe? Calvin married Philena Back. His family moved to Canada and his descendants may have followed them.

  7. I descend from John Wheeler, son of Dominick and Mercy Jelly...John Wheeler was married to Ann Yeoman..Dec 11, 1611...I so enjoy the pictures...

  8. Stephen... Thoroughly enjoyed your blog! I am helping one of your distant cousins fill in some gaps. And in the process, I'll try to figure out if we can connect my line from Dominick and his son, John Wheeler (1591 Salisbury, Eng. - 1670 Newbury, Mass.) and his son, David (1625-1669). My grandmother was Mary Ezzie Wheeler. (By her lifetime, the line had migrated to Georgia and Alabama.)
    Ruth Packard

  9. I've been researching my Wheeler line for along time, and came across your Website. I have gotten to Charles, MD. There is alot of confused & conflicting info over the Cranfield, Bedford ENG Wheeler's. I'm looking for info for Maj John Wheeler b 1630 Wiltshire Bedford ENG left ENG & landed in MD 1651. I'm possibly descended from John & Alice Sayre line, but all seem to centred in MA. I saw on here that Thomas b 1605 is the s/o Thomas s/o John. I have Thomas b 1603 s/o Thomas b 1574 d 1635 m Dorothy Holloway s/o Thomas b 1526 d 1574 who is b/o (12th ggf)John b 1533 d 1567 possible father Obediah or Henry b abt 1503. Any info to confirm or deny a connection would, really help.

  10. I own a beautiful wall clock inscribed, F. R. Wheeler Cherry Hill. Could anyone give me further information? Thank you, lnajr@comcast.net

  11. To Anonymous 5/8/10, drop me an email. I may have some information for you.

    - Kurt Fliegauf (kfliegauf@gmail.com)

  12. My Babcock Family goes back to John and Mary Lawton of Westerly RI. And back to England. Many years ago a woman told me she thought we were related. She was a Wheeler from Stonington, Ct.


  13. Steven,

    Congratulations on some very interesting sleuthing!

    How did you identify [3900] Thomas Wheeler in the "The Genealogical and Encyclopedic History of the Wheeler Family in America" as being having been born in Wharley, Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England with absolute certainty?

  14. I know who has the Wheeler family bible.
    I don't know if it goes all the way back to England but it is from the Late Thomas Wheeler who passed in aprox 1969 and was a machinest at the Groton boat yard in Conn. I also have a signed copy of Grace Wheelers Memories that my mother Vivian Avery Wheeler God Bless her sole, gave me.

  15. I would love to know who posted this?? Sounds great, I would love to see the bible. I have a copy of Grace Wheeler's Memories, but it is not signed.

  16. I've only gotten to David Wheeler(1625-1669) and I'm trying to find out which of his children my family came from and if he had any brothers or sisters. If you have any information please e-mail me at lyndseyaw@hotmail.com

  17. Holly molely! - Been researching the Wheeler family just a short time -- my husband is from George's line -- can we be any luckier to have such great documented history! Great job!
    Pat Sparks Brown, Richmond, Ky

  18. Thank you for the information you provided. I happened
    to come across it while searching for information on
    Thomas Wheeler (1602), and this was exactly what I was
    looking for. I am related to the Wheeler line through
    marriage and I appreciate finding information that is
    easy to read and use.

  19. Thanks for making my family research so much easier. The 1602 Thomas is my 10th great grandfather. It's almost overwhelming to see so much information in one place. I'm bookmarking this blog for easy reference in the future. Once again thanks! And job well done!

  20. I'm also trying to trace my Wheeler line, and I'm stalled out at Guy Wheeler (1798-1866) lives in NY and was married to a Jemima Unk, there child was Edward Wheeler b1833. Any help with moving beyond that would be appreciated! thanks :)

  21. I think this is amazing. Thomas Wheeler is my 10th Great Grandfather. Thank you so much for putting this on here. I have just recently begun my Wheeler family history and this is so facinating. Did you find anything on John Wheeler, Thomas Sr. father and who his father is? I have a Obediah as being his father but the dates don't add up. Thanks.

  22. Thanks. My grandmother was a Wheeler, I'm grateful for the family history you have put on here. It's always exciting to learn about our past ancestors! jeri

  23. Thanks. My grandmother was a Wheeler, I'm grateful for the family history you have put on here. It's always exciting to learn about our past ancestors! jeri

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  25. I have a Abigail Wheeler (1663-1750) married a John Sturges but can't find who here parents were. Anyone out there with info it would be appreciated. Please reply at this blog site!

  26. are you sure she is a wheeler, the marriage record has a ? mark on it by her last name and she is listed on some family trees with a father who has a diff last name??

  27. Ok this was in the Millennial file, I didn't research further, but you could check this out: Name: Abigail Wheeler
    Gender: Female
    Birth Date: 1663
    Father: Ephraim Wheeler
    Mother: Ann Turney
    Spouse: Samuel Welles
    Children: Abigail Wells


  28. I am descended from Thomas Wheeler through the Jonathan Wheeler line. I am also descended from the Denison's and I m a life member (and board member) of the Denison Society. The Jonathan Wheeler Cemetery is located on Wheeler road, but can be accessed via Dawley Drive. You no longer have to trudge to the golf course to get there! I am hoping to arrange a local boycott troop to help clear the brush and clean up the cemetery. I grew up in Stonington, but never knew I was descended from the Wheeler/Denison/Gallup families. I learn more every day and I sure hope you continue to post these interesting bits!

  29. Is anyone aware of the name
    “George stone”
    He owned the general store in Stonington

  30. I gave the mystic seaport some journals from the general store that had the wheeler name in them ...