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Why Leave England?
  Many English immigrants to America had a host of reasons to leave England: Few jobs, a corrupt and capricious legal system, a feudal system that made it impossible for commoners to own land, the promise of a new beginning...there are any number of reasons for commoners to leave England of the 1500 and 1600s. Many who could not afford the voyage voluntarily became indentured servants who could 'earn out' their voyage over a 4 or 5 year servitude. But why would families like the Webbs, who were in the nobility, leave a privileged life for the hardship of colonial America? We can only speculate, but there are some clues.

Problems, Hope and Opportunity
  The immigrant Webbs came to America in 1626. To understand their motivations, it's important to understand English history of the period. Incessant on-again, off-again wars with Spain and France were likely taking their toll with the nobility. Catholicism, replaced by the Church of England by Henry VIII, was once again restored by Queen Mary I in 1553. A growing disenchantment with the corruption of religion by the English government and the religious clergy promoted the birth of the Puritan movement, which the English government tried to suppress. A country in turmoil coupled with news of trade and other opportunities from the colonies in America are probably reasons enough for a wealthy family to strike out for the New World. Enduring connections to British royalty would greatly increase the family's opportunities in the colonies. For a wealthy family like the Webbs, problems at home combined with wealth and royal connections, means moving family and family assets to a new world full of opportunity would be a very attractive option. The geographical movement of the Webbs once they arrive in America, especially when compared to the same patterns in the Skinner family, offers many clues about their motives for the move to America.

The Great Puritan Migration
  Beginning about 1620 with the arrival of the Mayflower through about 1640 over 20,000 emigrants left England for the New World. Most of the emigrants settled in New England and unlike earlier settlers who were mostly male, the Puritan emigrants came in families, sometimes extended families (as with the original Webbs). Those who left England did so due to a combination of persecution of Puritans by English royalty and a belief that the Church of England was beyond salvation. Since The Great Migration was more based on religion than economics, it was more common for the well-to-do to leave England than in earlier emigrations. The original Webb settlers were clearly part of The Great Migration.

Different Patterns
  The contrasts between Skinner and Webb immigration are remarkable. In the case of the Skinners, only Thomas Skinner came to America. His marriage in America and the children it created were responsible for the spread of his progeny across New England. The Webbs, on the other hand, moved to America as a family. They moved to Cambridge and within a few years were part of the original settlers of Stamford and then Wethersfield, Connecticut. The Skinner family relied primarily on participation in land grants and accompanying land ownership to secure their place in the new colonies. The Webbs used their existing wealth, proven merchant and trading skills and old world connections to secure their place in colonial America. Skinner generations moved through frontier New England, participating in land grants, to be 'invested' in the new world. The Webbs needed only to find a suitable location where they could stay put and put their skills and wealth to work. For the Skinners, ongoing movement to the frontier was critical to success. For the Webbs, establishing a home base from which they could grow their business and family was critical.

The Immigrant Family
  In 1626, the first Webb immigrants came to America. The move was likely to be motivated by sons in the family since the parents, Alexander Webb Jr. and wife Mary Wilson, would have been in their 60s at the time of immigration. There is disagreement in historical records over whether Alexander and Mary stayed in England or emigrated to the United States. The move involved an extended family--sons and daughters of Alexander Webb and Mary Wilson in their 40s and grandkids in their teens. Members of the immigrant family included sons William, Christopher, Henry, and Richard, and daughter Elizabeth. Another son, John, remained in England, possibly to look after the affairs of the remains of the family land holdings in England. This son John came to America in 1636 and historical records indicate he came as a member of the military, which would indicate that he came as part of the British military sent to ensure compliance of the colonies to British rule. As we will see, this could have been a very interesting situation, since other members of the family became an integral part of the Revolutionary War effort.

Richard Webb Sr. & Grace Wilson
  In this story of the Webb family, we will focus at this point on Richard Webb Sr., son of immigrants Alexander Webb and Mary Wilson Webb, because he is a direct link to Olive Ann Webb. While Richard Webb's brothers have interesting stories, they are not critical to understanding the direct ancestors of Olive Ann Webb. Richard Sr. was born at he family compound in Bearley, Warwickshire on May 15, 1580. He married Grace Wilson on May 1, 1610 in England. Richard and Grace (Wilson) Webb had a son on almost exactly 9 months after their marriage in England. The son was named (as is common for first born sons) after his father. Records conflict on the date Richard landed in Boston--some records indicate it was 1616 while others indicate it was 1626. Richard Webb Sr. was voted a 'freeman' in Cambridge in November 6, 1636 (the same year his brother John came to America as a member of the British military). A 'freeman' indicates that the person was not an indentured servant, was a landowner, was an active member of a local church, and was entitled to vote and hold public office.

To Hartford, CT
  On September 4,1633 a new minister and his family arrived in Cambridge (then called New Town) aboard the ship Griffin. Also on board the Griffin were Reverends John Cotton and Samuel Stone. The Reverend Thomas Hooker, son of Puritan parents in England, had been harassed by Church of England Archbishop William Laud because Hooker did not conform to the strict terms the Archbishop required of all ministers. After his arrival in New Town, disagreements emerged between Hooker and John Cotton, another minister. Cotton believed only male church members should be allowed to vote in town affairs. Hooker believed all men should be allowed to vote, regardless of church affiliation. The disagreement was resolved in 1636 when Hooker led about 100 men, women and children from Cambridge through the wilderness frontier to what is now Hartford, CT. Richard Webb and his family were among the Hooker contingent.

Above are two monuments to the founders--original proprietors--of Hartford and both include the name of Richard Webb. At the left is Adventurers' Boulder plaque at the corner of Main and Arch streets in Hartford. At the right is Founders' Monument in the Center Church Burial Ground. Richard Webb was a grand juror in 1643, townsmen in 1649, and surveyor of highways in 1650.

To Norwalk
  On June 19, 1650, Richard Webb signed on as 'planter' (original proprietor) for a new community not far from Hartford, present day Norwalk. The first of settlers of Norwalk arrived from Hartford in 1649 and the town became official on September 11, 1651, when the General Court of the Connecticut Colony agreed that “Norwaukee shall bee a townee”. Connecticut probate records for Richard Webb indicate his land was inherited through his third wife, Elizabeth Gregory Grant. Elizabeth was the widow of a Seth Grant prior to marrying Richard Webb. Prior to his move to Norwalk, he was a member of the First Church in New Haven, CT. Church records indicate he was 'dismissed' as a church member in 1650, which would have coincided with the move to Norwalk. In May of 1656, Richard Webb served as representative from Norwalk to the General Assembly of Connecticut. Probate records list several claims made on his estate indicating either he was indebted to several people, was not well to do, or both.

Richard Webb Jr. & Margery Moyer
  Richard Webb, Jr., born in England in 1611, was 15 years old when the family arrived in America. Richard lived with his parents in Norwalk until about 1654, when he moved to Stamford as one of the first settlers of that town. Richard Jr., married Margery Moyer, presumably in Stamford, CT, and together they had 5 sons and 2 daughters. Richard owned and operated the first mill in Stamford which had previously been abandoned as 'worthless'. The family lived in a house on what is now Main Street, near the Mill River. Richard served two years as a Selectmen in Stamford and represented Stamford in the Connecticut General Court as early as 1667, indicating he was a person of stature in the Stamford community.

Joseph Webb & Hannah Schofield
  When Richard Webb Jr. died in 1675, son Joseph Webb, 21 years old, inherited and operated the family mill. Joseph married Hannah Schofield in 1672 and the two had five children, a son Joseph Jr., and four daughters, Hannah, Sarah, Margery, and Mary. Joseph Jr. died in 1684 at the age of 30, leaving five young children ranging in age from 1 to 10 years. The oldest child was their only son, Joseph Webb Jr. The oldest male would normally inherit any family business, but since Joseph Jr. was only 10, it is unclear what happened to the family mill.

Rev. Joseph Webb Jr. & Mary Hoyt
  The graphic above lists three generations of Webbs in Stamford. Too young to operate the family mill when his father died, Joseph (at the bottom in the graphic) was educated at Harvard and was ordained a minister in Fairfield, CT on August 15, 1694. He married Mary Hoyt (several spelling variations of 'Hoyt' exist in historical records) in 1698. The couple had 8 children, two of whom--Lieut. Joseph Webb II and Sgt. Epenetus Webb--served in the Revolutionary War. In 1701, Reverend Joseph Webb joined several other ministers as founders of Yale. In a significant controversy among school trustees regarding the siting of the school, Rev. Webb voted in the majority to locate the school in New Haven. Below are signatures of the founders of Yale. Joseph Webb's signature is second from the bottom at the right side of the page. A history of Fairfield, CT notes, "The Rev. Joseph Webb was not only one of its [Yale's] founders, but one of its most active trustees during a period of nearly thirty years. He made long journeys on horseback to Saybrook, Wethersfield, Hartford and New Haven, in order to meet with the other trustees and advise with them for the welfare of the college." In 1711, Rev. Webb and another Fairfield minister participated in a land grant of 1000 acres in the area of Fairfield. Rev. Webb was minister in Fairfield for 38 years prior to his death in 1743.

Lieutenant Joseph Webb III & Sarah Blatchley
  The eldest son of Rev. Joseph Webb Jr., Lieutenant Joseph Webb III was born on January 26, 1700 in Fairfield, CT, where his father was minister. He first married Sarah Blatchley--a name to become well known two generations later (see the 'Famous Webbs' link). Sarah and Joseph had one son, Joseph. Sarah died in 1733 and on February 3, 1736 Joseph III remarried Elizabeth Starr. This marriage produced two more sons, Ezra and Ebenezer and two daughters, Elizabeth and Sarah. Ezra is a direct ancestor (5 generations prior) to Olive Ann Webb. All three Webb sons, Joseph, Ebenezer and Ezra married three Nott sisters.

Ezra Webb & Hannah Nott
 

Ezra was born in Stamford on December 8, 1727. On February 2, 1749, he married Hannah Nott. His brother Joseph (see 'Famous Webbs') married Hannah's sister Mehetebel Nott. Mehetebel and Hannah were daughters of Whethersfield sea captain Gershom Nott and his wife Sarah Waterhouse. The Nott family house still exists and is very close to Joseph and Mehetebel Nott's house. Ezra Webb and Hannah Nott raised a family of three sons and one daughter in the house shown below in Whethersfield. Some narratives of the house claim it was built by Ezra around 1730. That is very unlikely since Ezra was born on January 26, 1740. Either the date of construction is incorrect or he purchased it as an existing house and made it the family home. Likely, he and Hannah would have lived in it sometime after their marriage. A map of existing colonial buildings in Whetherfield can be found here.




The Ezra Webb House
 




The Nott House
At the right is the house of Captain Gershom and Sarah Waterhouse Nott. Nott daughters Hannah, Mehetebel and Patience married brothers Ezra, Joseph and Ebenezer Webb.

Ezra Webb & Mary Barrett
  Ezra Webb (Jr.), son of Ezra Webb and Hannah Nott would have grown up in the Ezra Webb house shown above. Very little is known about Ezra Webb and wife Mary Barrett. A family genealogy compiled by Lewis Bailey Skinner indicates Ezra Webb "was a farmer of moderate means." Presumably, the family farm was located in the Wethersfield area, since both Ezra and wife Mary were born, married and died in Wethersfield.

Walter William Webb & Olive Ann Hotchkiss
 

Walter William Webb, son of Ezra Webb and Mary Barrett, grew up in Wethersfield. He married Olive Ann Hotchkiss in Stamford, CT on May 18, 1805. The couple had four children:  Walter William Webb Jr., Luther Ezra Webb, John Barrett Webb and Mary Anna Webb.


The following information about Walter William Webb is extracted from obituaries and other sources compiled by Lewis Bradley Skinner: Walter William Webb was first employed in a wooden comb factory in Meriden. After two years, he began an ivory comb manufacturing business. Ivory combs were then being being introduced in the United States. The business was both lucrative and successful. A settlement, called Webbville, grew up around the comb manufacturing business. Due to a lack of water power, Walter Webb moved the facility to a location on the Connecticut River. The company eventually merged twice, finally becoming the Meriden Cutlery Company. A wealthy man at this point, he joined another company that manufactured door hardware. He co-signed loans for a friend and after the friend did not make good on the loans, Walter decided to retire on the funds left after paying back the loans. Olive Ann died in 1855 of tuberculosis in New Haven, CT and her death combined with his financial situation likely were the motivators for Walter's 1856 move to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where his children were living. After the move, he bought a farm somewhere in the LaCrosse area. In 1857, Walter married Elizabeth Kellogg in West Stockbridge, CT. In 1866 while on a visit to New York, he bought a paper mill and a large amount of land in Gibsonville, NY. The mill venture was unsuccessful, so he returned to LaCrosse. In 1871, Walter was appointed LaCrosse Postmaster by Ulysses S. Grant, but he held the position for less than a year. Earlier in his life, Walter was active in the effort to abolish slavery and believed in total abstinence from liquor. He died in 1878 and the crowd at the funeral was so large the event was moved outside. His son John Barrett Webb was executor of the estate and reported there were no debts or assets.



General Luther Ezra Webb and Roxanna Bradley
 

General Luther Ezra Webb was born in Whethersfield, CT, son of Walter William Webb and Olive Ann Hotchkiss.  In 1846 Luther Ezra married Roxanna Bradley and they had three children:  William Bradley Webb, Mary Elizabeth Webb, and Olive Annie Webb. 


Luther Ezra earned the title 'General' as Brigadier General of the 1st Brigade of the Wisconsin State Militia.  In March of 1861, Abraham Lincoln nominated General Webb as Indian agent of the Chippewas of Lake Superior in Bayfield, Wisconsin.  He served as Indian agent from 1861 to 1868.  In 1866, he was signer of the Treaty with the Choktaw and Chicksaw of the Great Lakes area.  He likely composed and negotiated the treaty.    An interesting story about his time as an agent as told by a person who translated for him is located here.   In 1867, General Webb was promoted to Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Arizona and New Mexico territory.  He served in that role from 1867-1869.  A Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1871 describes a controversy involving General Luther Webb regarding issuance of script and land grants.  There apparently was some evidence that General Webb arranged land grants that were supposed to go Indians but instead went to friends and associates.  Land records indicate Luther made 5 purchases of land in the Bayfield area involving a total of 475 acres over a 6 year period ending in 1871, the year he would have been promoted to Superintendent.  The history of LaCrosse, WI, where he finally settled, notes that General Webb donated a church organ to the First Congregational Church.  In the census of 1880 in LaCrosse, General Webb is listed as living with his son William Bradley Webb and family.  He is listed as 54 years old and also died that same year, so it is likely he was in ill health.



William Bradley Webb & Lizzie Spier
 

William Bradley Webb attended a military academy in Connecticut while his parents, General Luther Webb and Roxanna Bradley Webb moved to LaCrosse, WI.  It is suspected the move to LaCrosse was the result of General Luther being named Indian Agent for Northern Wisconsin.  William Bradley Webb married Lizzie Spier on April 30, 1873.  The Spier family had moved from Lima, NY to LaCrosse to operate a wholesale fruit business.  After their marriage, William opened a drugstore in LaCrosse, but the venture was not profitable.  While in LaCrosse, William served as chief of the volunteer fire department.  In 1881, William and Lizzie moved to the new town of Billings, Montana where he operate real estate and cattle businesses.  He was the first chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Yellowstone County when it was still a territory. 


On September 29, 1885, President Grover Cleveland appointed William Secretary of the Territory of Montana.  William was subsequently removed from his post by President Harrison in April of 1888.  Upon taking office, his successor found between $4,000 and $6,000 in government funds missing.  On September 18, 1889, William Bradley Webb was arrested by the United States District Attorney, charged with embezzling U.S. Government funds while acting as Secretary of the Territory of Montana.  Apparently, William Bradley Webb had payees sign blank vouchers which he then collected for his own use.  The outcome of this episode is unclear.  The genealogy compiled by Lewis Bailey Skinner makes no mention of this episode, but evidence of it is clear in online records of historical newspapers of the period.  The headline in one paper reads: 

DISHONEST DEMOCRAT.  WILLIAM B. WEBB, EX-SECRETARY OF MONTANA, ARRESTED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT

The Lewis Bailer Skinner genealogy contains the following passage for this time period:  "After his term of office expired, he ran out of funds; so his family went back to LaCrosse while he remained [in Montana]..."  It is likely the family moved to LaCrosse while William stayed behind to deal with the embezzlement charges.  In 1890, the family was reunited in Anaconda, Montana after William got involved in a mining and smelting operation associated with the copper magnate Marcus Daly.  Since both Daly and William Bradley had been active in Montana politics, the new business association with Daly was probably an outgrowth of their earlier Montana political connections.  Daly was the person responsible for establishing the town of Anaconda, near his copper mining operations in the area.


In 1906, William sold his interest in the mining operation and in 1908 he bought a ranch in Hamilton, Montana and put his son-in-law, Frank Monty in charge of the operation.  The ranch was probably another outgrowth of William Bradley's friendship with Marcus Daly:  Daly owned Bitter Root Stock Farm near Hamilton, a horse breeding operation that eventually produced Scottish Chieftain, the only Montana horse to win the Belmont Stakes.  The Daly ranch still exists and more information can be found here

Leaving son-in-law Frank Monty in charge of his ranch, William moved to boomtown Port Townsend, Washington to take advantage of rising real estate prices.  When real estate collapsed in Port Townsend, William once again lost everything and returned to the ranch in Hamilton, Montana.  In 1918, the family moved back to Anaconda, Montana, where he died of pneumonia on January 18, 1927.  The Anaconda mine continued operations into the  1980s.

Research uncovered the following article in the Omaha Morning World-Herald, dated January 1, 1891 about a purported son of William and Lizzie:

DRANK AND SUICIDED

Coule City, Wash., Dec. 31.--Walter B. Webb, who was cashier of the Northern Pacific express company at Spokane Falls, has committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.  He had been drinking and gambling and was discharged Sunday.  His accounts were found to be short, and he was about to be arrested.  Webb was a son of William B. Webb, secretary of Montana under the Cleveland administration.

There are no family or other records to substantiate that this was truly a son of William Bradley Webb and Lizzie Spier, but it is nonetheless interesting.

Lizzie Spier Webb died in Long Beach, California on December 8, 1927, nearly a year after William Bradley Webb's death.  Her daughter, Louise Wood Webb Monty lived in Long Beach.  Louise's husband, Frank Monty (who at one time had managed William Bradley Webb's Hamilton, Montana ranch) was an engineer who supervised construction projects in Long Beach.  Below is a picture of Lizzie Spier Webb at her daughter and son-in-laws house about 1925.  Lizzie, by this time, was blind from glaucoma.




 

At the left is William Bradley Webb and at the far right is his wife Lizzie Spier.  In the middle are Olive Ann Webb and Lewis Bailey Skinner on their wedding day in Anaconda, Montana.  For more on the final chapter of this genealogy--Lewis Bailey Skinner and Olive Ann Webb--click on the 'Lewis and Olive Ann' link at the top left.






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(c) Jerry Gottsacker, 2008