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Weston Wagons West - Ep. W1 - William Weston, the oldest of three brothers, arrived in Salem in 1630

Updated on August 9, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

Roger Conant, Salem, Massachusetts

Statue of Roger Conant, founder of Salem, Massachusetts, photo taken in 2004
Statue of Roger Conant, founder of Salem, Massachusetts, photo taken in 2004 | Source

William Weston was greeted by Roger Conant, formerly 1st Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony

William Weston arrived from England at the age of 22 at the fishing settlement on Cape Ann, later Salem, Massachusetts, in 1630. He was aware of Roger Conant who, at the invitation of Rev. John White and other members of the Dorchester Company, led a company that moved to the Naumkeag area that became Salem in 1625-26. Conant had been elected Governor and served as such until replaced by John Endicott in 1628. Conant had been considered most gracious, which was his nature, to accede to Endicott's authority as the new governor on his arrival from England with the new charter. Conant continued to represent Salem in the General Court for many years.

One of the first persons to greet William Weston on his arrival at the Town Market was Roger Conant, himself. Conant had built the first house in Salem, as his home, on what is now Essex Street, opposite what shortly became the Town Market. Weston found temporary quarters nearby, and vowed to locate his blacksmith shop nearby. Conant said he would be happy to assist Weston in his search.

Roger and his wife, Sarah, had three living children born prior to their arrival in Salem, and had added two sons since. They seemed to be a very happy family in spite of some of the grief that had come their way. Roger was a professional salter, a position of high esteem in a fishing community. By 1639, when Roger Conant was one of the first to sign the contract to enlarge the meeting house on the Town Square for the First Church in Salem, they had added their final two daughters and a son to their family.

Horses of the era

Horses such as were cared for by farrier William Weston and his son.
Horses such as were cared for by farrier William Weston and his son. | Source

William Weston settled in at Salem as both farrier and blacksmith

Following his family tradition, William Weston was trained as both a farrier to care for the needs of horses, and, as a blacksmith. With only a limited number of horses in the area in his early years in Salem, William served his community primarily as a blacksmith. By 1640, William had married Charity Leach and they had a son, Caleb, who was three years old. They had named the boy after a son of Roger and Sarah Conant who had died in 1633 as an eleven year old.

In 1649, when he was 25 years of age, Lot Conant, son of Roger and Sarah, married Elizabeth Walton in nearby Beverly. William and Charity were pleased to be able to attend the ceremony as close friends of the family. Lot had become a client and good friend to William, as was his father.

Later in 1649, when Caleb had his 12th birthday in September, he began his formal farrier apprenticeship with his father, William. Horses were now much more common, and there were more opportunities to practice the farrier trade, for both William and Caleb.

Horse Breeding, Mare and Colt

Mare and colt, part of the horse breeding operation
Mare and colt, part of the horse breeding operation | Source

Caleb Weston and Lot Conant each moved a few miles north to Beverly

In 1666, Lot Conant moved his family a few miles north to the developing community of Beverly when his father gave him a family homestead of just a little over 100 acres. Lot, and his wife, Elizabeth, had several children by this time and welcomed the chance to "spread out" a little more on the new land.

Caleb Weston, in 1661, had married Sarah Gardner, and was looking to set up his business separate from his father's. The Beverly area, a few miles north of Salem, had all the growth potential he sought, and so, in 1667, Caleb and Sarah, with their two young daughters, made the move. Lot Conant welcomed them and provided assistance in getting settled on a ten acre plot which would be home base to the farrier and blacksmith business for the community as well as provide farm land for the family. Beverly was incorporated as a separate community from Salem, in Essex County, in 1668.

By this time, Caleb had begun to pursue another family tradition by developing his own horse breeding herd of five mares and was on his second stallion. In the new, growing area, he had no problem in selling each of the horses he raised and trained. In 1671, their son, Nathaniel was born, within a couple of months after Rebecca joined the Conant family in late January.

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Introducing the Preston family - a supplemental historical note from the author

In about 1691, below, we will introduce a new family that moved to Beverly from Saco, in York Co, Maine, a number of miles northeast up the coast. His name was generally recorded as William Presbury and he was married to Priscilla Randall (in about 1685). Looking at the records of the times, they and their children were recorded variously as Presbury, Presson, even Prison as well as Preston. For our stories, I will adopt their eventual family name of Preston for all members of this extended, historical family. The Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire stated that this family moved to Beverly because "the war sent the family to Beverly" without further reference.

The Preston family arrived in Beverly from Saco, York Co, Maine

Nathaniel Weston had just celebrated his 20th birthday when the William and Priscilla Preston family, with two young sons, David and Edward, moved on to the farm next door to the Weston family in 1691. They had another son, Nehemiah, in January, followed by Mary, Stephen and then Benjamin, born on January 1, of 1700.

Although Rebecca Conant and Nathaniel Weston grew up across the road from each, neither developed a romantic attachment for the other as they grew older, both unmarried. Then within two years of each other, Rebecca married another Nathaniel, Nathaniel Raymond in 1699, and Nathaniel Weston married Joanna Allen in 1697. They all continued to be close friends in the community of Beverly.

As the new century got underway, Randall joined the Preston family in 1702 and William on January 1 of 1705. Nathaniel and Joanna had a boy that they named Randall Weston (after the Preston boy) born in March of 1705. Nathaniel and Rebecca Raymond had a daughter they named Mary born in January of 1710. Life in Beverly, Massachusetts was generally good for the Weston, Preston, and Raymond families.

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Historical note by the author

As with prior Weston Wagons West episodes, all members of the Weston family, their spouses and children, are fictional. All other characters and places are based on actual historical figures and places, used fictionally while retaining their historical detail as closely as feasible based on known historical records. For example, Roger Conant is an 8th great grandfather of the author. William Preston (Presson), born in 1705, is a 5th great-grandfather of the author.

The presentation of these William Weston stories was delayed a bit as a result of current genealogy research underway on the Conant and Preston lines recorded at to incorporate recently available detailed information from the Essex County, Massachusetts, area. The author expresses his appreciation for the work done by several colleagues in the project. For details of this work, visit the website via the link below.


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