Pioneers in the Wilderness

The Folsom (or Foulsham) family has been traced by many genealogists on the internet, with one at least, taking it back to between 1300-1400.  And, there may be others that trace it even further back.  However, I have chosen to begin this history of our family with the first Foulsham (who changed the spelling to Folsom)  emigrating to these shores.

That person was John (1) Foulsham, born before 1615 in Hingham, Norfolk, England.  He had married there on October 4, 1636 to Mary Gilman, daughter of Edward Gilman and Mary Clark.  Mary had been born in Hingham also, in about the year 1615.

He and his young wife of less than two years emigrated with the Gilman family (his wife's family) on the ship Diligent of Ispswich of England, of 350 tons burden, John Martin, master, having on board in all, one hundred and thirty-three people. They set sail from the mouth of the Thames for Massachusetts Bay (Boston).

"...By Rev. N. S. Folsom, D.D., Lawrence, Mass

On the 26th of April, 1638, the ship "Diligent of Ipswich," England, of 350 tons burden, John Martin, master set sail from the mouth of the Thames for Massachusetts bay, having on board nineteen families and six or eight single persons, - in all, one hundred and thirty-three. Twelve of these families, numbering eighty-four souls, were from old Hingham, - the rest from the immediate vicinity; and they had all embarked for the purpose of joining a colony settled in Hingham, Mass, (1633-1637),consisting of ten families and five single person (in all, forty-nine), who had been their friends and neighbors in old Hingham. Among those now emigrating were John Foulsham of Hingham then twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, and his young wife, to whom he had been married about a year and a half. They were attended by two servants. His wife's father and mother (Edward and Mary Clark Gilman, of Hingham), three younger brothers (Edward, not quite twenty-one years old, John and Moses) two younger sisters (Sarah and Lydia who married Daniel Cushing, - 1645), and three servants of the family, were fellow-passengers. The rector of the parish, Rev. Robert peck, with his family, consisting of his wife, two children, and servants, also formed part of the company. The immediate occasion of their departure seems to have been trouble in ecclesiastical matters. Their rector, doubtless with the sympathy and aid of most of those constituting the emigrating party, had pulled down the rails of the chancel and alter, and leveled the latter a foot below the church, as it remains to this day. Being prosecuted by Bishop Wren, he left the kingdom, together with his friends, who sold their estates at half their real value, promising to remain with them always.

The party having landed at Boston, Massachusetts, August 10, 1638, immediately proceeded to their place of destination, about fourteen miles south-east from Boston. An Adam Foulsham, probably a son of the Adam who died in 1627, and a cousin, if not brother of John Foulsham, came from Hingham, Eng. To Hingham, Mass., in about 1639, but returned and died - 1670. Their rector remained about three years, when, hearing that the bishops were deposed, he returned to England in 1641 (the date given by Daniel Cushing), resumed his rectory, and died in 1656. Edward Gilman had with others obtained a grant of land eight miles square in a place now called Rehoboth, near the Rhode Island line, in 1641. In 1647 his name is recorded in Ipswich. Soon afterward, he went to Exeter, N.H., where his sons were already established in business. John Folsom and wife, with their children, followed her father and mother to Exeter, probably no earlier than 1650, the first authentic record of their residence in that town being in the year 1655..."

John and his family first settled in Hingham, Norfolk, Massachusetts. He was granted four acres of land which abutted upon the "playne" eastward, and upon the "common" westward. With Captain Joshua Hobart he had liberty from the inhabitants of thet own to utilize certain streams for the purpose of erecting a sawmill, or mills; he was a member of the Hingham militia, and in 1645 he was a selectman, one of those chosen to order the affairs of the town. He was representative from Hingham in 1654.  They then moved to Exeter, NH, where they remained. He and Mary had ten children, and she died about 1692 in Exeter.   John had died in 1681, also in Exeter. Their children were: John (2), Samuel, Peter, Nathaniel, Israel, Israel, Peter, Mary, Ephraim and Abigail. 

The drawing at right, above, is of the Exeter, NH, Congregational church as it used to be..

With a family of this size, the Folsom family had a good beginning toward being very large.  I think it is amazing that only two of their children died young. In that time, children did not always survive under the best of conditions, and theirs was definitely not the best of conditions, at least at first.  The Folsoms arrived here less than 20 years after the first voyage of the Mayflower, so they lived under pretty primitive conditions for some years, and worked hard for what they had.

At a Folsom family reunion a memorial was dedicated to these pioneers, with the following words: "... the triangle at the juncture of Hampton and Kensington Roads was chosen as the place to erect the memorial, as it was a part of the land grant (1644) of Lieutenant Peter Folsom, fifth son of the pioneer John, and as John Folsom was one of three in the year 1668 to lay out the road between the two meeting houses of Exeter and Hampton."  "The inscription is to be on a bronze tablet set in a large oblong slab of granite, (which was) once the door rock to the home of James Folsom of the fifth generation, a Minute Man in the Revolutionary War, who is buried in the Folsom burying around on the estate of Wendell B. Folsom."

A Colony becomes a Nation

The Folsom family who originated in the New England states has had many important men in business, in education, in politics, in religion, in war and in the formation of this great country.  One man who was a colorful one was Nathaniel Folsom (b. 1726), the great-grandson of John and Mary Folsom. 

Only fourteen years old when his father died, Nathaniel began business life early, and succeeded well at it.  He also took military training, as was the custom of the time.  In 1755, on the Crown Point Expedition of the French and Indian Wars, he commanded one of ten companies which marched through the woods to Albany and on to Fort Edward. His troops, well versed in ranger tactics, surprised the French troops of Baron Dieskau and, with the loss of only six men, they dispersed the enemy and siezed their baggage and ammunition.

Nathaniel went on to become a colonel in the New Hampshire militia under Royal Governor John Wentworth. His royal commission was revoked when, following the raids at Fort William and Mary in December of 1774, he gathered his troops and marched to Portsmouth to guard the captured cannon and small arms until they could be transported upriver to Durham.

He was active in town affairs, serving as town meeting moderator and as a delegate to the first Provincial Congress, which met in Exeter on July 21, 1774. this group elected him as one of two delegates to represent New Hampshire at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He was elected to this post two more times in subsequent years, and Exeter continued to send him to the Provincial Congresses.

On May 29, 1775, following the alarm at Lexington and Concord, the New Hampshire Provincial Congress made Folsom commander of the re-organized New Hampshire forces. meanwhile, John Stark, who was at Cambridge with the New Hampshire men, had been named to the same post by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress! This conflict endured until the Continental Army was formed several months later, at which time a third man, John Sullivan of Durham, was appointed to command the New Hampshire forces. Folsom remained commander of troops within New Hampshire, tending to the recruitment of men and the gathering of supplies.

In May, 1775, Folsom was appointed to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety. He became a close political associate of Weare, Peabody and Bartlett. The following January he was elected second justice of the Court of Common Pleas for Rockingham County. When the state constitution was adopted in 1783, he was promoted to chief justice, a post he held until his death on May 26, 1790.

Folsom served in several constitutional conventions. Elected president pro tempore of the last Constitutional Convention, he had the honor of signing the announcement of the adoption of this Constitution in 1783. Nathaniel Folsom lived to see the country his grandparents had hewn from the wilderness become an independent nation, and died knowing he had an active part in shaping her future.  This page just touches on the participation of Nathaniel in the rebellion, and to read more about that, you can go to here.

According to the DAR (Daughters of the Revolution) Patriot Index, there were 36 Folsoms who served in the Revolutionary Army.  They came from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York in the northern states, and they came from North Carolina and Georgia in the south.  Folsoms fought in every major conflict before the revolutionary war, and helped tame the wilderness so their families would have a safe place in which to live.  They were one of the important early families of this country, and have been recognized as such.

In the third generation of Folsoms in America, Israel Folsom, the great-grandson of John Folsom, along with several other brothers, must have felt that the civilization of the New England area was closing in.  These brothers, either singly, or together, all ended up in North Carolina, or other southern states.  I don't find any records yet to show when this took place, but Israel's first son, Nathaniel, was born in Rowan County, NC in 1756.  Israel would have been about 25 years old at that time.

This portion of the family is about to embark on a great adventure, so "turn" to the next page, and we'll get started!




On to the Choctaw Folsoms!

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James and Marcia Foley

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