"Few families can establish a loftier lineage or deduce their descent through more numerous stocks of historic distinction than the family of Edwards of Wales." (Colonial Families of America, by George Mackenzie).
John Edwards (born 168-) immigrated to America about the beginning of the eighteenth century. Family tradition places the date at 1710-11. No authentic record, however, of the exact date appears to be available. From the fact that this John Edwards was married (1712) in Portsmouth, N.H., as shown by official and church records (North Church), it appears probable that he landed at Portsmouth. That he moved to Haverhill, Mass., soon after his marriage seems equally probable, since the official records of that city give the dates of birth (1713 and 1715) of his two sons, John and Nathaniel.
David Edwards in a letter dated Newbury, Vt., May 24, 1878, to Col. Albert M. Edwards writes: "In regard to my forefathers, tradition says that about 1710 two brothers by the names of John and Jonathan Edwards came to America from Wales. John settled in Haverhill, Mass., and Jonathan in Connecticut.
I have no reason to doubt that my forefathers came from Wales. My father had two articles which this John Edwards brought from Wales that bore the Edwards coat of arms."
While the above tradition relative to John and Jonathan appears to be common throughout the family, the author finds through research no evidence that John of Haverhill had a brother Jonathan; and further finds no family connection between this family and that descended from William Edwards of Hartford, Conn. (Immigrated to America 1640) from whom Jonathan Edwards, the eminent educator, metaphysician, and divine descended, It is, of course, possible that the two families have a common origin prior to their immigration to America, but of this no evidence has been found.
Family tradition, unfortunately, has not handed down to us the emigration point in Wales from which the family came to America, but of the fact that John Edwards, known in this genealogical record as John Edwards 1st. came from that country, there is practically no doubt, since evidence of this family tradition has been found, existing independently, in no less than three (John 3rd., Richard 3rd., and Jonathan 3rd.) of the secondary branches of the family.
The common tradition is that the family's first settlement in America was at Haverhill, Mass.,; but it is apparent that the immigration point must have been elsewhere, since Haverhill is not a seaport. It is only recently (Aug., 1913) that the evidence noted above indicating that the family took its origin at Portsmouth, N. H., or vicinity was discovered. There is, however. a record that John and Jonathan Edwards were at Falmouth, Me. (now Portland, Me.) in 1683. It is possible that from one of these men John Edwards 1st. may have descended. This possibility gives strength to the previously mentioned tradition of John and Jonathan.
A distinctive characteristic of the early descendants is that they were strongly imbued with the pioneer spirit. This is shown by the fact that the six brothers, grandsons of John 1st., became, without exception, pioneers in the virgin forests of New Hampshire and Maine.
William and Jonathan were among the early settlers of Gilmanton, N. H. After residing there only a few years they moved, in Feb. and in May, 1797, to Otisfield, Me. About 1797 or possibly earlier John moved from Haverhill, Mass., to Gilmanton, N. H. Richard, when a boy, accompanied an uncle, probably a brother to his mother, to Gorham, Me. Nathaniel also settled in Gorham, but he did not go there until several years after his brother Richard. A few years later he moved to Raymond, Me., and settled in that portion of the town which is now the town of Casco, Me. Samuel located in Buxton, Me.
Just what produced the movement to Gilmanton can only be conjectured. One of the proprietors of that township was Nicholas Wallingford, and it is possible that the intermarriage of the Edwards and Wallingford families may have influenced this migration. It also seems quite probable that the American Revolution may have had much to do with this general pioneer movement, since at the end of that war many families were more or less impoverished, and the general inactivity of industrial conditions which followed made it a necessity for may such families to seek new homes and new occupations.
In connection with this migration of our early ancestors, it is of interest to trace the probable routes by which they reached their several destinations. An examination of the early maps available shows that for the movement from Haverhill, Mass., to Gilmanton, N. H., either one of the following routes might be chosen: (a) Haverhill to Newbury along the Merrimack river, then via the Newbury Saltsbury (Salisbury) road northward to Dover, thence to Gilmanton by roads not apparently recognized as main thoroughfares. (b) Haverhill to Amesbury along the Merrimack river, then by the Amesbury road northward across Rockingham County by roads which were more or less recognized as main thoroughfares.
For the movement from Gilmanton, N. H., to Otisfield, Me., the probable route appears to have been as follows: Gilmanton to Dover, from there to York, thence via the old Piscataqua, York, Wells, Saco, Falmouth, Portland, Yarmouth, Pownalboro road to a point where the eight mile blazed trail referred to on pages 125 and 220 intersected this main thoroughfare.
This pioneer life of the early generations required pluck and endurance of the hardiest kind; and it is, no doubt, to a marked extent, through earning a living by honest toil, economy and thrift, responsible for the well developed physique and the strength of character of their descendants.
As a general rule, the Edwards are a strong, sturdy, broad shouldered, well built class, in stature above medium height, and having rather dark complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair.
From a critical study of the family the author feels, that while few of the descendants have aspired or attained to distinction as leaders of their fellows; yet, on the whole, we may be justly proud of the fact that they have been plain, respectable people, having a full share of the cardinal virtues of honor, patriotism, truthfulness, and self-dependence.
As shown herein the occupation of the family has been largely agrarian. The distribution among the several occupations being as follows: