Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry writes about Jonathan Ilsley, one of the men who donated a relic from America’s past: a silver tankard gifted to Rev. Samuel Deane in 1775. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.
Today I continue with identifying the 21 young men who presented a silver tankard to Rev. Samuel Deane of the First Parish Church and Society in Falmouth, Maine, in 1775.
To recap: The men who presented the silver tankard had their initials engraved on the base along with the maker’s mark: J.COBURN [John Coburn of Boston]. Also engraved on the front: EX DONO JUVENUM ALIQUORUM REV. SAMUEL DEANE PASTORI FIDELISSI MO. 1775. (Translation: FROM THE GIFT OF SOME YOUNG PEOPLE TO THE REVEREND SAMUEL DEANE THE FAITHFUL PASTOR, MARCH 1775.)
One of the men whose initials are found on the relic is Jonathan Ilsley (1738-1809), son of Isaac Ilsley and Abigail Moody. He is a direct descendant of Massachusetts Bay’s Tristram Coffin, William Moody, Edmund Greenleaf, Aquilia Chase, Robert Adams, Thomas Bradbury and his wife Mary Perkins (who escaped from jail during the 1692 Salem witchcraft hysteria).
In 1759 Jonathan’s father Isaac, a joiner and carpenter, built an addition to the First Parish Church in Falmouth (now Portland, Maine), and in 1761 erected a tall spire.
Jonathan Ilsley’s marriage on 18 October 1764 to Dorcas Ingersoll (daughter of Nathaniel Ingersoll and Joanna Spinney) was the first performed by Rev. Deane in his new appointment. The ceremony was recorded in Deane’s diary on page 306. It reads:
Dined at Father [Rev. Thomas] Smith’s; married a couple this evening, Jonathan Ilsley to Dorcas Ingersoll; and evening at Mr. Bradbury’s.
Jonathan is listed as serving in Capt. Isaac Ilsley’s Back Cove company of militia in 1757. His brother Enoch Ilsley also served in the militia.
Another brother, U. S. Congressman Daniel Ilsley, married Mary Jones (daughter of Ephraim Jones and Mary Pearson, subjects from part 3 of this series).
I found an interesting newspaper clip on Jonathan describing a health issue, possibly a stroke, which he miraculously recovered from over four years later. A clue is also presented that he was a carpenter like his father, a trade many of the Ilsley men employed in Maine and beyond in future generations.
This article reported:
Mr. JONATHAN ILSLEY, an inhabitant of Falmouth, a person between 40 and 50 years of age, was seized with a fit of melancholy, which gradually increased, until it produced a total suspension of speech, and almost entirely the necessary action of the body for the execution of those offices which are essential to the preservation of life. In this torpid state of body, he has continued more than four years, till within a few days past, when the organs of speech instantaneously and voluntarily assumed their wonted tone, even to a degree of volubility surprising to those who beheld him. The restoration of vigor to the limbs was more gradual, and not as yet perfectly restored. His family at so unexpected and almost miraculous a change, stood mute with astonishment; but suppressed the external marks of it as much as possible, to prevent a relapse, which they were apprehensive of from the weak state of body he was then in. What is most extraordinary, Mr. Ilsley has a perfect remembrance of the most minute circumstance that occurred during the above-mentioned period; and his mind has been continually employed in making curious calculations in arithmetic, in forming extensive ideas of building, architecture, etc.
He is now in this town, and we hope will soon recover, so far as to resume his former occupation.
Jonathan died in 1809 and his wife Dorcas a year later. They had children who left many descendants.
One of their sons, Nathaniel Ilsley, married two daughters born to Ephraim Lunt and Elizabeth Merrill. His first wife Elizabeth Lunt died in 1804, and he married Judith Lunt in 1807.
I found an obituary for Nathaniel that sang his praises. He is described as a man of integrity and honor beloved by many. He was a house builder and a skilled musician. It noted he reared thirteen children who were living in five different states.
Nathaniel’s descendants also possessed skills in both building and music. Here are a few.
Francis Lunt Ilsley (1804–1874), born to Nathaniel Ilsley and his first wife Elizabeth Lunt, married Lucy Wild Coes. Their descendants were well-known musicians and musical instrument tuners. Read more at Vitas Brevis.
Edward Ilsley (1815-1887), born to Nathaniel and his second wife Judith, married Mary Selleck and was a successful civil engineer and builder in Missouri. His son Charles Edward Ilsley was also a civil engineer and renowned architect. Another son, William Augustus Ilsley, served in the Engineer Corps in the United States Army.
It is obvious that the spirit and genius of Jonathan Ilsley lived on for many generations.
To be continued…
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Note on the header image: Charles Edward Ilsley (1842-1914) with family: wife Sarah Swanson Godlove Ilsley; daughters Charlotte (left) and Emily (right); and son Frank P. Ilsley. Credit: Joplin Wistar private collection, Vermont.
- Martha Gandy Fales, “Benjamin Isley, Cabinetmaker in Federal Portland.” Antiques Magazine, Vol. CV, No. 5.