U.S. President William Taft’s Mayflower and Edward Rawson Family Line

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry writes about U.S. President William Howard Taft’s family connections to the Mayflower and the Edward Rawson family line. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

Today I continue looking at Edward Rawson, first Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and his descendants. One of Edward’s grandsons married into a Mayflower line, and a daughter born from that union married a Taft, the family line of William Howard Taft (1857-1930), who became Secretary of War, then the 27th United States President, and finally U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. Here is that pedigree, as revealed by searches in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Photo: Louisa Maria Torrey Taft and her son William, the future president. Courtesy of the Ohio Memory Collection and William Howard Taft National Historic Site.
Photo: Louisa Maria Torrey Taft and her son William, the future president. Courtesy of the Ohio Memory Collection and William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

In 1914 William Howard Taft was elected as the first honorary member of the Massachusetts Mayflower Society at their annual banquet. That year marked the 294th anniversary of the signing of “The Compact” on the Mayflower in Cape Cod Harbor on 21 November 1620.

The Las Vegas Daily Optic was one of the newspapers that covered the event, and provided Taft’s genealogy:

An article about William Howard Taft, Las Vegas Daily Optic newspaper article 8 December 1914
Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico), 8 December 1914, page 4

This article reported the family line of “Professor Taft” (the ex-president was a professor at Yale at the time):

“Professor Taft is eighth in descent from Francis Cooke, a Mayflower passenger, in the following line: Francis Cooke’s [and wife Hester Mayhew] daughter, Jane, married Experience Mitchell [Mayflower Families: Francis Cooke for Five Generations notes Experience traveled in 1623 to Plymouth Colony on the ship Anne]; and their daughter, Sarah, married John Hayward; their daughter, Elizabeth, married Edmund Rawson; and their son, Abner, married Mary Allen; their daughter, Rhoda Rawson, married Aaron Taft; whose son, Peter Rawson Taft, married Sylvia Howard; and their son, Hon. Alphonso Taft, married Louisa Maria Torrey; and one of their sons is Professor William Howard Taft.”

More about this family line:

Rhoda Rawson Taft’s father, Edmund Rawson, was born to Rev. Grindall Rawson and Susannah Wilson, and is the grandson of Edward Rawson (first Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) and Rachel Perne.

Abner Rawson was a farmer in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. He served in the Revolutionary War in Captain Samuel Read’s unit and was appointed to two committees: one in charge of recruiting men for the town’s militia units; and a second to ensure that any Uxbridge militiaman called for duty was adequately provisioned. (Uxbridge and the Revolution of 1774, Massachusetts Sons of the American Revolution.) It is also rumored that George Washington stayed at one of the Taft’s farms in Uxbridge in 1789.

This Oregonian article reported more about the Taft family line, including the fact that the president planned to take a motor trip to Mendon, Massachusetts, the seat of the Taft ancestral home. The first Taft to come to America was Robert, who sired five male heirs with Sarah Simpson.

An article about William Howard Taft, Oregonian newspaper article 22 September 1912
Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 22 September 1912, page 3

According to this article:

“Robert Taft, the first known ancestor of President Taft in this country, was one of the founders of the town of Mendon. He was a man of influence, and served on the first board of selectmen in 1680. Robert Taft was a carpenter, and with his sons built the first bridge across the Mendon River.”

Robert also built the home of Mendon’s first minister, Joseph Emerson, whose granddaughter would marry Robert Taft’s son (see below).

President Taft is descended from Joseph, the fourth son of Robert. He married Elizabeth Emerson, daughter of James Emerson and Sarah Ingersoll. The Ingersoll’s connect to the early Salem, Massachusetts, lines, and the Emerson’s share blood lines with poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Joseph’s son Captain Peter Taft married Elizabeth Cheney. He participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill and his son Aaron was a minute man in 1775. Aaron Taft married Rhoda Rawson and the family moved to Vermont.

Illustrations: Sylvia Howard Taft (1793-1866) and Peter Rawson Taft (1785-1867), by William Walcutt. Courtesy of the Ohio Memory Collection and William Howard Taft National Historic Site.
Illustrations: Sylvia Howard Taft (1793-1866) and Peter Rawson Taft (1785-1867), by William Walcutt. Courtesy of the Ohio Memory Collection and William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

Aaron and Rhoda Taft’s son, Peter Rawson Taft, became the first lawyer in the family and the first of three generations of judges. He married Sylvia Howard, daughter of Levi Howard and Bethiah Chapin.

Illustrations: Aphonso Taft (1810-1891) and his wife Louisa Maria Torrey Taft (1827-1907), parents of William Howard Taft, by William Walcutt. Courtesy of the Ohio Memory Collection and William Howard Taft National Historic Site.
Illustrations: Aphonso Taft (1810-1891) and his wife Louisa Maria Torrey Taft (1827-1907), parents of William Howard Taft, by William Walcutt. Courtesy of the Ohio Memory Collection and William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

Peter and Sylvia’s son Alphonso Taft married Louisa Maria Torrey, daughter of Samuel Davenport Torrey and Susan Holman Waters. Alphonso and Louisa’s son became the 27th president of the United States.

Here we come full circle to William Howard Taft – and more to come!

Note: Just as an online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, helped tell the stories of the Rawson and Taft family lines, they can tell you stories about your ancestors that can’t be found anywhere else. Come look today and see what you can discover!

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2 thoughts on “U.S. President William Taft’s Mayflower and Edward Rawson Family Line

  1. Thanks for posting this! I had found a reference that said William Torrey, my 7th great grandfather, was an ancestor of President Taft. I’m also a descendant of the Mayhews, who settled Martha’s Vineyard.

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