[ Preface ] [ Ch1 Historical ] [ Ch2 - Noteable English Family ] [ Ch 3 16th Century Bicknells ] [ Family Characteristics ]
Thomas Williams Bicknell's 1913 genealogy
Book Chapter IV
CONCERNING SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF
THE BICKNELL FAMILY.
The family is the unit of society. The Bicknell family, as
a whole, has been a singular unity of social units, since the year
1635, when Zachary Bicknell, his wife Agnes or Anne, his son
John, and their so-called servant, John Kitchin, left their ances-
ral home, near Taunton, Somersetshire, England, and found
in Weymouth, in the old colony of Massachusetts Bay, a most
fortunate place for making a home and founding a family. The
Bicknells of the United States and Canada are of Paveley-Bick-
nell origin. Most of them are descended from three brothers,
traditional in most cases, true in ours.
Zachary 1st had a son John 2nd who was the father of twelve,
dren, three sons and nine daughters of the third generation. The
sons were John, 3rd b.1654; Zachary, 3rd b. 1668; and Thomas, 3rd b,
1670, at Weymouth, Mass. The descendants of John 3rd are the
most numerous of the three male branches, and are mainly lo-
cated in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New York, Penn-
sylvania, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas and
The Zacharia 3rd descendants dwell in Eastern Rhode Island, Con-
necticut, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wiscon-
sin, Minnesota, Iowa, Utah, Idaho and
California. The de-
scendants of Thomas 3rd are the smallest of the three groups, and
are found in Rhode Island, west of Naragansett Bay and Provi-
dence River, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and Ontario,
Canada. In general, it may be stated that the John 3rd families have
been the home guard; that the Zachariah 3rd branch has moved west
with the growth of the country, while the Thomas 3rd line has de-
voted itself to manufacturing and commercial
is found in Eastern centers. The John 3rd people have been farmers
as have most of the descendants of Zachariah 3rd prior to 1800,
The men and women of the Bicknell type and blood have illus-
trated some of the most singular and interesting traits of indi-
vidual and social life. Let Me state some of them.
First - A remarkable fidelity to home, children and the mar-
riage bond. I have studied the Bicknell family for more than
half a century, and have known a multitude of families of the
name and blood. And among them ???????????????????????
Bicknell false to the marriage vows. I
have seen an almost
universal love for and pride in the family life, and a devotion
of parents and children one for another that have made Bicknell
homes the centres of mutual affection, trust, purity and peace.
Second - The family has held its rank in the great middle
class of American society. "Give me neither poverty nor riches"
seems to have been the prayer of our people that has been almost
universally answered by a beneficent Providence. I know of no
Bicknell of great wealth in America, neither can I name one who
has not carried himself bravely, even in reduced conditions of life.
'Once I was young; now I am old; yet have I never seen the
righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread."
Third - Temperance has been the almost universal
the family. The Bicknells of America have always sat at well-
filled tables with abounding appetites, but have seldom used alco-
holic stimulants or tobacco to excess. In the early day, rum and
tobacco were in common use among men, and snuff was used
by men and women of all classes, including the clergy and their
wives. The sideboard in the New England home and parsonage,
with a supply of liquors, was a social necessity of the eighteenth
century. The sideboards remain as heirlooms; the spirit that
inhabited them fled in the early days of the nineteenth century
to that bourne whence there is no return.. Bicknells, as a rule
are and have been total abstainers.
Fourth - So far as the knowledge and records of our family
go, no one of the Bicknell name or blood has been found guilty
of a criminal offense or been behind prison bars for crime. Our
family tree has no hangman's ropes dangling from a single branch.
It goes without saying that we are a law-loving, law-obeying
Again, Christian ideals have been the standards of individual
and family life. Our first ancestors in America were members
of the New England Congregational Church. Since that early
day the church and home have been close allies in the making
of good lives, and this union is still powerful. The Christian
Church is still held in high honor among us. Many are now
devoted Methodists; many are ardent Baptists; others are broad-
gauge Universalists; some are Episcopalians; some Unitarian
some Scientists. All are true to the doctrine of soul liberty and
the persuasions of a liberal brotherhood in the bonds of faith
The old family Bible, brought to America in 1635 by Zachary
and Agnes, is still an heirloom in the family of John, of West
Paris, Me., and on its sacred pages we can all place our hands
pledging allegiance to its eternal truths and obedience to its sub-
Once again: The Bicknells do not believe in race suicide.
They do believe that the Bicknell blood is red with iron, and
that Bicknell children are worth raising, For some reason be-
yond our ken the old New England families
are dying out in
the home towns, for which, God pity and help us. One thing
is true, however, that the Bicknells are not monstrous murderers
of unborn babies. Misconception is not a
crime, but it is an
awful loss and waste of the eternal forces
of life. And we
may pray that Bicknell virility and fertility may be restored by
a good understanding and a wise application
of the laws of
Zachariah (5) had ...........7 children (m. 1752).
David (5) had................10
" (two wives).
Lemuel (5) had...............9
Benjamin (5) had.............9
Ebenezer (5) had.............4
Joseph (5) had...............8
Nathaniel (5) had...........10
John (5) had.................4
Nathan (5) had...............7
Peter (5) had................8
Asa (5) had.................9
Children of sixth generation....7 8-11 children to each,
Laban Porter (7) had.........10 children (m.
Polly Cushing Tirrell (7)had.8
Betsey Cushing Nash (7) had..12
Jesse Bates (7) had..........5
Stephen Burrill (7) had......6
Rebecca White (7) had........4
Jesse (7.B) had..............8
Molly Cleverly( 7) had.......7
Luther Pratt (7) had.........7
Abigail Thomas (7) had.......10
Rebecca French (7) had.......5
Joseph Humphrey (7) had......6
Children in eighth generation. 7 4-12 children to each
And once again: Our family is normally tenacious of life,
and gravitates toward a green old age; and by "a green old age"
I mean years that are serene, philosophical, unwearisome, happy.
If we cannot vie with foreign-born families in numbers, we may
be able to balance our accounts in quality and in length of life.
We are coming to understand that human life is worth conserv-
ing as much as forests, or coal, or cattle. In Massachusetts the
average age of human life has just reached forty-five years. The
Bicknells long ago beat that mark, and in many cases have neared
the century line. Seven sons and daughters of my grandfather's
family reached the average of over eighty-three years; one, my
uncle, James Bicknell, living to be ninety-six. I commend the
life-saving principle to all living of the Bicknell stock. John the
third saw eighty-three good years. A very interesting study of
this Bicknell history will be found in the high age limit of our
Home making, family raising and honest living are the chief
business of the Bicknell stock. Our wealth is in our soul worth.
We worship at the altar of Character, not
that of Gold,
where the imps of Poverty never molest nor make afraid. If
you see men and women, tall, erect, good foreheads, square chins,
aquiline noses, blue eyes, intelligent faces, well dressed, without
show or parade, walk along a street and look five policemen in the
face without blinking, be sure such are fit to be of the Bicknells.
Such are all those of dear old Weymouth, our mother town; of
Braintree, and Abington, and Hingham, and Boston, and Cam-
bride, and Haverhill, and Maine, and Vermont, and Rhode Is-
land and New York, and Ohio, the West and the South, and all
over. The only pity is that the good God, in his early creative
work in clay modeling, did not begin with the Bicknells; then
Adam's fall could not have happened, and such multitudes would
have escaped the orthodox inferno into which A-damned race
is said to have been plungel for all eternity.
Our honored Chaplain, Rev. George
W. Bicknell, D. D.,
writes as follows:
"I have been asked to say a word on the 'Bicknell Standing
and Name' Whatever any people may possess, there is nothing
so rich, grand and blessed as a good name. And such, I believe
the Bicknells can claim.
"If there are any shadows, they do not obscure the name
for, as a whole, it reflects richness in integrity, grandeur in man
hood, grace in womanhood, and blessedness in its influence on
association and environment.
"Go into the average Bicknell home, and
you will find har-
mony, loyalty, faithfulness and love.
"You will find a religious and spiritual
inspires heart and soul, even if there is not great manifestation.
"You will find going out from those homes, industry in busi-
ness, honesty in deal and lives commanding the respect of com-
"Quiet and unostentatious living, not extreme in
temperate, believing that the temple of one's being should be
zealously cared for, knowing that the Divine Spirit dwells, or
should dwell, within, long length of days, generally speeking, is
one of the physical blessings given to the Bicknell family. Many
have passed the four-score mile post before ending their pleasant
journey of earth life. What an opportunity for unfolding has
thus been afforded as preparatory to the higher activities!
"We reverence the memory of the Bicknells passed on. If
'to die is gain,' as St. Paul affirmed, they have seen the solution
of that which is so glorious to our faith. Honored in life and
honoring life, our gaze penetrates thc misty veil, and we
them, not dead, living, God's children, unfolding the nobler char-
acteristics of their natures; and yet may we feel they have
an interest in us - may gather there to plan a welcome for us
when the angel shall lead us through the gloom to the summer-
land of immortality?"
Rev. John Bicknell speaks of the family thus: "Our name
has appeared but little more frequently on the roll of ministers
than on the roll of statesmen, and yet the virtues for which the
family has today been lauded should fit for the ministry. It is
a place of sincerity in thought and expression. In spite of all
the talk about a 'muzzed pulpit,' no one
in the pulpit can
expect to be listened to or even tolerated if he fails to speak
his honest convictions. The practice of such sincerity, weather
in pulpit or pew, in market or at the bar, must keep our family
name untarnished. It will, however, do more. The genius of
Alladdin's lamp, so we are told in the Arabian Nights' Tales,
built a palace with twenty-four windows, all but one set in frame
of precious stones. This one window was left for the Sultan,
to whom the palace was a present, to finish. He labored long,
only to abandon the task as hopeless when his treasure was ex-
hausted. The genius of our name has built a palace of which
we are proud. This palace is, however, incomplete; each gener-
ation has a window to build, and may, if sincere, though its
ability be only of the two-talent order, build so well as to show
forth more of the ideal plan of our architect-genius. We may
even increase the worlds respect for the name."
The Bicknells have not been office-seekers, though many have
held offices, high and low, in town, state and nation. Our an-
cestor, John, 2 represented Weymouth as Deputy to the General
Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1677 and 1678, sitting
in Council with the most eminent men of that historic colony.
Since that early day, members of our family have sat in legis-
lative halls in nearly all the states of their residence. The writer
was a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly while a
member of the junior class of Brown University,
his first speech was in favor of the abolition of separate schools
for colored children in the public schools of Providence. He
was also a member of the General Court of Massachusetts for
two years, 1888-1890, serving as Chairman of the Committees
on Education and Woman's Suffrage, in the House of Repre-
sentatives at Boston.
Four at least, of Bicknell name or blood, have represented
Congressional Districts in the National House of Representatives
at Washington; Bennett Bicknell, of New York, of the Zach-,
ariah branch; George Augustus, of Indiana, of the
branch; Charles Quincy Tirrell, of Massachusetts, of the John
branch, and Mr. Hatch, of Michigan, of the Zachariah branch.
Our roll of honor will be found most interesting, thou in-
complete. It contains the names of Judges, Senators, Repre-
sentativcs, Military and Naval Officers, Soldiers in all the wars
of our country, especially a large number in the
Lawyers, Clergymen, Doctors Bankers, Artists, Poets, et cetera
et cetera, with a great multitude of maids and mistresses of honor,
who, like the virtuous woman of the Proverbs, "the heart of her
husband doth safely trust in her;" "she will do him good and
not evil all the days of her life;" "she girdeth her loins with
strength ·" "her husband is known in the gates, where he sitteth
among the elders;" "many daughters have done virtuously, but
thou excellest them all;" "give her of the fruit of her, hands, and
let her own work praise her in the gates."
The unusual health and virility of the family as a whole, with
good marriages, have preserved certain important personal de-
tails that distinguish the Bicknells. Most
male Bicknells are
tall, with well proportioned bodies, Many of the family are
at, about or above six feet tall. The writer is six feet three and
one-half inches, at the age of seventy-nine, as straight as an
arrow; weight, one hundred and ninety pounds. A Bicknell
gathering of three hundred people will show good heads, well
set on broad shoulders, firm chins, ample mouths, large aquiline
or Roman noses, blue eyes, high foreheads, brown hair, often
curly, on heads inclined to early baldness and an early crop of
grey hair. The Bicknell features are regular and many of the
family are handsome, while few are distinctly homely. Zachary
the first, must have been a tall man with a fine physique, and
most likely Agnes was a handsome woman. Hence, a well fash-
ioned, healthy, normal race of men and
women. For which
thank God and Zachary and Agnes.
BICKNELLS IN FIRST UNITED
Number of families in the several states bearing the name, vari-
ously spelled Bicknell, Bicknel, Bicknall, Bicknal, Becknall, Beck·
nal, Becknall, Becknal, Beeknell.
Maine, three heads of families.
New Hampshire, one head of family.
Vermont, two heads of families.
Massachusetts, fourteen heads of families.
Rhode Island, five heads of families.
Connecticut, four heads of families.
Pennsylvania, one head of family.
Virginia, four heads of families.
Number of heads of families, 34.
All other members, 175; total, 209 persons.
Average size of family, 6.1.