He was born Jeremiah Jones Colbath in Farmington, Strafford Co., NH on 16 February 1812.
He led the usual life of a farm boy until the summer of 1822 when he was bound by indenture to a hard-working farmer of his neighborhood, Mr. Knight, until the age of twenty-one. He was to have one month’s schooling in the winter, food and clothing, and six sheep and a yoke of oxen delivered to him when his service ended. Kindly neighbors lent him books so that he could continue his own education, and reportedly at the time that his indenture ended, he had read a thousand volumes of history, biography, philosophy, and general literature.
In 1833, now having reached majority age (21) by the act of the NH legislature, he changed his name to Henry Wilson (supposedly done with the advice of family and with the approval of his parents). Unable to obtain employment in New Hampshire, we went to Massachusetts to seek his fortune, and arrived in Natick. There he hired himself out to Mr. William P. Legro, as a shoemaker’s apprentice, and learned the trade.
In 1835 he helped form The Natick Debating Society, which continued until it merged with the Natick Lyceum. In 1836 his health failed, and on physician advice he traveled south to Washington D.C. While there he observed slavery in its various forms, and “became hardened against it.”
Upon his return from the south, he went to Strafford NH, and began a course of study at the academy at Wolfsboro, on “Winnipiseogee Lake,” following by teaching one winter in the district school. In the spring of 1837 he began study at the academy in Concord NH where among other subjects he studied elocution. That same year, a Farmington NH gentleman to whom he had loaned money, failed in business and left him peniless. With the help of friends he was able to continue at the academy until the autumn of 1837, when he left again for Natick MA. There he taught school, and paid off his debts. And here he began to manufacture shoes, which he continued for ten years.
Mr. Wilson was against the use of intoxicating liquors, and had in 1831 joined a temperance society, and in 1867 gave a speech against it in Tremont Temple, Boston MA. In 1840 he campaigned and spoke for William Henry Harrison. He was elected a representative from the Town of Natick to the General Court of Massachusetts, where he was an eloquent speaker. In November 1842 he was a candidate for the State Senate but was defeated. In 1844 he won a senate seat, and again in 1845. He worked toward the rights of the worker, and of the black population (including advocating their right to seats in railroad cars, and admission to public schools).
In 1843 he was elected major of the first regiment of artillery (without his knowledge), followed by election to colonel of the same regiment in June 1846. In 1846 he declined candidacy for the Senate and instead took a seat in the House of Representatives. He continued for several more years being involved in the political arena.
Massachusetts State Legislature – (1840-1846 & 1850-1852)
U.S. Senate, representing Massachusetts – (1855-1873)
In 1871 he spent the summer abroad. He left New York on “The Scotia” and traveled over six thousand miles in Europe, visiting Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna and many other cities.
He won the nomination for, and in 1873 was elected Vice President of the United States under President Ulysses S. Grant. On 4 March 1873, Mr. Wilson took his seat as presiding officer of the United States Senate.
While still Vice President, on 22 November 1875 (age 64) he died at his room in the Capitol Building, in Washington DC, with one attendant at his bedside. The following Thursday his body lay in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol, and was visited by thousands. Cannon were fired, bells tolled. The senate-chamber was draped in mourning. The chair of the Vice-President was arrayed in crape. The casket was borne by twelve soldiers. The hearse was drawn by ten black horses; the chime of St. Stephen’s Church pealed forth the “Dead March.” The remains were conveyed for burial in Natick, Massachusetts.
In regard to VP Wilson’s efforts for freedom and equality of African Americans, three notable black men, Frederick Douglass, Robert Purvis and James Wormley, were selected with the Senate Committee to accompany his honored remains from Washington to Massachusetts.
Daniel C. French created a bust of Henry Wilson in 1885. [See also this PDF]
The book, “Landmarks of Dover,” states that Broth Hill, found at the south end of Durham NH, also called the “Broth-Hill district,” was probably derived from the Coolbroth family that once lived here.
A NH Historical Marker (#98) honoring Henry Wilson, was placed in Farmington NH in 1975. The marker is located on the east side of NH Route 153, at the entrance to the Farmington Country Club.
–Biography: Henry Wilson, from Encyclopedia of Massachusetts
Sources for both Biography and Family Tree:
1. The Life and Public Services of Henry Wilson: Late Vice-president of the United States by Elias Nason, Thomas Russell, published 1876
2. The Life of Henry Wilson: Republican Candidate for Vice-president, 1872
By Jonathan Bacon Mann; published 1872: J.R. Osgood and Company
3. The National Capitol: Its Architecture, Art and History.
4. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, By Frederick Douglass, page 511
5. NEHGS Register 32:261 [complete bio and partial genealogy]
**Genealogy of Henry Wilson**
The Colbath family originally is supposed from Argyleshire in Scotland, emigrated to the north of Ireland in the troublesome times of James the First; thence to America, and settled at Newington NH early in the eighteen century. The earliest form in which the family name appears in this country is Colbreath, Coolbroth, Calbreath, and Colbath.
James Coolbroth/Colbath was born about 1715, baptized 19 Sep 1725 at Newington NH, and died about 1800 in Middleton, Strafford Co NH. He married abt 1738 in Newington, Rockingham Co H to Olive Leighton. She b. 1720 in Newington NH and d. 1800 in Middleton NH. He did business in Portsmouth NH from 1750 to 1783, when he removed to Middleton, in Stratford County NH, where he died in 1800, at an advanced age.
Children of James & Olive (Leighton) Colbreath:
1. Leighton Colbath, b. 3 Nov 1739 in Durham, Strafford Co NH; m. Deborah Leighton; had issue; resided Durham NH and Boothbay, Lincoln Co ME
2. Independence Colbath, b. 17 Feb 1743 in Newington, Rockingham Co NH; he married and had issue.
3. Hunking Colbath, b. 17 Feb 1744 in Newington NH; married Susannah Knight; had issue and resided in Rochester, Strafford Co NH
4. Deborah Colbath, b. 9 Oct 1745 in Newington NH; married in Greeland NH to Charles
5. Keziah Colbath, b. abt 1750 in Newington NH, d. 16 June 1751
6. +Winthrop Colbath, b. 18 March 1751 in Newington NH
7. Amy Colbath, b. 9 July 1758 in Newington NH
8. Benning Colbath, b. 28 May 1762 in Newington NH; m. Mary Rollins; had issue b. in Rochester, Strafford Co NH
Winthrop Colbreath/Colbath, b. 18 March 1751 in Newington, Rockingham Co NH and d. 11 May 1831 in Farmington, Strafford Co NH; He m. 25 Nov 1773 in Farmington NH to Hannah Rollins of Newington NH, dau of Archibald & Mary Rollins. She b. 8 Sep 1750 in Greenland, Rockingham Co NH and d. 1829. ; they removed to Rochester NH (now Farmington) about 1783 or just before the birth of their son Winthrop. Possibly he is the Winthrop Colbath shown on the US Revolutionary War Rolls (1775-1783) as Quarter Master Sergeant from NH.
Children of Winthrop & Hannah (Rollins) Colbath:
1. George Colbath, b. 26 July 1766 in Newington, Rockingham Co NH; he m. 1796 to Mary Knight. They had 11 children born in Middleton, Strafford Co NH.
2. +Winthrop Colbath Jr., b. 7 Apr 1787
Winthrop Colbath Jr., son of Winthrop & Hannah (Rollins) Colbath, was born 7 April 1787, and d. 10 Feb 1860 in Natick MA; He m. 14 Oct 1811 in Farmington NH to Abigail Witham. She b. 21 March 1785 in Kittery, York Co ME, and d. 8 Aug 1866 in Natick MA. They are both buried in the Natick MA cemetery, with marble headstones placed by their son. At the time of their son’s birth, they were living in a small cottage on the right bank of the Cocheco River, about one mile south of the “Dock” (village). One source states “all traces of the habitation were long ago obliterated. Winthrop was a day laborer and ran a saw mill on the river below his house.
Children of Winthrop & Abigail (Witham) Colbath:
1. +Jeremiah Jones Colbath, b. 16 February 1812 in Farmington NH; changed name to Henry Wilson
2. John Francis Colbath, b. 21 March 1815 in Farmington NH; d. 2 Oct 1897 in Whitefield NH; He married 1st) 1842 in Natick MA to Sarah D. Jones. She b. 1821 in Natick MA. He married 2nd 1857 in Nashua NH to Lydia Ann Parsons. She b. 17 July 1827 in Compton Quebec, and d. 9 May 1915 in Whitefield, Coos Co NH. Farmer; had children: Harriet Wilson, John Henry, Charles Francis, Mary Parsons, and Nellie.
3. Charles H. Colbath, b abt 1816 in Farmington NH and d. 27 March 1877 in Hingham, Plymouth Co MA; He m 10 Dec 1841 in Hingham MA to Eliza C. Newcomb. She b. 6 June 1826 and d. 6 Feb 1907 in Hingham MA. He was a stone-cutter. Had children: Abigail Wilson, Ianthe Elizabeth, Harriet Francis, Abna, Oscar Henry, Charles Winthrop, Eliza Newcomb, Charles Hamilton.
4. Samuel Colbath, b. 10 Aug 1818 in Farmington NH; doorkeeper at the United States Senate, Washington DC
5. George Albert Colbath, b. 15 July 1821 in Farmington NH; d. 19 Nov 1894 in Natick MA; He m. 17 March 1844 in Natick MA to Hannah Marie Howe. She b. abt 1829 in Boston MA; he was an inspector at the Custom House in Boston MA. Had issue: William Herbert, Ella Marie, Abby D., Laura A., Emma F., and Flora H.
Jeremiah Jones Colbath, son of Winthrop & Abigail (Witham) Colbath, b. 16 Feb 1812 in Farmington NH. He changed his name to Henry Wilson. He married 28 Oct 1840 to Harriet Malvina Howe of Natick MA, dau of Amasa and Mary (Toombs) Howe. Rev. Mr. Hunt performed the ceremony. On her mother’s side she was descended from Daniel Toombs, an early settler of Hopkinton. She was a “lady of good education, refined in sentiment, gentle in manner, and remarkable for the sweetness of her disposition.” She died 28 May 1870. They lived on Central Street in Natick, in a house built for them. Mr. Wilson was robust and well proportion. he stood five feet, ten inches tall in height and weighed about one hundred and eighty pounds. He had a light complexion and clear skin. He died on 22 November 1875 (age 64) in Washington D.C. His will dated April 21, 1874, bequeathed all of his property to his nephew, W.L. Coolidge to be held in trust for the benefit of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Mary Howe, for the support and education of his adopted daughter, Eva Wilson, and for other minor purposes. The whole property did not exceed $10,000. He and his wife were buried at the Dell-park Cemetery in Natick MA.
U.S. Census > 1870 United States Federal Census > Massachusetts > Middlesex > Natick
Wilson, Henry 58 M W Rep in Congress 7000/1000 NH
Howe, Mary 83 F W No occupation Mass
Doherty, Ellen 25 F W domestic servant Ireland
Coolidge, Mary L. 18 F W Domestic servant Mass
Brook, William 65 M W Gardener Mass
U.S. Census > 1880 United States Federal Census > Massachusetts > Middlesex > Natick > District 410
Fifield, Ammie M. W F 58 keeps house MA NH NH NH
Fifield, Idee L W F 18 daughter at home MA MA MA
Howe, Mary T. W F 93 boarder no occup MA MA MA
Hunt, Annah P. W F 65 boarder nurse MA MA MA
Wilson, Evangeline W F 14 boarder attends school MA US US
Child of Henry & Harriet M. (Howe) Wilton:
1. Henry Hamilton Wilson, b. 11 November 1846 in Natick, Middlesex Co MA; d. 24 Dec 1866 in Austin, Austin Co TX
2. Evangeline “Eva” Wilson, b. abt 1864-66 in Natick, Middlesex Co MA