Lancaster NH’s John Wingate Weeks (1860-1926) — the “Weeks” behind the “Weeks Act”

Portrait of John W. Weeks, then Senator of Massachusetts 31 May 1916 sitting in room, Chicago IL at Republican National Convention. From Chicago History Museum, via American Memory.

Portrait of John W. Weeks, then Senator of Massachusetts 31 May 1916 sitting in room, Chicago IL at Republican National Convention. From Chicago History Museum, via The Library of Congress: American Memory.

In 2011 the United States Forest Service celebrated the 100th anniversary of one of the most successful land conservation efforts in the United States. The Weeks Act was signed into law in 1911, after a decade-long debate about the role of the federal government in protecting forest lands.  The Weeks Act is named after John Wingate Weeks, a New Hampshire native who, in 1909 while serving in the U.S. Congress for 12th Congressional District of Massachusetts, introduced a bill concerning the federal purchase of forest reserves.

This Weeks Act eventually passed both the U.S. House and Senate, and was signed by President Taft on March 1, 1911.  The new law appropriated $9 million to purchase 6 million acres of land in the eastern United States.john wingate weeks

John Wingate Weeks was the son of William Dennis and Mary Helen (Fowler) Weeks, had been born in the quaint town of Lancaster, New Hampshire. He would have had a daily view of New Hampshire’s highest peaks–Mounts Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Washington in the Presidential Range. Perhaps this is why he felt so strongly about preserving the forests.

Besides being a savvy banker and founder of a securities firm, he held many positions of public trust.  He served as both alderman and then mayor of Newton, Massachusetts.  In 1905 he was elected to the United States Congress. Weeks received 105 votes for the Presidential nomination during the 1916 Republican National Convention. In March 1921, Weeks was appointed as Secretary of War by President Harding, remaining in this position into Coolidge administration, but resigning in late 1925 due to health issues.


Leonard Weeks immigrated to the America colonies. Tradition states he came from Wells, in Somerset, England. Reportedly his name appears as a witness to a bond in York County Maine on 6 Dec 1655 and next in Portsmouth NH records on 29 June 1656 when he received a rant of 8 acres there. The part of Portsmouth where he settled is now in Greenland NH. In 1660 he received several grants of land. By February 1661 he settled at Winnicut River that is now in Greenland NH, living there until his death in 1707. In 1667 he married Mary Haines, daughter of Dea. Samuel Haines of Portsmouth NH his neighbor. After her death he married 2nd) Elizabeth –. In 1660 he was fined 10 Shillings for “swearing by God and calling John Hall of Greenland, ould dog, and ould slave, & that he woulod knock him on the head.” The following year he was elected one of the selectman of Portsmouth, and was also constable and sheriff. In 1669 he was on a committee to lay a highway between Greenland and Bloody Point. His seat at the Portsmouth church was No. 4.
Children of Leonard & Mary (Haines) Weeks:
1. John Weeks
2. Samuel Weeks [see more]
3. Joseph Weeks,
4. +Joshua Weeks, b. 30 June 1674
5. Mary Weeks
6. Jonathan Weeks
7. Martha Weeks
8. Sarah Weeks


Captain Joshua Weeks, son of Leonard & Mary (Haines) Weeks, was b. 30 June 1674 and d. 13 June 1758, aged 84. He married November 1699 in Boston MA to Comfort Hubbard, sister of Thomas Hubbard. (Her brother was treasurer of Harvard College and a wealthy Christian merchant of Boston MA). They resided at the Bay Side. She d. 20 March 1756. Capt. Joshua joined the church in May 1735.
Children of Capt. Joshua & Comfort (Hubbard) Weeks:
1. Martha Weeks, b. Greenland NH
2. Joshua Weeks, b. Greenland NH
3. Comfort Weeks, b. Greenland NH
4. Mary Weeks, b. Greenland NH
5. Ichabod Weeks, b. Greenland NH
6. +John Weeks, b. 1716 Greenland NH
7. Thankful Weeks, b. Greenland NH
8. William Weeks, b. Greenland NH
9. Richard Weeks, b. Greenland NH
10. Margaret Weeks, b. Greenland NH


Dr. John Weeks, son of Captain Joshua & Comfort (Hubbard) Weeks, was b. 1716 and d. 20 Oct 1763 of consumption, aged 47. He was a physician studying in the United States and in England. He began his practice in Greenland then moved to Hampton NH. He was a large landowner, was justice of the peace and colonel of a regiment of militia. He married 1st) 10 Nov 1737 Martha Wingate of Hampton NH, dau of Major Joshua Wingate. She was b. 30 March 1718. She died 9 March 1758 age 40. He married 2nd) Elizabeth — who survived him.
Children of Dr. John & Martha (Wingate) Weeks:
1. Joshua Wingate Weeks
2. Comfort Weeks
3. Martha Weeks,
4. Mary Weeks
5. Sarah Weeks
6. +Capt. John Weeks, b. 10 Sep 1818
7. William Weeks
8. Ward Cotton Weeks
9. Abigail Weeks, died young
10. Joanna Weeks


Capt. John Weeks, son of Dr. John & Martha (Wingate) Weeks, was b. 17 Feb 1749 in Hampton NH, and d. 10 September 1818. He was lieutenant in the revolutionary army, a member of the convention that adopted the constitution of New Hampshire (1788 elected by his district), several years representative in the legislature of the United States, and an influential citizen. In 1776 he was second lieutenant in Captain Jonathan Robinson’s company, enlisted into the service to reinforce the army at New York. In 1783 he left Greenland for Lee, New Hampshire, then in May 1787 settled in a new town of Lancaster, Coos County, New Hampshire. He married 27 Dec 1770 to Deborah Brackett, daughter of John Brackett of Greenland NH. She was b. 25 Dec 1749, and was an educated woman. She died 5 July 1831 aged 82.
Children of John & Deborah (Brackett) Weeks:
1. Martha Weeks, b. 20 Dec 1771 in Greenland, Rockingham Co., NH; m. Edward Spaulding; resided in Lancaster NH; d. age 91
2. Deborah “Deba” Weeks, b 20 November 1773 in Greenland NH; probably died young, see Deborah II.
3. Deborah Weeks II, b. 29 February 1776 in Greenland NH;
4. Elizabeth Weeks, b. 10 March 1778 in Greenland NH;
5. John Wingate Weeks, eldest son, born 31 March 1781 in Greenland, Rockingham Co. NH; prominent in military and public affairs. Served in the War of 1812, Representative in Congress from 1829 to 1833
6. +James Brackett Weeks, b. 14 June 1784 in Greenland NH
7. Polly Wiggin Weeks, b 7 March 1787 in Greenland NH
8. Sarah Brackett “Sally” Weeks, b. 13 August 1789 in Greenland NH; m. 25 Jan 1816 in Lancaster NH to Edward Bucknam; lived to 98+


James Brackett Weeks, son of Capt. John & Deborah (Brackett) Weeks b 14 June 1784 in Greenland NH, and d. 19 March 1858 aged 74 years. He resided in Lancaster, New Hampshire, a farmer by occupation, residing on Mount Prospect. He attended the First Congregational Church. he married 1 January 1810 in Lancaster NH to Elizabeth “Betsey” Stanley, dau of Dennis & Sally Stanley. She was born 4 Aug 1785 in Lancaster, NH and died there 24 December 1854. She was an excellent horsewoman.
Children of James B. & Elizabeth (Stanley) Weeks:
1. +James Wingate Weeks, b. 15 July 1811 in Lancaster NH
2. Mary Nye Weeks
3. Sarah Stanley Weeks
4. +William Dennis Weeks, b. 1819
5. John Weeks, b. 1822
6. Martha Eliza Weeks
7. Persis Fayette Weeks


Hon. James Wingate Weeks, son of James W. & Elizabeth (Stanley) Weeks, was b. 15 July 1811 in Lancaster NH, and died 5 September 1899 in Lancaster NH . He was a farmer, land surveyor, manufacturer and public official. He owned a farm on Mount Prospect where he lived. He was one of the four men from Lancaster who were asked to assist survey the boundary between the United States and Canada in 1845. In 1840 he partnered with Ashbel Pierce manufacturing wagons and buggies. He also taught school. A Democrat, he was a member of the board of county commissioners, 1893 member State Board of Agriculture, moderator and selectman of the town. Charter member of the White Mountain Railroad. He was a member of the first board of directors of the Savings Bank of the County of Coos [later the Lancaster Savings Bank]. President and Treasurer of Lancaster Academy, assisted with the preparation of the History of Lancaster . He married 1st) 30 may 1842 in Lancaster NH to Martha Willard Hemenway, dau of Solomon Hemenway of Lancaster NH. He married 2nd) March 1859 to Mary Elizabeth Burns of Plymouth NH, dau of Dr. Robert Burns. She d. 2 Feb 1878, age 52 years.
Children of Hon. James & Martha W. (Hemenway) Weeks:
1. +George Hemenway Weeks, b. 18 March 1843 in Lancaster NH
2. Sarah Wilder Weeks
3. James Wingate Weeks
4. Clara H. Weeks

William Dennis Weeks, son of James Brackett and Elizabeth (Stanley) Weeks, was born in 1819 in Lancaster NH and died 27 February 1885 in Lancaster, Coos Co., NH; m. 3 July 1848 in Lancaster NH to Mary Helen Fowler, daughter of John & Mary (Bacon) Fowler. She was b. 1823 in Woodstock CT, and died 18 August 1897 in Newton MA; farmer and country probate judge of Coos County, from 1876 until his death in 1885. They had 3 children a daughter and two sons.
1870 US Census > New Hampshire > Coos > Lancaster > 52
Weeks, William D. 44 M W farmer 3000/1000 NH
Weeks, Mary 43 F W keeping House Connecticut
Weeks, Emma 17 F W at home Vermont
Weeks, John W. 10 M W at home NH
Weeks, William B. 7 M W NH
Emerson, Edward 21 M W Farm Laborer VT
Children of William D. & Mary H. (Fowler) Weeks:
1. Emma F. Weeks, b. 1853 St. Johnsbury, Vermont; She m. 31 Oct 1877 in Lancaster, Coos Co. NH to Burleigh Roberts, son of George T. & Mary (Titcomb) Roberts. He was b. 7 Feb 1852 in Milan NH, and died 9 January 1916 in Lancaster, Coos Co., NH.   At the time of his death he was the registrar of the probate court in Coos County NH.
2. +John Wingate Weeks, b. 11 April 1860, Lancaster NH
3. William C./B. Weeks, b. 25 February 1863, Lancaster NH


George Hemenway Weeks, son of James & Martha W. (Hemenway) Weeks, b. 18 March 1843 in Lancaster NH, and died 3 January 1903 in Boston MA. He was a farmer who lived in Lancaster. A Democrat, he never held a public office. Unitarian. He married Martha Belle Remick of Jefferson NH, dau of John & Eliza R. (Holmes) Remick.
Child of George H. & Martha B. (Remick) Weeks:
1. +George Hemenway Weeks, b. 23 October 1867 in Lancaster NH

John Wingate Weeks, son of William Dennis and Mary Helen (Fowler) Weeks, was b. 11 April 1860 in Lancaster NH, and d. 12 July 1926 on Mount Prospect in Lancaster NH. On 7 Oct 1885 he married Martha Aroline Sinclair, dau of John G. Sinclair of Bethlehem NH. Ashes interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Meyer, VA. He graduated in 1881 from the United States Naval Academy, followed by serving two years in the United States Navy as a midshipman. He was a banker, founding the bond house of Hornblower & Weeks in 1888. He was alderman and mayor of Newton MA. He was a a member of the Massachusetts legislature, a U.S. Congressman and Senator, and United States Secretary of War. As a Congressman, he was instrumental in the passage of the Weeks Act in 1911, that created the national forest system in the eastern United States. In 1909 he introduced the bill in the House of Representatives that was eventually signed into law by President Taft, to purchase lands in the southern Appalachian Mountains and white Mountains and maintain them as part of the national forest system.
Children of John Wingate & Martha A. (Sinclair) Weeks:
1. +Katharine Sinclair Weeks, b. 19 Aug 1889; m. 26 Sep 1906 in West Newton MA to John Washington Davidge.
2. +Charles Sinclair Weeks, b. 16 June 1892; grad Harvard 1914; 1st Lieut U.S. Field Artillery, served in France; Sec of Commerce during Eisenhower administration; had summer home in Lancaster NH.


George Hemenway Weeks, son of George H. & Martha B. (Remick) Weeks, b. 23 October 1867 in Lancaster NH. He was educated in the common school of Cape Elizabeth (now South Portland Maine), having moved to that town when young. He was employed by the Twitchell Champlin Company, manufacturers and wholesale grocers in Portland, Maine. In 1906 he became secretary of the Fidelity Trust Company. Active in public affairs, he seved as mayor of South Portland, was a member of Hiram Lodge, No. 180 F and A M of South Portland, Greenleaf Royal Arch Chapter, Portland Council, Royal and Select Masters and Portland Commandery No. 2, Knights Templar, all of Portland. He married 25 Oct 1898 in South Portland ME to Martha Ella Mountfort, dau of George Curtis & Eliza Shaw (Webster) Mountfort. She was b. 15 Apr 1873 in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Children of George H. & Martha E. (Mountfort) Weeks:
1. Martha Ella Weeks, b. 12 Nov 1899 Portland Maine
2. Helen Weeks, b. 14 Dec 1901
3. George Wingate Weeks, b. 5 December 1904

+Katharine Sinclair Weeks, daughter of John Wingate & Martha A. (Sinclair) Weeks, b. 19 Aug 1889; m. 26 Sep 1914 in West Newton MA to John Washington Davidge son of Walter D & Anna L. (?) Davidge. He was b abt 1880 Washington DC and d. 1958. Colonel,  buried in Arlington National Cemetery (his wife is buried beside him).
Children of John W. & Katharine S. (Weeks) Davidge:
1. Martha Sinclair Davidge, b abt 1917 in Washington D.C. She m. 11 Jan 1938 in Washington DC to Mark Sullivan Jr., son of Mark & Marie (McMechen) Sullivan Sr. At the time of his marriage he was an associate with the brokerage firm of Auchinloss, Parker & Redpath. He was b 13 May 1911 in Manhattan NY and d. 2 May 1986 in Georgetown DC. They are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington DC. They had 3 sons “of Bethesda, Nantucket MA and San Rafael California, 3 grandchildren. He had one sister Narcissa Seigchrist of Randolph VT.
2. John Washington Davidge Jr. b 3 June 1919, d. 8 Dec 1986. Served US Navy 1943-1956. He married Susan Gresham (1924-1989) Buried Arlington National Cemetery

+Charles Sinclair Weeks, son of John Wingate & Martha A. (Sinclair) Weeks was b. 16 June 1892; and d. 7 Feb 1972. grad Harvard 1914; 1st Lieut US Field Artillery, served in France (enl 25 July 1917 released 30 Apr 1919. Sec ofCommerce during Eisenhower administration; had summer home in Lancaster NH. He m. 4 Dec 1915 in Newton MA to Beatrice Dowse, dau of William B.H. & Fanny L. (?) Dowse. They are buried in Summer Street Cemetery, Newton MA
Children of Charles S. & Beatrice (Dowse) Sinclair:
1. Frances Weeks Lawrence, d. before him
2. Martha Weeks Sherrill of Providence RI
3. Beatrice Weeks Bast m. Robert Bast of Ambler PA
4. William D. WEeks. m. Frances –; res. Cohasset MA
1. John Wingate Weeks II b 12 June 1920 Newton MA, d. 31 Oct 2013 Belmont MA, buried Highland Meadow Cemetery, Belmont MA. He m. Katharine Claflin. Children: Katharine, Martha, John W. Jr., David C., Robert F.

1. Wikipedia: John W. Weeks
2. John Wingate Weeks: U.S. Army History
3. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
4. U.S. Forest Service History
5. Herringshaw’s national library of American biography: contains thirty-five … edited by Thomas William Herringshaw
6. One thousand New Hampshire notables: brief biographical sketches of New …, by Frances Matilda Abbott
7. Biographical Dictionary of the United States Executive Branch, 1774-1989, by Robert Sobel
8. Granite state monthly, Volumes 45-46, “Hon. John W. Weeks” page 295
9. Genealogical and family history of the state of Maine, Volume 1, by Henry Sweetser Burrage, Albert Roscoe Stubbs, page 36


United States Forest Service History

The Museum of the White Mountains: The Weeks Act

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One Response to Lancaster NH’s John Wingate Weeks (1860-1926) — the “Weeks” behind the “Weeks Act”

  1. This is such a wonderful article! Educational as well as interesting! Thank you so much for this scholarly lesson!

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