Consumed by Fire: Weare New Hampshire’s William Worthley (1808-1874)

William Worthley

William Worthley, cooper of Weare NH, who died in a house fire. Photograph property of Janice Brown, not to be copied or used without her express written permission.

The notation “consumed by fire” on William Worthley’s death certificate sounded grim.  And it all began with the recent purchase of a CDV photo of him. It was taken at the Stephen Piper Studio in Manchester, New Hampshire.  And yes folks, you guessed it, we are related–William was my 2nd cousin 4x removed.   He was also a direct descendant of Jonathan Worthley who participated in Weare’s famous Pine Tree Riot.

William was born in Weare, and worked for many years there, working as a cooper, and raising a family.   There would have been a great local need for barrels, to fill with apples, or potatoes, or really anything that someone might want to sell or store.  He probably made a good living at it.  None of these skills helped him that terrible day in 1874.

Old postcard of North Weare, NH

Old postcard showing the town of North Weare, NH

The Saturday, February 7, 1874 edition of the Mirror and Farmer newspaper of Manchester NH tells the following horrible tale: FIRE AT SOUTH WEARE.
The buildings of William Worthley in South Weare, two miles west of Oil Mills Village, were burned Tuesday afternoon at three o’clock. It is reported that Mr. Worthley, in endeavoring to save some papers, was surrounded by flames and, unable to get out, was burned to death. He was thirty-five or forty years old and leaves a wife. Other reports say that he was burned, but not fatally. We have learned several additional particulars in regard to the fire which destroyed the house of William Worthley in South Weare, Tuesday afternoon. It is supposed to have caught from a defective chimney. The report of Mr. Worthley’s death is confirmed. After he had entered the house and gone upstairs, he was seen to fall, probably suffocated by the smoke. Several attempts were made in vain to rescue him, his wife and daughter being badly burned in the effort.  His family and ancestry are detailed directly below.


Thomas Worthley, originally spelled Wortley, was born in Bedforshire, England, in the year 1691. Reportedly he ran away from home at the age of 14 [he was probably apprenticed], and landed in Salem, Massachusetts in the year 1705. It is not known how long he stayed at that place, but he next moved to Worcester, Massachusetts where he married his first wife, Mehitable Yarrow. From there he went to the then Province of New Hampshire, where he served in the Majesty’s service under the command of Captain Ebeneezer Tyng in Indian campaigns from June 10th to November 10th, 1726. He was enrolled as Thomas Worthley of Dunstable [now Nashua NH]. He also lived in Litchfield, Londonderry, Goffstown, and Parker Village [a section of Goffstown] NH before he settled in Weare, New Hampshire, where he was one of the first settlers. He died in Weare, Hillsborough Co. NH. He was driven off twice by the Indians, and finally built his cabin near Cold Springs. He was 85 years old when the Revolutionary War broke out, and he was the first one to sign the Association Test. His first wife, Mehitable Yarrow, died at Weare, New Hampshire. He married his second, Mehitable Ordway of Hopkinton, lived to be 95 years old. He died in the year 1799, at the great age of 108 years.
Children of Thomas & Mehitable (Yarrow) Worthley/Wortly:
1. Samuel Worthley, b. 2 Dec 1729 in Litchfield NH; d. 1770 in New Gloucester, Cumberland Co. Maine; he m. Lydia Paul; 5 children
2. John Worthley, b. Dec 1731 in Litchfield NH; d. 7 June 1810 in North Yarmouth, Cumberland Co., Maine; he m. Martha Bailey; 11 children
3. Mehitable Worthley, b. 12 July 1734 in Litchfield NH; d. 1835 Weare NH; m. — Wells.
4. Molly Worthley, b. 12 July 1834 in Litchfield NH; d. 1835 in Weare NH; m. 1753 to Jotham Tuttle, one of the heroes of the Pine Tree Riot. They had 8 children.
5. Susannah Worthley, b. abt 1736 Litchfield NH; d. 1831; m. Caleb Emery. They had 9 children.
6. Thomas Worthley, b. abt 1739; d. 1829; m. Jemima –. They had 6 children.
7. Timothy Worthley, b. 1739 in Hillsboro NH; d. 14 April 1830 in Goffstown NH; m. Mary Johnson. 9 Children.
8. +Jonathan Worthley, b. 9 May 1746-1752

Jonathan Worthley, son of Thomas & Mehitable (Yarrow) Worthley, was b. 9 May 1746-1752 in Weare NH and d. 14 Nov 1836 in Weare NH. He m. 1) 11 Dec 1769 in Goffstown NH to Sarah Ordway, dau of John & Mehitable (Holmes) Ordway. She was. b 1751 in Goffstown NH, and d. 1816 in Weare NH. He married 2nd) 7 March 1816 to Tamar Hadley-Grant, dau of Daniel & Mehitable (Whittaker) Hadley, and widow of Isaac Grant. He was a soldier of the American Revolution. in Captain John Parker’s Company, Colonel Timothy Bedel’s New Hampshire Regiment of Rangers and was in the Attacks on St. Johns and Fort Chambly in 1775. He was in Captain Aaron Quinby’s Company, Colonel Moses Kelley’s New Hampshire Regiment in the Expedition to Rhode Island under General Sullivan in 1778. His 2nd wife Tamar received his pension. He was one of the participant’s in Weare NH’s famous Pine Tree Riot NH.
Children of Jonathan & Sarah (Ordway) Worthley:
1. William Worthley, b 21 March 1770 Weare NH, d. 25 Feb 1813 in Washington, Orange Co. VT; m. Mary “Molly” Eastman; Children: Samuel, Catharine, and Ichabod E.
2. Salley Worthley, b. 5 April 1775 in Weare NH; d. 28 Jan 1850 in Chelsea, Orange Co. VT. She m. 8 June 1789 in Weare NH to Asa George. They had 12 children.
3. Jesse Worthley, b. 8 Aug 1773 in Weare NH, d. Bradford VT; m. Judith Calef; had 5 children.
4. Mehitable Worthley, b. 9 April 1775 in Weare NH; d. Candia, Rockingham Co. NH; m. Francis Smith.
5. Abigail Worthley, b. 23 Jan 1777 in Weare NH; m. Joseph Cram; had 7 children.
6. +Jonathan Worthley Jr., b. 4 June 1778 Weare NH
7. Achsah Worthley, b. 14 Feb 1780 Weare NH; d. in Weare NH. Had 4 children.
8. Samuel Worthley, b. 12 Sep 1781 in Weare NH; d. Henniker, Merrimack Co. NH; m1) 20 June 1805 in Weare NH to Mary “Polly” Lull; m2) 21 Dec 1807 or 1807 in Warner NH to Asenath “Dolly” Sargent; he m3) 14 Jan 1844 in Warner NH to Eunice Sargent. Had 3 children by 2nd wife: Clarisa, Jane and William.
9. Moses Worthley, b. 26 Jan 1874 in Weare NH; d 4 Jan 1816 prob Ware NH; He m. Betsey Cram. 2 children.
10. Asa Worthley, b. 7 May 1785 Weare NH, died young.
11. Polly Worthley, b. 16 March 1788 in Weare NH, died young.
12. Rebecca Worthley, b. 28 Oct 1789 in Weare NH, died young.
13. James Worthley, b. 15 Aug 1791 in Weare NH, d. 1 Oct 1879; m1) — Harpe and had a son; m2) Aug 1813 in Orland, Hancock Co. Maine to Nancy Eaton; had several children by 2nd wife
14. Hannah Worthley, b. 21 Dec 1794 in Weare NH; d. 7 July 1879 in Johnson, Lamoille Co. VT; m. Richard W. Cooper

Jonathan Worthley, Jr. son of Jonathan & Sarah (Ordway) Worthley, b. 4 June 1778 in Weare NH, d. prob Weare NH. He m1) 17 Feb 1803 in Weare NH to Mary “Polly” Favor, dau of John & Lydia (Hoyt) Favor. She b. abt 1778 in Weare NH and died before 1837. They removed to Washington VT. He m2) by 1837 to Mahala Eaton, daughter of Moses & Lucy Eaton. She b. 28 April 1801 in Concord NH and d prob Weare NH. He and his family returned to Weare NH where he died.
Children of Jonathan & Mary “Polly” (Favor) Worthley
1. Ransom Worthley, no more known
2. Lucinda Worthley, b. 30 Oct 1803 in Washington, Orange Co. VT
2. Elizabeth “Betsey” Worthley, b 24 June 1805 in Washington VT, d. 11 April 1879 in Weare NH m. William Favor; had 9 children
3. Moses Worthley, b. 29 Jan 1807 in Washington VT; d. 29 Feb 1888 in Hebron, NH; m. Cynthia D. Marshall. Had 3 children.
4. +William Worthley, b. 30 Dec 1808 Washington VT
5. Jesse Worthley, b. 8 March 1811 in Washington VT; d. 23 Nov 1894 in Boston MA; m1) 23 Feb 1840 in NH to Rhoda B. Dow; m2) after 1855 to Martha M. Fowler. 3 children.
6. Polly Worthley, b abt 1812 Washington VT; d. 9 March 1872 in Weare NH; m. 14 Oct 1831 to David Eaton; 3 children.
7. Sarah Worthley, b. May 1816 in Weare NH; d. 1867; m. 5 April 1836 in Weare NH to Jacob Follansbee; had 5 children.
8. Alfred Worthley, b 30 May 1820 in Bradford VT, d. 6 Jan 1909 in Rowley MA; m. Mary Elizabeth Pickard / Packard. 5 children.
9. Almira J. Worthley, b. abt 1825 Weare NH; d. 10 April 1888 in Salem MA; m. Moses D. Eaton. 4 children.
Children of Jonathan & Mahala (Eastman) Worthley:
10. Jonathan Worthley, b. 23 Nov 1837 Weare NH; d. 15 May 1888 in Manchester NH
11. Charles Stinson Worthley, b. 16 Aug 1840 Weare NH; d. unmarried

William Worthley, son of Jonathan & Mary Eaton (Favor) Worthly, b. 30 Dec 1808 in Washington VT and d. 3 February 1874 in Weare NH “consumed by fire.” He married 20 Feb 1833 in Goffstown NH to Mary Eaton Worthley, daughter of James Worthley. She was b abt 1816 in South Weare NH and d. 5 April 1885 in Chelsea MA. He removed from VT to Weare NH where he was a cooper.
Thursday, February 12, 1874 Argus and Patriot (Montpelier VT) p 1: The dwelling of William Worthley in Weare, N.H. was destroyed by fire Tuesday of last week. Mr. Worthley entered the burning building to save some valuables and was unable to make his escape. He leaves a wife and several children
February 4, 1874 Boston Journal (Boston MA)
Fire and Loss of Life at South Weare
MANCHESTER, Feb 4. At about 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon a fire broken out in the upper part of the dwelling house of Mr. William Worthley, situated in South Weare, about two miles from Oil Mill Village, and it was totally destroyed. Several persons who were in the vicinity of the fire report that Mr. Worthley overtook to save some of his books and papers and was overwhelmed by the fire and lost his life. He leaves a widow and one or two children.
Children of William & Mary (Worthley) Worthley:
1. Olive A. Worthley, b. May 1833 in Weare NH and d. 5 Sep 1906 in Boston MA. She m1) 12 March 1854 in Chelsea MA to Frederick Pyne, son of Charles & Sarah A. Pyne. He b. abt 1832 Eastport Maine and d. 19 May 1870 in Boston MA. They had 2 children, James William Pyne and Josephine S. Pyne. Olive m2) 7 Dec 1871 in Boston MA to Isaac N. Chickering, son of John Newton & Sarah A. (Pyne) Chickering. He was b Oct 1839 in Maine and d. 1923. Child: Augusta Isabel Chickering who m. Edgar Burr Guyer.
2. Cyrus W. Worthley, born abt 1838 in Dorchester MA, died 15 Feb 1855 in Chelsea MA.
3. Mary Jeannette Worthley, b. 26 Oct 1856 in Chelsea MA and d. 22 April 1882 in Chelsea MA; She m. 21 Oct 1875 in Weare NH to John Carroll Hovey.



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6 Responses to Consumed by Fire: Weare New Hampshire’s William Worthley (1808-1874)

  1. Amy says:

    How terrible. Did the wife and child survive? And FOURTEEN children? People certainly had a lot of children back then. I find it amazing how far back your New England roots go!

    • Janice Brown says:

      Amy, his wife survived him by 11 years (though I have no way of knowing about her quality of life) and I don’t find a child who died near his death date. The children I was able to track lived to adulthood and married. My New England roots go back to the early 1600s on the Isles of Shoals. I have a bit of Iberian DNA, and I’ve suspected for a long time that those particular immigrants were Portuguese or Spanish fishermen who had been crossing the Atlantic prior to the Mayflower landing. They were not very good at keeping records, so I doubt I will ever be able to prove such a thing, but its fun to think about. As for the Worthley family, they were a stubborn lot from their immigration, and I believe that quality runs in the family lol.

  2. Lorraine says:

    Interesting article, thanks. I’m wondering if, in your research, you have come across a Fanny Worthley of Weare, born about 1822, married to Ezra Burnham, and mother of Sarah F. Burnham and John Burnham? I’ve reached a dead end with her, and really wish I could find out which of the many Worthleys in Weare were her parents.

  3. Steve Worthley says:

    My great great grandfather was Alfred Worrhley but by our records he was born in 1806 to Jonathan W. He immigrated to Tenn then Alabama then Missouri before coming to California in about 1851. He was a county supervisor in Tulare Co. In 1859 -1860. Died in Tulare Co in 1876. His son my great grandfather came out to California after the Civil War where he fought for the North. Curious about the genealogy which had very different information about Alfred.

    • Shawna Crosby says:

      Steven Worthley, Alfred G. Worthley (who married Mary Elizabeth Pickard) is my 3x gread grandfather. I believe you may have him mixed up with another Alfred Worthley, as the information here is correct. My grandmother has done extensive research on the Worthley family as her mother is a Worthley. If you’d like to talk more please feel free to email me

  4. Louise Pecevich says:

    Just stumbled onto this article. A friend of mine is descended from the Thomas Worthley (Wortley) mentioned. I will pass this on to her.

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