Biography of Reverend Ralph Wheelock
(1600 - 1683)
Reverend Ralph Wheelock, Puritan, educator, and founder was born in Dorrington, Shropshire, England on 14 May 1600. His family origins can be traced back to the tenth century in Wheelock Village, near Sandbach, in the County of Cheshire. Ralph was educated at Cambridge University, Clare Hall. He matriculated in 1623, obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1626, and a Master of Arts in 1631.
At that time, Cambridge was the center of the dissenting religious movement that gave rise to Puritanism. His contemporaries at Cambridge University included John Milton and John Eliot, whose liberal views he seemed to share. The persecution of those with Puritan beliefs ran high during this period, which undoubtedly motivated Rev. Wheelock to participate in "The Great Migration" which brought many new immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. By one account, 20,000 came to New England during the peak years of the migration between 1630 and 1640 .
On 6 May 1630, in England, Rev. Wheelock was ordained priest by Francis White, Bishop of the Norfolk Diocese . Shortly thereafter, on 17 May 1630, he married Rebecca Clarke . At least three children were born to the family in England (Mary Wheelock, baptised in Banham, County of Norfolk, 2 Sep 1631; Gershom Wheelock, baptised in the village of Eccles, County of Norfolk, 3 Jan 1632/33; and Rebecca Wheelock, baptised in the village of Eccles, County of Norfolk, 24 Aug 1634 ). There is strong evidence that Rev. Wheelock served clerical duties at the parish in Eccles, where Gershom and Rebecca were baptised. This is evidenced by his signature as "local curate" on the register pages that record his childrens baptism .
Rev. Wheelock, his wife Rebecca, and at least three children sailed for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637, just 7 years after Boston was first settled, and during the peak of the "Great Migration" . Some Wheelock historians have suggested that Rebecca gave birth to a daughter aboard ship, but no definitive proof is available .
Upon arrival, Rebecca and Ralph Wheelock settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. There Rev. Wheelock participated in a plan to create a new settlement further up the Charles River, to be called Contentment (later renamed Dedham). In 1638 Rev. Wheelock became one of the earliest settlers and a founder of Dedham. He lived there with his wife for more than a decade, and played a leading role in the affairs of the town. The records at Dedham show that children Benjamin, Samuel, Record, and Experience were born into the family of Ralph and Rebecca while at Dedham.
In July 1637, Rev. Ralph Wheelock signed the 'Dedham Covenant' which was in effect the founding constitution of the settlers of Dedham. In 1639 he and seven others were chosen for "ye ordering of towne affayers according unto Courte Order in that behalf." The powers that these eight men had were probably similar to the town selectmen of modern times. He was also appointed to assist the surveyor ("measurer") in laying out the boundaries of the town.
On 13 Mar 1638/9, Rev. Wheelock was declared a freeman . In those days, one had to be a "freeman" in order to exercise the full right of suffrage, or to hold public office. To become a freeman, it was necessary to be a member in good standing of a local church, and to appear before the General Court to take an oath whose essential elements swore to good citizenship and good religious character.
In 1642, Ralph Wheelock was appointed the General Court clerk of writs. The General Court was the central court of the Bay Colony, with powers granted by the British Crown to decide legal matters, to dispense lands, and to establish laws. At this point in time (1643), the population of the Bay Colony was about 18,000 .
In 1645 he was appointed one of the commissioners authorized to "solemnize" marriages, which at the time was a civil rather than religious duty.
Although Rev. Wheelock was an ordained minister, his greater inclinations were toward teaching, which he did with great fervor and in various capacities throughout his life. Though the records are sketchy, it is likely that Rev. Wheelock was the first public school teacher in America. On 1 Feb 1644 a Dedham town meeting voted for the first free school in Massachusetts, to be supported by town taxes. Rev. Ralph Wheelock was the first teacher at this school. Three years later, in 1647, the General Court decreed that every town with 50 families or more must build a school supported by public taxes. 
By the late 1640's Dedham was becoming quite populous, and it was decided to establish a new township further up the Charles River, out of a tract of land that was then part of Dedham. Rev. Wheelock was appointed leader of this effort, and in 1649 he and six others were given the duties of erecting and governing a new village, to be called New Dedham, later renamed Medfield.
In May, 1651, the town of Medfield was granted the full powers of an independent town by the General Court of Massachusetts. In this year Rev. Ralph Wheelock and his family removed to Medfield, where he lived the remaining 32 years of his life. The records at Medfield show that Eleazar Wheelock was born to Ralph and Rebecca at Medfield. Eleazar's grandson would become the founder of Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire.
Though others participated in the establishment of the Town of Medfield, the Rev. Ralph Wheelock is considered to be it's primary founder. As leader of the previously mentioned committee of seven, it is almost certain  that Rev. Wheelock wrote the document called "The Agreement" which, for a time, every new settler of Medfield had to sign. "The Agreement" stated that the signatories were to abide by the town ordinances and laws, maintain orderly conduct, and resolve differences between themselves peaceably.
Rev. Ralph Wheelock was granted the first house lot in Medfield (12 acres), and served on the first Board of Selectmen (1651). He subsequently served on the Board of Selectmen in 1652-1654, and again in 1659. In 1653 he took up a collection for Harvard College, the first college in America. Fund raising for Harvard was probably a regular event, being a primary source of revenue for the fledgling institution.
In 1655, the town voted 15 pounds to be used to establish a "schoule for the educataion of the children, to be raised by a rate according as men have taken up lands, and the rest of the maintenance to be raised upon the children that goe to schoule" . Rev. Ralph Wheelock was the first schoolmaster. In his book "Mr. Ralph Wheelock, Puritan", the Rev. Lewis Hicks speculates that Rev. Wheelock remained schoolmaster for a period of 8 years.
Every year, Medfield chose a representative to the General Court in Massachusetts. Rev. Wheelock held this position in the years 1653, 1663, 1664, 1666, and 1667.
Rebecca Clarke Wheelock died on 1 Jan 1680/1 in Medfield. Two years later, Rev. Wheelock died, in the 84th year of his life.
Rev. Wheelock played an active and important role in the settling of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was instrumental in establishing two new towns, and held virtually every office of importance in both of them. Furthermore, he was at the forefront of establishing the educational foundations of the country.
His descendents would also prove to play an important a role in settling New England and the rest of America. His son, Benjamin, was a founder of the Town of Mendon. Among his great-grandchildren were founders of several New England towns, as well as Eleazar Wheelock, the founder of Dartmouth. Succeeding generations would push farther west, settling the frontiers in New York, Michigan, Illinois, Nova Scotia, and Texas, establishing impressive credentials as teachers, writers, soldiers, founders of towns, and creators of business.
(Written by Roderick B. Sullivan, 1 Mar 1998, Northboro, Mass., revised 28 Sep 1998)
Notes and Sources
1."The History of the Town of Medfield, Massachusetts, 1650 - 1886", by William S. Tilden, published by the Medfield, Massachusetts Historical Society, pg. 23.
2.Genealogists have variously reported that Rev. Wheelock married Rebecca Barber, Rebecca Wilkerson, and Rebecca Clark. An article by Christopher Gleason Clark, in the January 1998 issue of "The New England Historical and Genealogical Register", vol 152, entitled "The English Ancestry of Joseph Clark (1613-1683) of Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts" provides compelling evidence that Rev. Wheelock indeed married Rebecca Clarke.
The key components of this evidence are as follows. First, the parish registers of Wraplingham, County of Norfolk, England, contain a recording of the marriage between Ralph Wheelock, cleric, and Rebecca Clarke, 17 May 1630. Second, the will of Rebecca's father, Thomas Clark, refers to his grandaughter Marye Wheelock. Third, the baptism of Marye Wheelock, daughter of Ralph Wheelock, cleric, is recorded in the Banham, County of Norfolk parish registers. (Banham is near Wraplingham). Fourth, the will of William Clark, uncle to Elizabeth Clarke, is witnessed by Ralph Wheelocke "in his unmistakable hand".
Ralph Wheelock's will refers to George Barber as his "brother-in-law". This led to the speculation that the maiden name of Rebecca must have been Barber. But it is shown in the article that George Barber married Rebecca Clarke's sister, Elizabeth Clarke, thereby explaining the reference in Ralph Wheelock's will.
3.No record of Ralph Wheelock's passage to America could be found in "The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776" by Peter Wilson Coldham.
4."The Wheelock Family in America (1637-1969)", by Walter T. Wheelock, privately published, pg. 93. It is suggested here that Rebecca gave birth to a daughter while at sea. (Mr. Wheelock's original source is not known at the time this footnote was written.) Other Wheelock genealogies have reported that Rebecca was born at sea, and that Mary was born at sea. The research of Christopher Gleason Clark disproves the assertions that Mary or Rebecca were born on ship, leaving Peregrina as the only candidate, since the birth place of the remaining children is well accounted for.
5."List of Freeman of Massachusetts 1630-1691", also Tilden, pg. 506.
6.Tilden, pg. 33.
7.Tilden, pg. 37.
8.Tilden, pg. 62.
9."Material Suggested For Use In the Schools, In Observance of the Tercentenary of Massachusetts Bay Colony and of The General Court and One Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Constitution of the Commonwealth", prepared by committee, Commonwealth of Mass, Dept. of Education, 1930, Number 1, Whole Number 212.
10."Mr. Wheelock's Cure", by Christopher Gleason Clark, published in the July 1998 issue of "The New England Historical and Genealogical Register", July 1998, Volume 152, pg. 311.
11.Ibid, pg. 312. As Christopher Gleason Clark writes: "Curates were licensed by the bishop of a diocese to serve the cure, that is, to care for the souls of the parishioners and to perform the duties of an assistant to the incumbent."
12.Ibid, pg. 312.
Wheelock, Silas; Volume 16, page 1011 (of Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of The Revolutionary War)
Colonel, 7th Worcester Co. regt.; service, 9 days; regiment marched to Cambridge and Roxbury on the alarm of April 19, 1775.
Son of Benjamin Wheelock and Huldah Thayer. Silas, along with his second cousins Moses Wheelock, of Westborough, MA, and Ephraim Wheelock, of Medfield, MA were the highest ranking Wheelock officers in Massachusetts. Many of his children also served, including Simeon, Caleb, Calvin, and Luther. Numerous references to him can be found in the "Daughters of the American Revolution", including that of Mrs. Jessie Gordon Weston Roberts, VOl 164, Pg 303, DAR ID 163930. He descends from Rev. Ralph Wheelock as follows: Silas/Benjamin/Benjamin/Ralph.
Benjamin Wheelock Jr.
(1639/40 - ABT 1720)
Benjamin Wheelock, b. 8 Jan 1639/40 in Dedham, Massachusetts, was probably the first Wheelock born in the American colonies. The Dedham Vital Records record the birth date of Benjamin as follows: "Benjamin born 8 of the 1 Month of 1639". His baptism date is given as follows: "ye 12 of ye 11th month 1639".
He lived for about ten years in Dedham, where his father, Rev. Ralph Wheelock, was an active leader in town affairs. He moved with his family to Medfield, MA in 1651, the year of its founding and first settlement. He married Elizabeth Bullen in 1668. The Medfield Town records indicates that he owned a house in that same year. 
In 1669 he received a small grant of land in Medfield "between his house and the brook, taking in some part of the brook".  In 1675 he is listed in the Medfield town records as a proprietor, along with his brother Gershom, and his father, Ralph. 
Sometime around 1688 he removed with his family to Mendon.  The first notice of him in the Mendon records is in 1688 when he aquired land from Mathias Puffer: "Mathias Puffers forty Acre Lott Now Benjemin whelocks with all the Rights and Priuelidges there unto belonging or any wayes Appertaining: As appears by A Deed of Sale baring Date Aprill 25: 1688".  A year later, he appears on a list of those paying taxes to "defray Mr. Rawson's [minister] Salary." Benjamin Wheelock's name appears as a proprietor on a historical plaque in the center of Mendon, though his name does not appear on the original list of proprietors in 1660.
In 1693 Benjamin served the town as a "Tything Man", along with two others. According to the Annals of Mendon "tithing men were to present all the idle and disorderly persons, profane swearers or cursors, Sabbath-breakers and disorderly persons, that they may be duly punished and discouraged." In 1696 he served as a Constable, in 1700 as a selectman, and in 1701 on a special committee to "give the selectmen instructions".
In 1706, or thereabouts, Benjamin Wheelock acquired posession of the "ancient" Benjamin Alby corn mill, which he purchased from Mathias Puffer. In 1713 he deeded mill priveledges to his sons Obadiah and Benjamin, Jr. Later, in 1719, all three deeded the mill to Josiah Wood. 
Benjamin is reported to have lived on the "Old Rehoboth Road, near where Andrus Wheelock lived and died". [6,7] According to the proprietors records, "The House Lott being foty Acres Laid out upon the East side of the Road Leading to Rehoboth Nere the Round Medow : and bounded as followeth Weasterly on the Aboue sd Road Northerly upon the Land of Samuel Thayer Easterly Partly upon the Mill Riuer : and Partly on Medow and southerly upon Comon Land -- Laid out by Joseph White --" 
There is some uncertainty about the second wife of Benjamin. The Mendon Vital Records indicate that his first wife, Elizebeth, died in 1689, yet show two additional children born to "Benjemen and Elizebeth" in 1693 and 1695. There is no marriage record for Benjamin indicating a second marriage.
Walter T. Wheelock, in "The Wheelock Family in America, 1637-1969" asserts that Elizabeth French, widow of Jonathan Thayer, was "probably" his second wife, but cites no sources.
Charles Pope, in his book "The Pioneers of Massachusetts" indicates that "John French [father of Elizabeth French] died 1692, age 80 years.  Division of estate was made to Dependence, Thomas, Samuel, to Temperance, wife of John Bowditch, to Elizabeth Wheelock of Mendon, and the child of Mary Lamb, deceased." The Elizabeth referenced here was probably his daughter, Elizabeth French. By process of elimination, it seems likely that Elizabeth French must have married Benjamin Wheelock.
No record of death is found for Benjamin, nor has any record been found for the settlement of his estate.
(Written by Roderick B. Sullivan, Northborough, MA, Nov 1998)
Notes and References
1."History of the Town of Medfield, Massachusetts, 1650-1886", William S. Tilden, 1887, Boston, George Ellis Publishers, pg 507. 2.ibid, pg 508 3.ibid, pg 84 4."The Proprietors Records of the Town of Mendon, Mass., 1667-1816", Boston, Rockwell and Churchill Press, 1899, pg 221. 5."The Annals of the Town of Mendon, Mass.", John G. Metcalf, 1880, Providence, RI, E. L. Freeman and Company, pg 83. 6."History of the Town of Milford, Worcester County, Mass, From Its First Settlement to 1881", by Adin Ballou, published by the Town of Milford, 1881, Boston, Franklin Press. 7.A map of Mendon, dated 1890, shows that "A. Wheelock" lived on Providence Rd., easterly side, just south of the intersection with Quisset Rd. This map, found in an old Almanac of Worcester County, places "A. Wheelock" near Round Meadow Brook, not far from Mill River, fully consistent with the proprietors records of Benjamin's house lot. 8.Eliazer Wheelock, Benjamin's brother, removed to Mendon at an earlier date. The town records take first notice of him in 1681. But he later moved back to Medfield, where he died and is buried. 9."The Pioneers of Massachusetts, A Descriptive List Drawn from Records of the Colonies, Towns, Churches, and other Contemporaneous Documents", Charles Pope, Boston, MA, 1900