OLMSTEAD, James III - I27164

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Olmstead Monument
“The name OLMSTEAD means a place or town by the green oaks, from holm, an oak, and stead, a place.”[1] Holme indicates low lands on a river, an island, such as Stockholm, in Scandinavia. The family name was variously spelled in early times, with or without an "a", also appearing in the forms of Holmsted, Elmsted, Almested, its Saxon meaning being, the place of elms.

Under William the Conqueror a survey was made in 1086 of some of the lands he had acquired by his victories. In the “Domesday Book,” for the County of Essex, there appears the earliest mention of the family name, in a description of the Manor of Almesteda, originally held by Robert Fitz Wilmarc. It is a place remarkable for its growth of trees, especially of the elm variety, and is situated in the parish of Elmsted, in the Hundred of Tendring, Essex.

The coat-of-arms here shown is that used by the Olmsted Family Association of America. Other coats-of-arms borne by ancient branches of the family, with
Olmstead Coat of Arms
various crests and mottoes are described in the Olmsted Genealogy, compiled by Henry King Olmsted (Edition Revised and Corrected by George K. Ward), in which also appear many interesting things about this family, and from which we quote liberally.

The visit of an American Olmsted to the old Manor of Olmsted in Bumpsted-Helion, County Essex, is of interest. He describes the ancient moated hall owned in the eleventh century by Maurice de Olmestede, but which passed out of the family name in the fifteenth century. This book also has pictures and descriptions of several interesting heirlooms kept by members of the family in the United States, notably a christening blanket of which he says:

When James Olmsted in 1632, with a small body of kinsman in a larger body of compatriots, disheartened from the civil and religous questions that vexed their country, came to face, at the age of 52, the unknown problems of her colonies in New England, he left a desolated home at Fairsted. In the God’s Acre of that “fair place” slept his wife and four of their seven children. Mary, baptized April 18, 1621, the mother buried April 21, and the baby following he on April 24, is the sorrowful chapter of his story as told by the parish register, and if for only this one association, it is easily understood why there was brought among the family possessions to New England, the christening blanket or “bearing cloth” such as was used at that time for infants upon ceremonial occasions.

This interesting relic is still in existence, having been handed down from parent to child in the following line: James, died 1640; Nicholas, died 1684; Joseph, died 1726; Joseph, died 1762; Joseph, died 1861; Joseph, M.D., died 1864; The last person for whom the “bearing cloth” was used was Doctor Joseph Olmsted, who was eight months old when carried on it to the First Congregational Church, Enfield, Connecticut, 2 September 1821, to be christened by the Reverend Francis LeBaron Robbins. The blanket is now in the possession of Doctor Olmsted’s descendants. It is of yellow satin damask, not unlike cloth-of-gold in effect, handsome in itself but extremely trying to the infant complexion, which caused, perhaps, a fastidious parent to deny the present owners the honor of making their first church visitation in it! It measures 45 x 32 inches, there being two breadths of the woven fabric. A quilted lining once formed a part of the garment, but long since some thrifty ancestor , more housewifely than antique in taste, removed this moth-alluring feature, disclosing a seam “back-stitched” with exquisite nicery along the red silk sevage .... The design and texture are suggestive of the Orient. [2]. The author also describes a tankard of white cedar, with handle and cover of white pine and hoops of split willow, said to have come over in the good ship Lyon in 1632. It is now in the possession of another Olmsted descendant, of Hartford, Connecticut.

I. In a large, vellum-bound volume now in the Rolls Office, Chancery Lane, London, are found records of some early emigrants to New England. On the cover of the earliest of such records yet discovered, is this inscription: “A book of Entrie for Passengers by ye Commission and Souldiers according to the Statute passing beyond the Seas, begun at Christmas, 1631, and ending Christmas, 1632. The names of such men transported to New England to the Plantacon there p’r Cert. from Capten Mason, have tendered and taken the oath of allegeance according to the Statute, are: . . . “ – and in the list of 33 men which followed is to be found the name of “James Olmstedd.”[3]

These families were Puritans, and they came from Braintree, England, arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 16 September 1632, “on the Lord’s Day,” the voyage having taken twelve weeks. The ship was the Lyon, with Captain Pierce in command, and there were one hundred twenty-three passengers, of whom fifty were children. With James Olmsted came two sons, two nephews (Richard and John), and a niece Rebecca.

James Olmsted, son of James and Jane (Bristow) Olmsted, grandson of James, and great-grandson of Richard Olmsted born about 1430, was baptized in the parish church of Great Leighs, County Essex, England, on 4 December 1580, and there married, 26 October 1605, Joyce Cornish, who died and was buried at Fairsted, same county, 21 April 1621. James Olmsted made a home at new Town (Cambridge). His home-lot was on the north side of Harvard Street, the place now being called Wadsworth House. He was made freeman 6 November 1632, and on 3 November 1634, by popular vote, he was chosen constable, the first one in the plantation. He was among the seven chosen to do the whole business of the town; was made surveyor; and, in 1634, appointed with eleven others to examine lands on the Connecticut River, called then the Fresh River. These men were called “adventurers,” and were the earliest emigrants to Hartford. He moved there 29 October 1635, becoming an original proprietor, and receiving seventy acres in the land distribution of 1639.([4]

James Olmsted died in the fall of 1640, at Hartford. Reverend Thomas Hooker, in a letter to a friend, mentions his death, saying he “slept sweetly in the Lord, having carried himself graciously in his sickness.” He is buried, probably, in the ancient burying-ground located back of Center Church, where a monument erected in 1835 to the memory of the first settlers, bears his name. His will was proved at Hartford, inventory taken 28 September 1640.([5]

CHILDREN, all but the first one born at Fairsted:[6]

  1. Faith, baptized 7 January 1606, at Great Leighs; buried at Fairsted, 3 March 1627.
  2. Frances, baptized 14 February 1609.
  3. Mabel, baptized 30 September 1610; buried in Fairsted, 18 February 1621.
  4. Nicholas, baptized 15 February 1612; married (1) Sarah LOOMIS; married (2) Widow Hannah LORD.
  5. James, baptized 22 January 1615; probably died young.
  6. Nehemiah; probably under age when his father died. He removed to Fairfield 1649; was a sergeant 1657; married Elizabeth Burr. He died in 1658, leaving one child, a daughter, and his widow married (2) Obadiah Gilbert.[7].
  7. Mary, baptized 18 April 1621; buried 24 April 1621.

Captain Nicholas OLMSTEAD

II. Nicholas OLMSTED, born at Fairsted, County Essex, England, baptized there 15 February 1612, came with his father and brother in the Lyon, in 1632. In his youth he was evidently of a lively and independent disposition, which frequently got him into trouble. Once, notably, was when, because of irregularity of conduct, he was “adjudged” by the “P’ticular Court” to “pay twenty pounds fyne to the county, and to stand upon the Pillery at Hartford the next lecture day, during the time of the lecture. He is to be sett on a lytle before the beginning and to stay thereon a lytle after the end.”[8] His moral delinquency on this occasion is said to have been that he, in company with a Mary Bronson and another young couple or two, absented himself from services on the Lord’s Day, and went fishing instead.

Notwithstanding this grave offense, young Olmsted seems to have become, in his more sedate years, a useful and respected citizen. As early as 1637 he was a soldier, and served[9] in the Pequot War under Captain Mason[10]. In 1646 he was a surveyor of highways. In 1654, 1658, 1667, 1671, 1679, and 1683 he was “townsman,” helping to guide the civic affairs of his community. In 1669 he was “list and rate maker,” i.e., tax assessor, and his name appears as freeman that year. In 1657, he was corporal in a troop of horseman, containing thirty-seven members, organized by Major John Mason, Commander in Chief of the military forces of Connecticut Colony.[11]. He gave constant and faithful service throughout the years of struggle against the Indians. Was lieutenant of the train band in 1673, and appointed captain of militia in 1675, going to the defense of New London and Stonington.[12] He received grants of land for his military services.[13]

In 1672 and 1673 he was deputy to the General Court at Hartford, and in 1674 was one of a commission to view and settle Mattatuck, now Waterbury, Connecticut.[14]. Captain Nicholas Olmsted married (1) 28 September 1640, to Sarah, daughter of Joseph and Mary (White) LOOMIS, of Windsor, who was born in England in 1617, and died in 1667.[15] She was the mother of all his children, and, since his brother Nehemiah left only a daughter, they are ancestors of all the descendants of James Olmsted who bear the family name. Nicholas married (2) the widow of Doctor Thomas LORD, of Wethersfield, called by some historians, Mary[16], but from Doctor Lord’s will, dated 28 October 1661, in which he names his wife Hannah[17], it is believed the marriage record at Boston of Thomas Lord and Hannah Thurston, 28 September 1652[18] identifies the lady, and clears away the doubt. Doctor Lord is said to have been the first physician in Connecticut Colony, and was the son of Thomas Lord, immigrant in 1635, ancestor of Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma Hale.

Nicholas Olmsted died 31 August 1684, and in his will[19], exhibited in court 25 November 1684, mentions sons Samuel, Joseph, and Thomas, daughters Sarah Gates, Mabel Butler, and Rebekah Bigelow, and son Samuel Butler. It is interesting to note that five days after the death of Nicholas Olmsted, his relative, Richard Olmsted, wrote a will in which he leave a “legacy of love unto my Cousen Nicholas Olmsted of Hartford, the sum of 20 shillings.”[20] This was done at Fairfield, Connecticut, abut fifty-five miles southwest of Hartford, on Long Island Sound. In these days of telegraph, telephone, and wireless, that would hardly have happened.

CHILDREN (Nicholas and Sarah):[21]

  1. Sarah, born at Hartford, 1641; married George GATES.
  2. Mary, born 20 November 1646; “died 1646,” says the Olmsted Genealogy; “married Samuel Butler,” says the Genealogy of the Loomis Family: Female Branches (1:15).
  3. Rebecca, born 12 March 1647; married John, born 27 October 1643, son of John and Mary (Warren) Bigelow, of Watertown, Massachusetts. They were residents of Hartford, their home being in Cooper’s Lane, now Lafeyette Street.
  4. John, baptized 3 February 1649; died young.
  5. Samuel, born 1653; died at East Haddam, 13 January 1726. He married Mary, born in East Haddam, 1649; died 14 September 1736, daughter of William Lord, of Saybrook. William Lord was an ancestor of Emma Hale, and a brother of Doctor Thomas Lord whose widow married, as his second wife, Captain Nicholas Olmsted, the father of Samuel. Samuel and Mary are both buried in the Cone Cemetery, at East Haddam. Records of land transfers at Lyme, Connecticut, bearing name of Samuel Olmsted, mention the sons of William Lord as “brothers.”
  6. Joseph, born 1654, died 5 October 1726, at East Hartford. He married Elizabeth Butler, born 1643; died 28 April 1729. She was the daughter of Deacon Richard and Elizabeth (Bigelow) among the first settlers of Hartford. Joseph Olmsted was a deacon, a farmer by occupation, a man of influence, and frequently elected representative to the General Court. Among their numerous descendants are many men of prominence, such as the Honorable John Olmsted, of Hartford, and Professor Denison Olmsted, of Yale College.[22]
  7. Thomas; died before 28 May 1741; married 26 June 1691, Hannah, born 30 June 1666, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca (Turner) Mix, and granddaughter of Captain Nathaniel Turner whose sword is in the Historical Collections at Hartford. Thomas Olmsted settled in the west division of Hartford, and was one of the organizing members of the Second Church there, formed in 1712.
  8. Mabel; married (1) Sergeant Daniel Butler[23], son of Deacon Richard and Elizabeth (Bigelow) Butler, of Hartford and Wethersfield. He was a brother to Elizabeth who married Joseph Olmsted, and Samuel who married Elizabeth Olmsted. He died 28 March 1692, and she married (2) August 1697, Michael Taintor, of Colchester, Connecticut, born October 1652; died February 1730.[24]

Sarah Olmstead

III. Sarah OLMSTEAD, born at Hartford, Connecticut, 1641, married in 1661 or 1662, Captain George GATES, and lived in Haddam, Connecticut.[25]

For continuation of this family line see the GATES biographical sketch, click here.

  SOURCE:  The Ancestry & Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale by Audentia Smith Anderson (1926)


  1. (Directory of Ancestral Heads of New England Families, Holmes clxxvi.)
  2. – Olmsted Genealogy xix
  3. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register 14:300-1).
  4. Olmsted Genealogy, 6.).
  5. Early Connecticut Probate Records, Manwaring, 1:28).
  6. (Olmsted Genealogy 5)
  7. (Memorial History Hartford County 12:253.)
  8. (History of Waterbury, Bronson, 7.)
  9. (ibid)
  10. (Olmsted Genealogy, 12)
  11. (Soldiers in King Philip’s War, Bodge, 466)
  12. (General Register Society Colonial Wars, 1899-1902, 721)
  13. (Olmsted Genealogy, 12.)
  14. (Ibid 12; History of Waterbury, Bronson, 6)
  15. (Olmsted Genealogy, 13.)
  16. (Olmsted Genealogy, 13)
  17. (Boston Transcript, 20 May 1925)
  18. (Memorial History of Hartford County 1:249)
  19. (Early Connecticut Probate Records, Manwaring, 1:344)
  20. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register 59:355)
  21. (Olmsted Genealogy 13, 16, 17.)
  22. (Memorial History Hartford County 1:253)
  23. (Memorial History of Hartford County 1:253)
  24. (Genealogical Notes, Goodwin, 26)
  25. (Olmsted Genealogy, 12.)