Ralph Wheelock was born probably in Shropshire, England, about the year 1600. He was graduated from the University of Cambridge with the degree of A.B. in 1626, and received the degree A.M. in 1631. He was a preacher, dissenting from the doctrines of the Established Church of England, and supporting the then unpopular doctrine of Puritanism. He, with his wife Rebecca, and one or two children, came to New England about the year 1637, locating first in Watertown. Mass., where they lived for a short time. About the time of their arrival at Watertown a plan was made for the establishment of a new settlement further up the Charles river, and Mr. Wheelock joined with others in carrying out that plan, thus we find him in Dedham (then called Contentment) the following year. He was made freeman there in 1639.
The town of Dedham boasts of having established the first free school in America, and although the early records of that school no longer exist, it is generally supposed that Ralph Wheelock was the schoolmaster.
In 1651 Dedham, having become quite populous, it was decided to make a new settlement still further up the Charles river, the place to be called New Dedham, and Mr. Wheelock was the prime mover in this undertaking. The new town thus founded is now the town of Medfield, Mass. Mr. Wheelock was selectman there in 1651, and for several years thereafter, and was also representative to the Great and General Court for several years.
In 1655 a school was established in Medfield, and Mr. Wheelock became the schoolmaster, a position he held for many years, and in work that appears to have been to his liking. Certainly no other was better qualified for the work. Although he was educated for the ministry, and at times occupied tbe pulpit in his own and adjoining towns, it is not known that he ever held a regular pastorate, apparently preferring to devote his time and talents to the education of the young, a trait that has been handed down through a long line of school-teacher descendants to the present day.
Rebecca wife of Ralph Wheelock, died in Medfeild Jan. 1, 1680/1. He died there Jan. 11, 1684. His will, on file in Suffolk County Probate Office (file 1339), a copy of which is in Book 6, p. 454. mentions his four sons, Gershom, Benjamin, Samuel and Eleazer, a1so his two son-in-laws, Increase Ward and Joseph Warren, and a grandchild, Rebecca Craft. He requests his "much respected Brother-In-law. George Barbur" to act as overseer, and appoints Samuel Wheelock, his son, as executor.
REBECCA, probably born in England. Married. June 7. 1654, John Crafts of Roxbury. They left issue.
I: Gershom, perhaps born in England. Married, May 18, 1658, Hannah Stodder, dau. of John, of Hingham. He died in Medfield Nov. 28, 1684. where five of his children are of record. His progeny has been numerous, living principally in Shrewsbury and Lancaster. Mass., until Revolutionary times, after which they spread to all parts of the country. The Wheelocks of Cavendish and Eden, Vt., descend from Gershom.
MARY, Married Jan. 28, 1663 Joseph Mills, and lived in Shrewsbury. Mr. Wheelock makes no
mention of her or her children in his will.
2: BENJAMIN, b. October 8, 1639; m. Elizabeth Bullen.
3: SAMUEL, b. Jy 22, 1642; m. Sarah Kendrick. He was executor of his father's will, and continued to live at the old Wheelock homestead in Medfield. He died Oct. 23, 1698, leaving a will bequeathing his estate to his widow Sarah, and daugters Sarah and Mehitable. He left no male Issue.
Peregrina, b. m. Oct. 26, 1669, John Warfield. She died 1671.
Record, b. Oct. 13, 1644; m. Oct.3, 1672, Increase Ward of Shrewsbury.
Experience, b. ca. 1648; m. May 20, 1668, Joseph Warren.
4: Eleazer, b. May 3,1654, In Medfield; m. in Rehoboth, Mass., Apr. 17, 1678, Elizabeth Fuller, who is believed to have been first married to Nehemiah Sabin of Reboboth, who was killed by the Indians in June 1676. Her Sabin children were brought up in the Eleazer Wheelock family. Elizabeth, wife of Eleazer Wheelock, d. in Mendon, Mass., Jan. 11, 1689. He married
(2) Mary Chenery, who was born about 1662. and died in Medfield Oct. 23, 1732. He died in Medfield May 24, 1730/1, leaving a will (in Suffolk Co. Probate Office, file 6086) which mentions wife Mary; son Ralph of Windham; dau. Rebecca Adams: g.-dau. Esther Wales: g-dau. Elizabeth Holbrook: g.-children Mary Lawrence, Daniel Lawrence and Esther Lawrence, children of his daughter Mary; g.-dau. Elizabeth daughter of son Ralph: son Ephraim: and g.-son Eleazer, son of Ephraim.
Among the things willed to son Ralph are: The Great Bible, The Annotations, The Concordance, The Dictionary, called Mr. Wilson's Dictionary. Mr. Perkins' works in folio, and Mr. Baster's works. This list of books gives us an idea of the type to which the Wheelocks belonged, as but few of the early Puritans owned books of any kind, even a bible.
After the death of Samuel Wheelock, his brother Eleazer Wheelock lived at the old Wheelock homestead in Medfield, previous to which he had lived in Mendon. Of his two sons, Ralph and Ephraim, Ralph lived in Windham, Conn., and was the ancestor of a notable line of educators, including Dr. Eleazer Wheelock, founder of Dartmouth College. Son Ephraim continued in Sturbridge, Westorough, Sherborn and other towns of Massachusetts.
Source: "Ralph Wheelock Family of Calais, Vt." by Marcus Warren Waite FHL book area US/CAN 929.273 W57W