William Hanson

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ChartsAncestors of Harriet Hanson Robinson
Seth Ingersoll Browne to Harriet Hanson (Robinson) Pierce
(John) Calvin Coolidge Jr. - Harriet Hanson (Robinson) Pierce
Richard Milhous Nixon - Harriet Hanson (Robinson) Pierce
George H. W. & George W. Bush - Harriet Hanson (Robinson) Pierce
William Hanson, son of John Hanson and Sally Getchel, was born at Rochester, Strafford Co., New Hampshire, in 1795.1 He died at Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts, 15 July 1831, of Delirium tremens, and was buried in the Granary Burial Ground, Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts.2

William married Harriet Browne, daughter of Seth Ingersoll Browne and Sarah Goding, at Milton, Strafford Co., New Hampshire, 2 July 1822.3,4

William Hanson left home to apprentice himself as a carpenter with a man named Whitehouse in Milton, New Hampshire. When he had learned his trade, at the age of 21, he moved to Boston and went to work for Peter Cudworth on Merrimack St., near the corner of the causeway. He met and married Harriet, the sister of his boss's wife. Early on they lived in a rented house on Leverett Court, later called Cotting Street, close to the Mill Pond that had not yet been filled in.

William was something of a dandy, a stout young man with blue eyes, very small hands, a large head, and curly auburn hair; he called himself Sorrel Top. His daughter Harriet remembered him dressed in white pants and vest, with a ruffled shirt and bosom pin. He wore white stockings, and the shiny black pumps with large bows on his small feet were "the admiration of [her] childhood." She remembered her pride in him as they walked hand in hand on the Boston Common.

After William died, with the help of some of his fellow carpenters, Harriet opened a small shop in Boston, where she sold food, candy, and kindling. The shop was in the front of the building, where jars of striped candy and loaves of bread were displayed. The family lived in a room behind the shop, where young John sawed the kindling. They lasted one winter there, but could not make ends meet.

Seeing the family's struggle, a neighbor who was better off looked with "longing eyes" on little Harriet, whom she offered to adopt and give more advantages than the mother could provide. Mrs. Hanson refused: "No; while I have one meal of victuals a day, I will not part with my children." When a teacher at charity sewing classes referred to Harriet as a "poor little girl," Mrs. Hanson proudly withdrew her daughter from the school. This early training in family unity and pride was to influence Harriet Jane throughout her life.

In 1832, Angeline Cudworth was able to provide a lead which allowed the Hanson's to rent a neat brick row house in Lowell, Massachusetts. There Mrs. Hanson would remain the head of her household while cooking, cleaning, and washing for forty boarders, mostly the well-behaved and brotherly sons of farmers. Although her family could not afford to support her, a family connection did provide a position where she could support herself.

The youngest child, William Browne, drowned in the Merrimack River at Lowell, 8 Nov 1836. His body washed up on Plum Island, forty miles downstream from Lowell. The family lacked the money to go and claim the body so he was buried in a nameless grave on the island.

Harriet Jane would later go to work in the Lowell mills. She would be involved in several labor disputes that would play a part in ending the boarding house. Later Harriet Jane and her brother John would support their mother.

Late in life, Mrs. Hanson lived with Harriet Jane and her family. Sometime in her last decade, she lost her sight. Her granddaughter Harriet would read to her, and later regret not doing more of it. But Mrs. Hanson kept her hands busy, always earning her keep with some worthwhile enterprise. She braided rugs and mats, cheerfully dictating to grandson Warrington, "Old women are useful as long as rags are plenty."

She lived to be almost 86, finally dying of paralysis. Harriet Jane wrote her obituary which noted that she had survived her husband by 50 years and which read in part, "She was resolute and liberal minded and of a singularly unselfish disposition… .She was a strong advocate of woman suffrage and registered as a voter at the school committee election in Malden."5


Harriet Browne b. 19 Mar 1795, d. 22 Jan 1881
  • John Wesley Hanson4 b. 12 May 1823, d. 1901
  • William Hanson4 b. Jul 1824, d. 27 Jan 1828
  • Harriet Jane Hanson+4 b. 8 Feb 1825, d. 22 Dec 1911
  • Benjamin Piper Browne Hanson4 b. 3 Apr 1826
  • William Browne Hanson4 b. 1829, d. 8 Nov 1836
This person was last edited on1 Jan 2021


  1. [S78] Claudia L. Bushman, "A Good Poor Man's Wife": Being a Chronicle of Harriet Hanson Robinson and Her Family in Nineteenth Century New England (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1981), 8, further cited as Bushman, A Good Poor Man's Wife.
  2. [S453] Boston, Massachusetts, Boston death indexes and records, 1630-1895; out of town deaths, 1889-1895; stillborns, 1889-1895, Index to deaths, A-Z 1810-1848, FHL microfilm 593710, further cited as Boston, MA Deaths.
  3. [S445] Robert S. Canney, compiler, Early Marriages of Strafford County, New Hampshire 1630-1850 (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1991), 238, further cited as Strafford Co. Marriages.
  4. [S720] Mrs. Harriet H. Robinson, "Nicholas Browne of Reading and Some of His Descendants," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 44 (Oct 1890): 281-286, further cited as Robinson, "Nicholas Browne."
  5. [S78] Bushman, A Good Poor Man's Wife, 8-11, 142-143.