JOHN RICHARDSON BRONSON, M. D., who for over half a century was one of the best known practitioners of medicine in southern Massachusetts and part of Rhode Island, and who for upward of fifty years was a resident of Attleboro, was a native of Connecticut, born in the town of Middlebury, New Haven county, June 5, 1829, son of Garry and Maria (Richardson) Bronson.
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The Bronson family was early planted in the New World. John Bronson (early of record as Brownson and Brunson) was early at Hartford. He is believed, though not certainly known, to have been one of the company who came in 1636 with Mr. Hooker, of whose church he was a member. He was a soldier in the Pequot battle of 1637. He is not named among the proprietors of Hartford in the land division of 1639; but is mentioned in the same year in the list of settlers, who by the “towne’s courtesie” had liberty “to fetch woods and keepe swine or cowes on the common.” His house lot was in the “soldiers’ field,” so called, in the north part of the old village of Hartford, on the “Neck Road” (supposed to have been given for service in the Pequot war), where he lived in 1640. He moved, about 1641 to Tunxis (Farmington) He was deputy from Farmington in May, 1651, and at several subsequent sessions, and the “constable of Farmington” in 1652. He was one of the seven pillars at the organization of the Farmington Church in 1652. His name is on the list of freemen of Farmington in 1669. He died Nov. 28, 1680. His children were:
- Jacob Bronson, born in January, 1641, who married, lived at Farmington, in the Society of Kensington, and left posterity
- John Bronson, born in January, 1644
- Isaac Bronson, born in November, 1645
- Mary Bronson, who married an Ellis or Allis
- Abraham Bronson, baptized Nov. 28, 1647, who removed to Lyme, where he married Hannah, daughter of Matthew Griswold, and died at an advanced age, leaving posterity
- Dorcas Bronson, who married Stephen Hopkins, of Hartford
- Sarah Bronson, who married Ebenezer or John Kilbourn, of Wethersfield
Sergt. Isaac Bronson
Sergt. Isaac Bronson, son of John, born in November, 1645, married about 1669 Mary, daughter of John Root, of Farmington. Mr. Bronson was one of the original thirty subscribers and is believed to have been one of the first company who went to Waterbury, having a meadow allotment in the beginning and being named in all the divisions of common fence. He lived on North Main street, having a lot of four acres, bounding, in 1687, westerly on the highway, southerly on John Stanley, northerly on John Newell and easterly on common land. On March 31, 1694, he purchased John Newell’s house and lot of five acres next adjoining him on the north. He was one of the patentees named in the first town patent. He joined the Farmington Church May 15, 1684, and was active in establishing a church in Waterbury. He was a petitioner with Mr. Peck to the General Court for liberty “to gather” a church, and was one of the seven pillars at its final organization in 1691. When the train-band was reorganized, after the town was incorporated in 1689, he was appointed corporal. About 1695 he became sergeant, and ever afterward was known as Sergeant Bronson. He was deputy in May, 1697, and in October, 1701, and townsman, school committeeman, town surveyor, etc., at different times. He died about 1719, and his widow soon after. Their children were:
- Isaac Bronson
- John Bronson
- Samuel Bronson
- Mary Bronson
- Joseph Bronson
- Thomas Bronson
- Ebenezer Bronson
- Sarah Bronson
- Mercy Bronson
Isaac Bronson (2), son of Sergt. Isaac, had children:
- Jerusha Bronson, born Nov. 8, 1703 (married Paul Welch, of New Milford)
- Isaac Bronson, born March 29, 1707
- Anna Bronson, born Aug. 23, 1709 (married Daniel How and second Isaac Tuttle)
- Josiah Bronson, born in June, 1713
- Mary Bronson, born May 29, 1716 (married James Hine, of New Milford)
- Nathan Bronson, born in May, 1719 (died in 1722)
- James Bronson, born Oct. 27, 1721 (died in 1725)
- Patience Bronson, born April 14, 1725
- James Bronson (2), born Oct. 22, 1727
James Bronson, son of Isaac (2), born Oct. 22, 1727, married Aug. 22, 1750, Sarah, daughter of Josiah Brocket, of Wallingford, and their children were:
- Roswell Bronson, born Sept. 9, 1751
- Sarah Bronson, Jan. 5, 1754 (married John Adams)
- Levi Bronson, June 12, 1757
- Asahel Bronson, Nov. 28, 1759
- Thankful Bronson, March 5, 1762 (married Amos Hinman)
- Jesse Bronson, July 1, 1763
At the earliest intimation of the Revolutionary war James Bronson was appointed a committee on inspection for the town of Waterbury. In March or April, 1778, he made a journey to Pennsylvania for the town at a cost of £8, 10s., 9d., which the records refer to as being a present made to the town by him. The History of Waterbury (Vol. I, Page 446) refers to this as being the only “present” made to the town that is on record to date.
Roswell Bronson, son of James, born Sept. 9, 1751, married Nov. 25, 1773, Susanna, daughter of William Adams, and their children were:
- Benoni Bronson, born Sept. 25, 1774, died in 1777
- Roswell Bronson, born Jan. 26, 1777, removed to Clinton, N. Y.
- Milla Bronson, born Feb. 2, 1780, died in August, 1826
- Nancy Bronson, who died in 1828, married Stephen Stone
- Garry Bronson was born in October, 1791
Garry Bronson, son of Roswell, born in October, 1791, died July 9, 1841. He married Maria Richardson, who was born in 1795, daughter of Squire Richardson (for fifty consecutive years trial justice of Middlebury), and died July 30, 1869. Garry and Maria Bronson had eleven children, viz.
- Nancy Amelia Bronson, born in July, 1816, died March or April 7, 1818
- Mary Jane Bronson, born Sept. 1, 1817, died Oct. 11, 1844
- Lucian S. Bronson, born April 20, 1821, married Elizabeth N. Baldwin, and died April 30, 1892
- Homer Bronson, born in April, 1823, died Sept. 24. 1844
- Roswell Bronson, born Oct. 12, 1824, was married Nov. 3, 1852, to Agnes M. Butler, of Oxford, Conn., and died Dec. 14, 1855
- Susan Comfort Bronson, born in July, 1827, died Jan. 19, 1830
- John R. Bronson, born June 5, 1829, died May 9, 1900
- Emma Bronson, born in December, 1819, died Jan. 10, 1892, married Nov. 17, 1847, Rev. William A. Chamberlain, born Jan. 2, 1820, died Aug. 19, 1885
- James Bronson
- two died in infancy
John Richardson Bronson
John Richardson Bronson attended the local schools of Middlebury, Conn., and then entered Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. He pursued his medical studies in Berkshire Medical College, Pittsfield, Mass., from which institution he graduated in 1852 with the degree of M. D. He began the practice of his profession at Pawtucket and Valley Falls, R. I., and continued there four years. In 1856 he came to Attleboro, Mass., and here for twenty-five years he followed the divine art of healing, his practice extending over all of the town and in the towns near by. In 1881 his eyesight failed, and becoming totally blind he was obliged to give up his profession. For the twenty remaining years of his life, however, he continued to be active, and as he learned to use a typewriter with skill was able to be a factor in the public life of the town. His entire career was one of useful enterprise.
During the Civil war he rendered valuable service to the town as one of a committee to secure volunteers to fill the town’s quota and gave up his large practice to enter the service as a field surgeon, having charge of several field hospitals. In the fall of 1862 he was in charge of Mill Creek general hospital and later of the big hospitals at Williamsburg and Fortress Monroe, where his efficient services brought comfort to many a suffering soldier. The acquaintance gained in this work was wide, and many of the friends he made then continued to be his warm friends as long as he lived. He was always a welcome speaker at the gatherings of the veterans.
With William D. Wilmarth Dr. Bronson formed a partnership, Oct. 15, 1864, under the style of Bronson & Wilmarth, to manufacture coffin trimmings. They commenced business in North Attleboro, but soon removed to County street, in what was then known as the East Village, where the business has continued ever since. Dr. Bronson was for a time the traveling salesman of the firm, but finding that his absence interfered with his growing practice be withdrew from the partnership April 4, 1868, when the name was changed to W. D. Wilmarth & Co.
Dr. Bronson was identified with many local institutions, having been for several years a director in the Attleboro Gas Light Company, trustee of the Attleboro Savings Bank and a director of the Attleboro Branch Railroad Company. He was one of the organizers of the latter company and was clerk from its incorporation until his death, a period of thirty years. Since Dr. Bronson’s death a corporation, in which the family hold a large amount of stock, has erected one of the finest blocks in Attleboro, known as the Bronson building, and it has also built the Bronson apartments and the Fourth district court building.
In politics the Doctor was a stanch republican, and he took a deep interest in the affairs of the town. He was largely influential in establishing the Attleboro Water District in 1873. He was strongly opposed to the division of the town in 1887. He was an active worker in behalf of the public school system, and was a member of the school board for many years, and for years was overseer of the poor. He took part in the town meetings, and used his every effort to have all questions intelligently considered before being voted upon. His last appearance before the voters was as the earnest advocate of the reform of municipal finances, and his speech brought him many followers.
Dr. Bronson was medical examiner for the Fourth district, Bristol county. He was a member of the Rhode Island Medical Society from 1854 to 1856, and in 1889 was elected to honorary membership. He was a fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society and also belonged to the American Medical Association. He was a member of the Second Congregational Church of Attleboro. A gentleman of the old school, he was courteous in his manners, genial and self-possessed, and always bore himself with a gentle dignity that commanded respect. Dr. Bronson died at his home May 9, 1900, and was buried in Woodlawn cemetery.
On Jan. 21, 1852, in Attleboro, Dr. Bronson married Catherine Francis Wheelock, who was born in Pawtucket, R. I, Nov. 4, 1829, daughter of Godfrey and Abigail Bell (Lawton) Wheelock, and a descendant of one of the oldest families in New England. Mrs. Bronson now makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. Bardon. Five children were born to Dr. and Mrs. Bronson namely:
- Emma Maria Bronson was born April 27. 1853
- John Richardson Bronson, Jr., born Nov. 8. 1854, died Aug. 12, 1856
- John Richardson Bronson, Jr. (2), born May 2, 185?, died Sept. 14. 1861
- William Richardson Bronson, born Jan. 17, 1863, died July 23, 1864
- Katharine Louise Bronson, born April 27, 1872, married April 12, 1899 Winthrop F. Barden, of the jewelry manufacturing firm of Barden & Hull, son of Joseph G. and Ann F. (Clark) Barden, and, on the maternal side, a grandson of Stephen and Chloe M. (Pierce) Clark. Mr. Barden’s line of descent from
- Capt. Michael Pierce, the immigrant ancestor, is through
- Ephraim (2)
- Deacon Mial
- Chloe M., the latter the wife of Stephen Clark, his maternal grandfather.
The Wheelock family has been prominent in England for several hundred years. From ancient times it has been associated with the village of Wheelock. In 1285, during the reign of Henry II., Hugh De Wheelock, through his knight, Richard De Maston, secured from Roger Manning all claim to the village of Wheelock. To this estate Thomas De Wheelock later became heir, and was made Lord of Wheelock Manor. The family had a coat of arms.
Ralph Wheelock, immigrant ancestor of many of the Wheelocks of southeastern Massachusetts, was born in 1600 in Shropshire, England, and was educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, graduating in 1626, and taking his master’s degree in 1631. He was ordained in the Church of England, but became a Puritan soon after leaving college, and joined the ranks of the Nonconformists. In 1637, with his wife Rebecca and daughter Rebecca, he emigrated to New England, living first at Watertown, and removing thence to Dedham, of which church and town he was one of the most valuable, learned, devout, unselfish and practical men. He was one of the proprietors of Dedham Sept. 14, 1637, was admitted freeman there March 13. 1638-39, served as selectman 1651-55, and for several years was deputy to the General Court. He was the first teacher of a public school in Dedham, which school was opened first in 1655. He built a house in Dedham in 1652, but became one of the founders of Medfield, an adjoining town, in 1649, and removed there a few years later, continuing his usefulness and prominence. He taught school most of his active life, but never resumed preaching after he came to New England. He died in November, 1683.
Benjamin Wheelock, son of Ralph, born in 1640, of Medfield, Mass., married Elizabeth Bullen.
Benjamin Wheelock, Jr., born in Medfield, Mass., in 1678, married Huldab Thayer.
Daniel Wheelock, son of Benjamin, Jr., born in Mendon, Mass., in 1707, married Deborah Darling.
Paul Wheelock, son of Daniel, born in Glocester, R. I., in 1727, married Mrs. Deborah Morse.
Philetus Wheelock, son of Paul, born in Uxbridge, Mass., in 1769, married Avis Handy.
Godfrey Wheelock, son of Philetus, born in Coventry, R. I., Oct. 31, 1804, died in Attleboro, Mass., Sept. 10, 1878. He married Abigail Bell Lawton, who was born in Rehoboth, Mass., Dec. 27, 1801, daughter of Sebray and Elizabeth Lawton, of Rehoboth, and died in Attleboro, Mass., March 12, 1863. They had children as follows:
- Catherine Francis Wheelock, born in Pawtucket, R. I., Nov. 4, 1829, married Dr. John R. Bronson Jan. 21, 1852
- William Godfrey Wheelock, born in Pawtucket March 7, 1832, died in Attleboro, Mass., Sept. 17, 1909
- Mary Augusta Wheelock, born in Pawtucket Nov. 7, 1834, died in Attleboro, Mass., Sept. 12, 1867
- Thomas Sebray Wheelock, born in Attleboro, Mass., Nov. 12, 1838, is now living in Hartford, Connecticut
Ebenezer Handy, maternal grandfather of Godfrey Wheelock, was born in 1743 at Swanzey, Mass., and his wife Jemima was born at Cranston, R. I., in 1749. They had children born as follows:
- Elisabeth Wheelock, in 1764
- Asa Wheelock, in 1767
- Nathan Wheelock, in 1770
- Avis Wheelock, in 1771 (married Philetus Wheelock)
- Mercy Wheelock, in 1776
- Pardon Wheelock, in 1778
- Lydia Wheelock, in 1780 (all born in Smithfield, R. I.)
- Nancy Wheelock, in 1785
- Philena Wheelock, in 1787
- Rhoda Wheelock, in 1791 (these three born in Glocester, Rhode Island)