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Joseph Wilkins, a resident of Pembroke and a veteran of the Civil War, was born May 24, 1844, son of Jeremiah Hall and Mary (Thompson) Wilkins. He is not only a representative of an old New Hampshire family, but a lineal descendant of ancestors who were first settlers in this country. Bray Wilkins, who came from Wales, Brecknock County, was a descendant of Lord John Wilkins, who belonged to a family that traced their lineage back to 1090 and had borne many honorable titles. Lord John was a connection of the Bishop Wilkins who married the sister of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell. Bray, at the age of twenty, is supposed to have come to this country in the same ship with Endicott, about 1630, and to have first settled in Dorchester, Mass. Before 1659 he bought from Governor Richard Bellingham seven hundred acres of land called Wills Hill, which in 1661 was within Salem’s six-mile limit. He died in 1702, a patriarchal land owner, amidst the farms and homes of his sons and daughters.
The portion of Bray’s son, John Wilkins, was situated in Danvers, Mass. John, son of John, who was born about 1689, went with his wife, Mary Goodale Wilkins, and two sons to Marlboro, Mass., in 1740. His eldest son, Josiah Wilkins, married Lois Bush, whose grandparents settled in Marlboro in 1690. Of Josiah’s five sons, the third, Jonathan, born in 1755, graduated at Harvard College, studied theology, and was called to preach at the old South Parish, Concord, N.H., in 1789. He married Sarah Hall, whose grandfather, Deacon Joseph Hall, was one of Concord’s first settlers. Deacon Hall was granted eleven lots in the lower range in 1725, built his house, which was used as the garrison for many years. He is recorded as owning the second chaise and clock in Concord. The house was inherited by his grand-daughter, Sarah Hall, who occupied it during her lifetime. She had thirteen children, who all grew up and married.
Jeremiah Hall Wilkins at the early age of eighteen left his home and settled in Pembroke, where he was engaged in the grocery and dry-goods trade for forty years. Being an able and successful merchant, he acquired considerable property. As a leading resident he was long identified with local public affairs, and in 1820 he represented his town in the legislature. In politics he was a Republican, and for many years he acted as a Justice of the Peace. He was very proud of his grandmother, Esther Whittemore Hall, whose ancestor settled in Charlestown in 1642; also of Deborah Abbot Hall, whose grandfather, George Abbot, of Andover, was an ancestor of his. Mary Thompson Wilkins was a lineal descendant of the Poore and Noyes families of Old Newbury, Mass., who settled there before 1650. She became the mother of fourteen children, of whom five are now living. Of these Mary E. Wilkins married Dr. John Sullivan, a great-great-grandson of General Sullivan of Revolutionary fame; and Harriet married Dr. Frederick E. Potter, who for fourteen years was a surgeon in the United States Navy, and is now a successful physician in Portsmouth, N.H. The rest are: Francis, who Boston; Henry, who served in the Civil War; and the subject of this sketch.
Joseph Wilkins was educated in the common schools and at the Pembroke Academy. He started in life as a clerk in a store in Concord, then went to Sycamore, Ill., where he resided for a year. At the expiration of that time he enlisted in Company F, One Hundred and Thirty-second Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, for service in the Civil War. He served for five months in Kentucky and Tennessee, where his regiment was engaged in a campaign against the Confederate guerillas. After his discharge from the army he went to New York City, where he learned photography. From there he went to Hyde Park, Mass., where he conducted a studio for a time. Then for a year he carried on the same business in Nashua, N.H. In 1873 he returned to Pembroke, and some time later he engaged in a mercantile business which he has since carried on in connection with photography. He takes a large number of views annually, which find a ready sale; and his efforts have been attended with excellent financial results. He is also interested in real estate to some extent. He owns some valuable property in the South, and is regarded as one of the most prosperous residents of Pembroke at the present time. The family in all its branches have been connected with the Congregational church. Mr. Wilkins is a comrade of Post Lewis Bell, No. 3, G. A. R., of Manchester, and in politics is a Republican.
On June 23, 1897, he married Lora J. Emery, of Suncook, N.H.