George W Ayers and Maria D Hawkins

George W Ayers was born 2 Jun 1821 in Wakefield, NH. I have not yet identified his parents. One city directory showed Andrew J Ayers living with George. Andrew is the right age to be his brother, and Andrew’s death record names his father as Joseph. In one census record, an older woman named Olive Ayers was living with Andrew. Those names might be clues to George’s parents.

Maria D Hawkins was born about September 1826 in Tamworth, NH, daughter of Cornelius D Hawkins and Sarah Winkley. The Hawkins family lived in Tamworth in 1830, and in 1840 was in nearby Albany. (Town boundaries were changing in those years, so they may have lived in two different towns without moving.) Conway NH town tax records show that Cornelius was in Conway by 1844.

I have not yet found a marriage record for Maria and George, but they were probably married about 1846, as their first child, daughter Margelia (Gelia) was born in Portsmouth NH in 1848. I have not yet located the family in the 1850 census.

Two more children were born: Alfred Winslow Ayers in 1852, and George Herbert Ayers in 1856. The 1857 Portsmouth city directory is the first paper record I have for the family. George was listed at 29 Hanover street, employed at W. Simes & Co. Andrew as mentioned above lived at the same residence, and this was the Ayers home for a couple generations. The 1860 census lists the family, George working as a laborer. His real estate was valued at $1000, and his personal property at $500. The 1867 city directory lists George as a sexton, a position he held for 50 years.

In 1870, George’s occupation was listed as teamster, with personal property valued at $400. Maria’s occupation was “keeping house”. The household included Winslow and George H, as well as daughter Margelia A, and her new husband, Flavin Berri, a clerk in a store. Ancestry has a good collection of city directories for Portsmouth during these years, and George was listed every other year (probably that’s how often they were published) as sexton and later listed as associated with the North Church – Congregational. In 1875, the Ayers home was listed in the business section of the directory as a boarding house. Son Herbert was sometimes listed as an engineer, but I’m not sure what kind. Later he was a barber and hair dresser.

The Ayers family probably kept a couple milk cows. As reported in the Independent Statesman (Concord NH) on 13 April 1876, George W Ayers, of Portsmouth, last season pastured a yearling heifer, in Greenland, but when the fall came she could not be caught. The farmer set his shepherd dog to catch her, but he only succeeded in driving her from the pasture, and she has wandered about the woods between Greenland and Stratham all winter, subsisting mainly on browsing trees. For several weeks she has been known to be in the vicinity of a farm in Stratham, and has been fed in the woods; but though coming near the farm several times with the cattle, she could not be toled into the yard or building, and she was only captured finally last week, by the farmer building a shed or trap over the spot where he was accustomed to leave her hay in the woods, with a door to drop by her removing its support as she fed, when he climbed to the top and dropped a rope down over her horns. She is quite thin in flesh, but surprisingly tame and gentle considering her escapade.   (I had to look it up – toled means enticed.)

In 1880, the household on Hanover Street included George, still listed as a teamster, with Maria keeping house. Son Herbert was a barber. Son-in-law Floren Barri was a soap chandler (manufacturer) and he and Gelia had a daughter, Bertha. The final member of the household was Maria Fuller, most certainly the daughter of Maria Hawkins Ayers’ sister, Eliza Hawkins Fuller. Her “relationship” was servant, as was her occupation, so she probably helped in the boarding house operations. The city directories through the 1880s continued to list George as sexton, and in 1888, the occupation of mail carrier was added through 1894.

George and Maria’s daughter Gelia died 30 Dec 1885 of chronic mania at the state hospital in Worcester and was buried at Harmony Grove Cemetery. Her husband remarried 10 years later, and died in 1913 in Massachusetts.  (Their daughter Bertha married William Entwistle, and died in Portsmouth in 1932.)

George and Maria’s son Alfred died 23 Feb 1891. The cause of death was hard to read, but probably was cerebritis, an infection of the brain. He was buried at Harmony Grove. Alfred had married Nellie Randall of Gosport (Isles of Shoals) and their daughter Ethel had married Patrick Coffee, then William Simmons.

Maria D (Hawkins) Ayers died 8 Oct 1891 of pneumonia, and is buried at Harmony Grove. Her death record lists her as the daughter of Alpheus Hawkins and Sarah A Winkley. I believe that this record incorrectly named her father, and that it should say Cornelius Hawkins. I found no other record linking Alpheus and Sarah. She is listed as the mother of Cornelius’ other three children – Eliza Jane, Sarah Ann, and Andrew Jackson. The only other Alpheus in the Tamworth area older than Maria was only 13 when she was born. He might be Cornelius’ brother, as they were living next to each other according to an early census record, but Alpheus married Betsey Harriman, not Sarah A Winkley. The death record is an index card copied from the Portsmouth town records, and a librarian at the Portsmouth library confirmed that Alpheus was recorded on the original town report. I hope that any readers with either supporting or contradicting information about Maria will share that with me.

George and Maria’s son George Herbert died d 5 Feb 1895 and is buried at Harmony Grove. His cause of death was “general paresis” which was a neuropsychiatric disorder affecting the brain. He had been married to May Morton, but I have found no record of children for them.

George (senior) may have retired by 1897, as the city directory for that year lists him at the same address, but no occupation. An item in the 19 Oct 1898 Portsmouth Herald reported that Mr George W Ayers of Hanover street will leave next month for Southern Pines, NC to pass the winter. He will be accompanied by Mrs. W T Entwistle, his grand-daughter. I don’t know what George’s connection was with Southern Pines, a community in the center of the state.

In 1900, George lived at same address, living with Bertha (daughter of Gelia) and William Entwistle. A boarder with the family was Elizabeth M Ayers b Sep 1865, but I don’t know how she is connected to George. The city directories continued to list George in 1901 and 1903.

George died 4 Dec 1907 from arteriosclerosis, and is buried at Harmony Grove. His death record did not name his parents. However, his death was noted in a California newspaper. Los Angeles Herald, Volume 35, Number 77, 18 December 1907 – Portsmouth NH Dec 17 George W Ayers, 86, died recently at his home on Hanover street. He was the oldest member of New Hampshire Lodge of Odd Fellows, having joined that organization May 31, 1848. He was for a half-century sexton of the North Congregational church.


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