Friday, April 16, 2010

Rebecca Married

According to family legend, William Miller, a young man of around 29 years of age, visited the home and Samuel and Sarah Bradford. Their baby daughter, Rebecca, lay in the cradle. Upon seeing the child, William was so taken with her that he vowed to wait till she grew up so that he could marry her. Apparently this is precisely what happened.

However, the records are then completely silent about Rebecca's life for the next 18 or 19 years, till her marriage in 1778. In the summer of that year on the 13th day of June, Rebecca and William were married in Elkton, Maryland, by a minister *William Thompson (see footnote below).

William was now 46 years old, 29 years her senior! We have found no records to indicate that he was married before. Apparently this was his first and only marriage. If the legend is true, what motivated William to make such a pledge so many years earlier? What motivated him to keep that promise through the long, lonely years that ensued? This is truly one of the most intriguing stories in our entire family tree!

It is tantalizing to make this into a dramatic love story, but was it so? They had lived near each other and must have had contact over the years. As she entered her teens, did Rebecca fall in love with William? Or was it an arranged marriage between William and her parents with little love on her part? Did she learn to love him over the years? Or were they head-over-heels in love all their lives? Unless she kept a diary or journal that miraculously surfaces someday (be still my heart!), this will truly remain one of our own personal "History's Mysteries"! I personally am rooting for the head-over-heels version!

Another interesting aspect of their marriage is that they wed in the midst of the Revolutionary War. While no major battles were fought in that part of Maryland, British and American troops traveling through that area was not uncommon. Did William serve? There are conflicting opinions which we will discuss in a future post. But to be newly married during the American Revolution must have presented a unique topic of conversation over the dinner table!

Rebecca bore William 7 sons and 1 daughter over the ensuing years. She and William farmed the land in Maryland while the children were young, then moved to western Pennsylvania (Fayette County) around 1783, where they lived out their lives. It is no surprise that, with such a great age difference, Rebecca was left a widow for many years, though not as many as one would expect since William lived to the ripe old age of 84! He died in 1814 when his wife was 55 years old, and she outlived him by over 20 years.

Some of Rebecca's children and grandchildren lived nearby during this time. She also had the companionship of her mother, Sarah, for the first 10 of those years. This must have been a great comfort and helped to relieve some of the loneliness.

In March 1835, some 57 years after her wedding in that summer of long ago, this good lady passed away at the age of 76. I like to think that William, who again had to wait many long years for his Rebecca, welcomed her with open arms.

Footnote: It is puzzling that William and Rebecca were married by Rev. Thompson, as he apparently was an Anglican minister (according to: Rebecca had assuredly been raised Presbyterian by her Scots-Irish father [we're not sure about her mother], and extensive research by a fellow-researcher, Chalmers Williams, indicates that William also was of Scots-Irish heritage. This would strongly suggest that they were Presbyterian. Perhaps it was simply that Rev. Thompson was the closest minister in the area.

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Here is a link to a wonderful site which describes life in colonial Maryland in Talbot County, Cecil County's neighbor to the south. This family is not connected to our Bradford's and Miller's, but it still gives great insight into the era, as it is a first-person account. Sorry it didn't come through as a link; you will have to cut and paste it into your address box, but I promise it is worth the read!: Go to:


  1. To you who are new followers/distant cousins, I would love to hear from you! Post a comment here, or email me at:


  2. I love this post, and I love this story! Definitely goes into the "material" file for future screenplays. :)

  3. Wow! That is a cool story! You're good at genealogy! I have so many pictures from the 1700s and 1800s of people in my family but do not know who they are! I wish I could find out!

  4. Hmm, intriguing or creepy? I'm going to go with romantic. Good story!

  5. Thanks for all your great comments!! Debbie, I'm so glad you have all those pictures - that is so awesome. When you have more time, it would be great to sit down with the oldest members of your family and see if you can get some of them figured out and labeled. Best of luck!


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