A Brief History of the Shapleigh Family Association
The Oliver Shapleigh Family Association
The first known organized group of descendants of Alexander Shapleigh the Immigrant assumed the name, The Oliver Shapleigh Family Association. Oliver Shapleigh, of the eighth generation of the Shapleighs in America, was the seventh child of Nicholas and Dorcas Stacy Shapleigh, who moved shortly after their marriage from Eliot, Maine to Lebanon, Maine, settling in 1792 on the old Katherine Austin farm a quarter mile south from Centre Lebanon.
Oliver, born in 1808, married Dorcas Ricker Blaisdell of Lebanon. They had twelve children, six of whom continued to live in Lebanon or vicinity after their marriage, together with their numerous progeny.
On July 5, 1909, fifteen days before the organization of the Shapleigh Family Association, a group of Oliver Shapleigh's descendants living with a "buggy ride" of each other, met at the home of John J. Shapleigh in East Rochester, New Hampshire and formed the Oliver Shapleigh Family Association. They voted to dispense with regular by-laws, and agreed that "all persons descended from Oliver Shapleigh and those that have or may marry into the family should be eligible for membership."
Nicholas B. Shapleigh, oldest living son of Oliver Shapleigh, who eight days later, July 13, 1909, issued the call for organization of a Shapleigh Family Association, was elected president of the association (Oliver S.F.A.). The first annual meeting of the association (Oliver S.F.A.) was held in 1910, at the home of Nicholas B. Shapleigh, President, at Centre Lebanon, Maine. Thirty-seven plus children were present. The usual attendance in subsequent years numbered between seventy and eighty. At the first meeting is "was voted that the heads of families should make out a list of births, marriages and deaths in their respective families and send or give the list to the recording secretary, for recording in her register, and for preservation." In the secretary's book there are not records of births or marriages, but twelve obituaries are included.
The Oliver Shapleigh Family Association and the Shapleigh Family Association was reorganized as one association in 1963; a history of the latter follows.
The Shapleigh Family Association
In 1909, at the request of several descendants of Alexander Shapleigh, who was the first Shapleigh to come to America, Nicholas Blaisdell Shapleigh, of Center Lebanon, Maine, called a meeting for the purpose of organizing a Shapleigh Family Association. At this meeting, held at Central Park in Somersworth (formerly Great Falls), New Hampshire, July 20, 1909, By-Laws were drawn up and adopted, and Articles were written and signed by eighty-eight persons who were present and eligible for membership in the newly formed association.
Nicholas Blaisdell Shapleigh was elected as President, and his sister, Mrs. Hannah Chandler Shapleigh Tibbetts, was chosen as Historian of the Association.
Following the meeting in 1941 the reunions were discontinued, due to World War II, with its accompanying restrictions on gasoline usage and the wartime activities of Association members. In the late 1950's Miss Mabelle Irene Shapleigh, of Concord, New Hampshire, treasurer, and Frederick E. Shapleigh, president of the Association when its meetings were discontinued, often discussed the Association's future and agreed that it should again become active. Not long after her sudden death, the president and two other officers issued a call for a meeting of persons eligible for membership in the Shapleigh Family Association and interested in its revival. On September 21, 1963, forty-two persons having this requirement met at "Marshview", home of President Frederick E. Shapleigh, a native of Center Lebanon, at Moody Beach, Maine. They included 42 residents of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Florida. Among those present were members of the Oliver Shapleigh Family Association, also no longer active. By unanimous vote the
Shapleigh Family Association was re-activated, and by a similar vote the Oliver Shapleigh Family Association was merged with it.
Most had attended the last meeting in 1941 but also included in the group was Richard W. Shapleigh, Sr., then 29 and living in North Reading, Massachusetts but a native of Eliot. He had long had an interest in tracing the origin of the Shapleigh Family and its name and five years earlier, while attending Suffolk University on Beacon Hill in Boston, wandered into the offices of The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) then located on Ashburton Place. Much to his surprise a great deal of information was readily at hand.
In 1964, Richard W. Shapleigh, Sr. was elected President of the association, an office he held through 1985 and the bicentennial of the Town of Shapleigh, Maine. During those years, the reunions were held in Kittery, Eliot, Lebanon, Acton, Shapleigh and Phippsburg, Maine as well as Portsmouth, Rye and Rochester, New Hampshire. Mr. Shapleigh wrote "our basic theme at each reunion was always to further the objects of the association as so well framed in the first article of our by-laws...this was accomplished by guest speakers, research papers, publication of a book in 1968 and the dedication of a commemorative plaque in the Town of Shapleigh in 1969." Richard Shapleigh has been the most dedicated association member and knowledgeable source on our Shapleigh history and is presently historian and secretary of the association.
The Shapleigh Family Association was incorporated as a non-profit educational organization in the State of Maine on September 23, 1968.
Historical Papers and the Association's Book
"The Descendants of Alexander Shapleigh the Immigrant" -
While serving in the capacity of historian beginning in 1909 Hannah Chandler Shapleigh Tibbetts gathered the material and wrote the historical papers and records included in the Association's book "The Descendants of Alexander Shapleigh the Immigrant" by Mrs. Tibbetts and Frederick E. Shapleigh.
Mrs. Tibbetts was the granddaughter of Nicholas Shapleigh, who settled in Lebanon, Maine, in 1792. Her great-grandfather, Captain Elisha Shapleigh, was of the sixth generation of Shapleighs in America, and was a prominent citizen, farmer and mill owner in Eliot, maine. The daughter of Oliver and Dorcas Blaisdell Shapleigh, she was born in 1850, in Lebanon, Maine.
When the Shapleigh Family Association was formed, Mrs. Tibbetts, a charter member, a direct descendant of Alexander Shapleigh, and familiar with historical and genealogical research was selected, as already noted, as historian of the Association. Her husband, Charles Wesley Tibbetts, was admitted to the bar in New Hampshire in 1873. They lived in Dover, New Hampshire, from 1879 to 1913, then returned to Maine. While in Dover, Mrs. Tibbetts worked with him, making genealogical investigations, studying old legal documents, and assisting him in his work for six years as Editor and Publisher of the New Hampshire Genealogical Record, official organ of the New Hampshire Genealogical Society. This periodical was an illustrated quarterly magazine devoted to Genealogy, History and Biography, dealing primarily with the genealogical records and history of early New Hampshire residents, but also included some material of interest to those of Shapleigh descent. Her experience gained while working with her husband in locating and evaluating historical and genealogical data was supplemented by research during their visit, in 1913, to Kingsweare, England, ancestral home of the Shapleighs.
In the years in which Mrs. Tibbetts was secretary and historian of the family association she collected a large amount of information which she used in the preparation of the historical papers. These papers, based upon painstaking examination of private and official records and original research have appreciably increased our knowledge concerning the early descendants of Alexander Shapleigh, the Immigrant.A reading of a transcript of Mrs. Tibbetts historical papers, by Frederick Shapleigh, led to a suggestion at the 1967 meeting of the Shapleigh Family Association that a committee be chosen to examine these papers, and to arrange them in an orderly manner, suitable for publication if found of sufficient interest and value. President Emeritus Frederick Shapleigh headed the committee, holding numerous meetings at his home "Marshview" at Moody Beach, Maine. The committee reviewed material presented by Mr. Shapleigh in draft form; he died one month before the 1968 reunion when the book was first put on sale. A memoriam to him appears near the front of the book.
The writings of Mrs. Tibbetts, preserved in the records of the Annual Meetings of the Shapleigh Family Association, are presented, without change in form or content, in the aforementioned book "The Descendants of Alexander Shapleigh the Immigrant". Her account in a series of historical papers and records, prepared between 1909 and 1925 were presented at the annual meetings of the association during the years 1910-1925 and published in the this 1968 book. Her information is based upon information which she acquired during the years when she served as Historian of the Association, was in no way intended to be a comprehensive or complete history of the early Shapleighs in America, but rather, a recital of certain facts and episodes which she believed might be of interest to members of the family Association. In addition to the Tibbetts' papers, the book includes a prologue, giving an account of Alexander Shapleigh's ancestors, their historical background, and a summary of Alexander's activities before emigrating to America; illustrations, photographs, maps and charts; and an epilogue, describing dominant characteristics of the Shapleigh Family.
Historical Records of the Shapleigh Family Association
THE ASSOCIATION'S FOUNDING, OBJECTS AND MEMBERSHIP -
The Association's Historical Records state that the call proposing the formation of a family association was issued at the request of many persons bearing the name of Shapleigh. The Preamble of the first by-laws of the Association reads as follows:
"Agreeably to a call signed by Nicholas B. Shapleigh of Lebanon, Maine, printed July 13, 1909, in "Fosters Daily Democrat", a newspaper printed at Dover, New Hampshire, a meeting of the Shapleigh family was held at Central Park in Somersworth, New Hampshire, on July 20, 1909, at which meeting a Shapleigh Family Association was organized." At this meeting Articles of Association were written, as below:
"We, the undersigned, descendants of Alexander Shapleigh, the Immigrant, who settled in Kittery, Maine, and persons who have married said descendants, believing that an association of the family would be for the mutual benefit of all concerned, do hereby organize ourselves into an association to be called the Shapleigh Family Association, and agree to be governed and abide by the By-Laws that may be adopted by said Association at this meeting." The By-Laws adopted at the meeting of those of Shapleigh descent, held for the purpose of organizing the Shapleigh Family Association, were published in 1909. They include the Preamble, Articles of Association, a list of the original members, with their places of residence, and the names of officers elected at its first meeting. Eighty-eight persons, residents of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia and Nebraska, signed as members of the Association at its organization meeting. All these names and related information, as well as names of persons joining the Association between 1910-1941 and other historic notes by year are included in our book "The Descendants of Alexander Shapleigh the Immigrant." Since that time, the Association's aims, and requirements for membership have changed little except for periodic changes to the By-Laws, such as in the dues structure, as deemed necessary by the officers, trustees and general membership. Our annual expenses generally center around notice and newsletter costs, such as printing, computer supplies and postage and the cost of our annual reunion. The publication of books, newsletters and notices; and the inclusion of information on this website all are major steps in the fulfillment of one of the Association's chief purposes, concisely stated in Article 1 of its original By-Laws as follows: "To learn more concerning ourselves; to collect and preserve all genealogical and historical records pertaining to the Shapleigh Family, including their domestic, civil, literary, religious and political life, and to stimulate in our young a desire to excel in everything that tends to the development of the faculties and the ennoblement of character." In addition to its aforementioned activities, the Association has been active in maintaining a large library including historical documents and genealogies, photographs, maps, deeds, wills and memoriabilia; proposing and funding Shapleigh memorials; participating in local historic events and celebrations; working with local historical societies; sponsoring tours of Shapleigh sites; and in the preservation of Shapleigh cemeteries (Please see our Cemetery webpage). The Association is a member of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society.
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