Chilson – Orpha

My 4x maternal great grandmother was born in Westhampton, MA in 1823 and died in Northampton, MA in 1898. She buried in Bridge Street Cemetery with her family. FindAGrave: Orpha Chilson Russell

Orintha is the eldest child of Lewis Chilson and Dorcas Damon. The Chilson and Damon lines are long in Hampshire County. When I drive into Northampton, the first road I take after exiting I-91 is Damon Road. Makes me smile every time.

Her first child is my 3x great grandmother, Orintha. She and Orintha’s father, Roland Weller, are not known to have married. Orintha was born in 1839.

By 1843, she was living in the Boston area where she met and married John Russell on Sept 25, 1843. Her first child, Maria, with John was born in Feb 1844 in Worcester, MA. They would add Francis, Charles, Mary, George, Willie, Lewis, and Nellie – born from 1844 to 1862. The Civil War would impact them directly as their son, Francis G Russell, died in 1864 in Andersonville Prison. This prison was known for the high death rate of prisoners. More details can be found here: Andersonville National Park Francis has a marker in both Andersonville and Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton, MA.


  • 1850 Northampton, MA (no notation of a village); with husband John Russell and 3 children ( 1-6 in age). John’s occupation is listed as Harness Maker. Listed in same “dwelling” as John’s parents and aunt.
  • 1855 Northampton, MA; with husband John Russell and 4 children (3-12 in age). John’s occupation listed as Traveling Agent. Listed in same “dwelling” as John’s parents.
  • 1860 Northampton, MA with husband John and 7 children aged 4 mos to 15. John’s occupation listed as Farmer.
  • 1860 Agricultural Census: 40 Acres Improved, 10 Acres Unimproved; 1 horse, 3 milk cows, 3 other cattle, 3 swine. Predominantly Indian Corn with some Rye production. He also grew potatoes, had an orchard (exact trees not detailed), produced butter and had some hay.
  • 1865 Northampton, MA with husband John and 7 children aged 2 to 20. John’s occupation listed as Farmer
  • 1870 Northampton, MA with husband John and 5 children, aged 7 to 20. Her mother, Dorcas Chilson, living with them. Her father, Lewis Chilson, died in 1860. John’s occupation listed as Farmer.
  • 1870 Agricultural Census lists John in Northampton with the following assets: 1 horse, 2 milk cows, 2 other cattle, 2 swine.
    He grew Indian Corn, Oats, Potatoes and produced Butter.
  • 1880 Agricultural Census – 5 acres improved land; 2 horses
  • 1880: Leeds Village, Northampton, MA with husband John Russell and 5 children (17-34 in age). Husband’s occupation is Farmer. Son Charles is listed as married (1874), yet no spouse with him.

Before she was 20, Orpha had a child that she left with her parents to be raised and she had married John Russell. By the time she was 30, she had given birth to 4 more children and moved from Boston, to Worcester, and back to Northampton. Her 30s saw the birth of 3 more sons and a daughter, the death of her father, and the marriage of her first born, Orintha. She ended her 30s with the death of Francis 2 months before her 40th birth.

In her 40s, she moved to Leeds, have another son die – this time in a hunting accident where one brother shot another (Charles shot Lewis), and experience the death of her mother.  Her first grandson, John Stewart Mollison, was born when she was just 41. She would have two more grandchildren born before she was 50 (Mary Belle and Annie Mollison). Her 50s were a more positive decade in her life. Her children would marry – Charles, Maria, Mary and George. Her son Willie would pass (cause unknown). She would live to see one more child pass – Charles. Three more granddaughters were born before her death and one grandson after her passing.

She had 9 children, 7 grand children, and 6 great grandchildren born before she passed. As of 2016, her direct descendants number 186.

Her life experiences are so different from mine, yet are similar to those of her generation. When she did marry, it was for the rest of her life. She did not out live her husband, but did outlive 3 sons. 2 daughters did not marry, and only 3 of her 9 children would produce offspring. I hope that she found happiness in the midst of her years.

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