The Weld family is an extended family of Boston Brahmins most remembered for the philanthropy of its members. The Welds have many connections to Harvard University, the Golden Age of Sail, the Far East (especially Japan), the history of Massachusetts, and American history in general.
William Weld, former Governor of Massachusetts, is the most prominent living member of this family. When Massachusetts Senate president Billy Bulger publicly teased William Weld about his ancestors' having come over on the Mayflower, Weld joked: "Actually, they weren't on the Mayflower. They sent the servants over first to get the cottage ready."
One Sheriff William Weld was sheriff of London, England in 1352. Although it is difficult to prove genealogical relationships that far back, evidence suggests that Sheriff Weld was related to the Welds who eventually came to North America.
The Weld family has a presence in Massachusetts dating back to the early 17th century and their relationship to one another is clearly recorded. In the first days of European settlement in the New World, three sons of Edmund Weld (1559–1608) of Sudbury, Suffolk, England arrived in Boston. Daniel Weld (1585/1586–1666), the eldest, became a teacher at Roxbury Latin School. Two notable Welds in New England traced their ancestry to him.
Captain Joseph Weld (1599–1646), the youngest of the three Weld immigrants, is the ancestor from whom the richest and most famous Welds descend. As an award for his participation in the Pequot War of 1637 and subsequent negotiations, the colonial legislature granted Weld 278 acres (1.13 km2) in the town of Roxbury.
Captain Weld's land is now much of present-day Jamaica Plain and Roslindale. With the wealth generated from this grant, Joseph Weld became one of the first donors to Harvard and a founder of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.
Born in Ireland, he wrote a number of books about his exploration of the United States and Canada from 1795 to 1797. His surveys were both for adventure and to research suitable countries for the Irish to emigrate. He decided that "any part of those territories might be looked forward to as an eligible and agreeable place of abode" for them.
He returned home in 1797 "without entertaining the slightest wish to revisit the American continent." He described Americans as being obsessed with material things and preferred Canada to the United States. His published Travels, Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada During the Years 1795, 1796 and 1797, quickly went into three editions and was translated into French, German, and Dutch.
The Welds and HarvardEdit
Thomas Weld's involvement with Harvard was the beginning of almost 400 years of association between that institution and the Weld Family.
Surprisingly, the first Weld to attend ended his Harvard career in disgrace. John Weld (born in 1625) and a classmate stole money and gunpowder from two houses and were caught. Henry Dunster (Harvard’s first president) personally whipped them and expelled them from the school. Weld returned to England and became a minister in Durham.
At least eighteen more Weld family members have graduated from Harvard since then, and two prominent buildings at Harvard University are named for the family.
Captain John Weld, son of Captain Joseph Weld, inherited his estate and served as an officer in King Philip's War of 1675. He built his home, Weld Hall, on what came to be called Weld Hill in Forest Hills (still marked by the presence of Weld Hill Street across the street from Forest Hills MBTA station).
Weld and Williams FarmsEdit
The descendants of John Weld created Weld Farm near the Brookline border around what is now Hancock Village but was formerly Weld Golf Course.
Other descendants of John Weld moved on to develop the valley of Sawmill Brook near Dedham as the Williams Farm. Part of the Weld properties in this area were sold in 1854 for the construction of what is now the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury.
While the Weld's Brookline and Dedham properties were developed in the 17th and 18th centuries as agricultural lands, in the 19th and 20th centuries these became Weld-owned estates of great luxury.
This first Weld Hall in Jamaica Plain was home to many generations of Welds, the last of which was Colonel Eleazer Weld, one of seven Weld family members who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Weld Hill was selected by George Washington as a rallying point for the patriot army to fall back upon in case of disaster.
After Eleazer Weld's death in 1800, much of his land along the Roslindale and Jamaica Plain border went to fellow patriot Benjamin Bussey and was subsequently bequeathed to Harvard, becoming the basis for Arnold Arboretum.
In Roslindale, the "Weld-Walter tract" remains the name of one of the four parcels into which the arboretum is divided. On the Walter Street side of the Arboretum near the intersection with Weld Street is a tiny cemetery with eight slate tombstones dated between 1712 and 1812. Two of the Welds who fought in the Revolutionary War are buried here, marked by a later monument of Roxbury puddingstone.
Although some of the Weld land became the arboretum, the land which the Welds retained was more than enough to assure their prosperity in the 19th century.
William Gordon WeldEdit
William Gordon Weld (1775–1825), Eleazer's fifth son, founded a fleet of trading vessels that brought more wealth back from China. He married Hannah Minot (1780–1860) and together they had one daughter and eight sons. One son was killed in Mexico, but the remaining sons sired 813 descendants (see chart).
William Fletcher WeldEdit
William Fletcher Weld (1800–1881), son of William Gordon Weld, expanded his father's maritime enterprise into a world-class collection of clipper ships known as the Black Horse Flag fleet. He also invested in railroads and urban real estate, leaving behind a $20 million fortune for his descendants.
Stephen Minot WeldEdit
Stephen Minot Weld (1806–1867), another son of William Gordon Weld, was a schoolmaster, real estate investor and politician. After his death, his elder brother (above) raised the Harvard dormitory known as Weld Hall in his honor.
George Walker WeldEdit
George Walker Weld (1840–1905), a son of William Fletcher Weld, was a founding member of Boston Athletic Association (organizers of today's Boston Marathon) and the financier of the Weld Boathouse, a landmark on the Charles.
William Gordon Weld IIEdit
William Gordon Weld II, named for his grandfather, married a Goddard (a Massachusetts family represented by such members as Robert H. Goddard). He provided one record of his family's history in The Family of Weld (a manuscript at NEHGS).
His huge estate of Weld land in Brookline included a majestic carriage house he had designed by Edmund M. Wheelwright. Weld sold that building and a 26-acre (110,000 m2) parcel of his land to a cousin (described next). Hellenic College, situated on a wooded, 59-acre (240,000 m2) hill overlooking the Boston skyline, stands on another portion of his former estate.
Isabel Weld PerkinsEdit
Isabel Weld Perkins (1876–1948), daughter of Anna Minot Weld and Commodore George H. Perkins was another grandchild of William Fletcher Weld and inherited $17 million of his wealth. She married diplomat Larz Anderson (later Ambassador to Japan) and became an author. Isabel bought Brookline land from her cousin William Gordon Weld II and called the estate "Weld".
Welds of Lulworth CastleEdit
In 1643, a wealthy Londoner named Humphrey Weld bought and restored Lulworth Castle, a fire-damaged "mock castle" in Dorset, England. It became his family's principal home and was remodeled on several occasions.
Thomas Cardinal Weld (1773–1837), a Roman Catholic cardinal, his brother Joseph Weld (1777–1863) (both of whom lived in Lulworth castle) and his nephew, Frederick Weld (1823–1891), a Prime Minister of New Zealand, were among the notable descendants of Humphrey Weld.
Isabel Weld Perkins believed her Weld family and the Weld family of Lulworth Castle to be one and the same. Accordingly, she and Larz Anderson designed their Brookline home to resemble it.
Charles Goddard WeldEdit
Dr. Charles Goddard Weld (1857–1911), son of William Fletcher Weld II, was a physician and philanthropist. He purchased Japanese art belonging to friend Ernest Fenollosa and donated it the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The MFA now has the largest collection of Japanese art outside Japan, much of it in the "Fenollosa-Weld Collection." Weld also purchased prints by premier American photographer Edward S. Curtis and donated those to Peabody Essex Museum.
Dr. Weld also owned Weld House, the office of the president of Boston University, as well as the adjoining Dunn House which now contains the office of the chancellor.
Stephen Minot Weld, Jr.Edit
General Stephen Minot Weld, Jr. (1842–1920), son of Stephen Minot Weld, served with distinction as a general during the American Civil War in such major conflicts, as the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. His former estate in Dedham, known in his time as "Rockweld", is now home to the Endicott House conference facility owned by MIT.
Francis Minot WeldEdit
Dr. Francis Minot Weld (1840–1894), yet another grandchild of William Gordon Weld, also served in the Civil War and then practiced medicine in Boston. He moved to New York City for a time but returned to Jamaica Plain before he died. One of Dr. Weld's sons, Christopher Minot Weld, was a renowned mining engineer.
Francis Minot Weld, Jr.Edit
William Floyd WeldEdit
As just noted, Governor William Floyd Weld is the grandson of Francis Minot Weld, Jr. After his grandfather's investment company was sold to the brokerage company G.H. Walker & Co. (named for George Herbert Walker, Jr., uncle of President George H. W. Bush), the future governor served as director of the Bushes' company until it was bought by Merrill Lynch in the 1970s.
Weld's first wife, Susan Roosevelt Weld, Harvard professor specializing in Ancient China and later General Counsel to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, is a great granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt. They have five children together.
Lothrop Motley Weld IIEdit
Lothrop Weld was graduated from Harvard, served in World War I, and worked for S.M. Weld & Company, his grandfather's business. He later moved into the petroleum business and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Weld married four times and had five children. The oldest of these was Lothrop Motley Weld III. His youngest child, a daughter who grew up to be the most famous Weld in Hollywood, was only three years old when her father died.
Susan Ker Weld, known by her stage name Tuesday Weld, is the daughter of Lothrop Motley Weld II and the great-granddaughter of Gen. Stephen Minot Weld, Jr.
Tuesday Weld debuted in an Alfred Hitchcock film, co-starred with and dated Elvis Presley, and was married to Dudley Moore and Pinchas Zukerman during her career. She and former Governor Weld share William Gordon Weld as their common ancestor.
Besides those Welds described here who are descended from Captain Joseph Weld (hero of the Pequot War), there are at least two notable 19th-century Welds who are descended from Joseph's older brother Thomas who returned to England in 1641. Both these Welds were born in Hampton, Connecticut and both are the sons of Ludovicus Weld.
Theodore Dwight WeldEdit
Ludovicus Weld's son Theodore Dwight Weld was one of the most important abolitionists in American history, a colleague of John Quincy Adams, and a disciple of Charles Grandison Finney. Theodore Dwight Weld married civil rights advocate Angelina Emily Grimké who then became Angelina Emily Grimké Weld.
Ezra Greenleaf WeldEdit
Another of Ludovicus Weld's sons, Ezra Greenleaf Weld was an early American photographer who operated a daguerreotype studio in Cazenovia, New York. Like his brother noted above, this Weld had ties to the abolitionist movement. "Greenleaf" (as this Weld was known) made images of such 19th centuries luminaries as Frederick Douglass, Abby Kelley and the Edmonson sisters.
Hiram Chester Weld, 1912-2005, was a professor at Baker University for four years and taught at Boston University and two other colleges before becoming a Methodist minister when there was a shortage of ministers during WWII. Hiram earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University, his S.T.B. and M.A. from Boston Theological Seminary, and his B.A. from Simpson College where he met his future wife, Mary. Hiram audited one course at Harvard University and served as pastor at the Harvard-Epworth church on the Harvard campus for one summer month in his graduate school days. In the course of his career, he was a conference speaker and radio minister, and he pastored two of the largest Methodist churches in America at the time, Elm Park Methodist in Scranton, Pennsylvania and North Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Indiana. He studied also at Heidleberg University in 1938 and Oxford University in 1939 on the only fellowship given at the time by Boston Theological Seminary. In Germany he was saluted by German soldiers on at least two occasions with a "Heil, Hitler!" He responded with "Heil, Roosevelt!" and for this he was thrown out of a restaurant with his wife Mary with whom he was studying abroad.
Hiram and Mary had two sons, Wayne Robert and Devereaux Chester. Wayne graduated from Ohio University and took courses from Dartmouth and Stanford. He served as COO of Century 21 when it grew from 1500 to 2500 offices. He lives in Tucson and is active in networking people from diverse careers. Devereaux earned his Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology from Argosy University, attended Ohio Wesleyan University (B.A.), Union Theological Seminary, NY, NY, the University of Arizona and many other schools. Known as "Chet," he is a pastor and marriage and individual counselor in Tucson, Arizona.
- While there was no Weld among the names of the 26 male Mayflower passengers currently known to have descendants, genealogists such as Gary Boyd Roberts of New England Historic Genealogical Society have pointed out that tens of millions of Americans (approximately one in seven) has at least one ancestor who was among this group of early settlers. William Weld, whose family has been in Massachusetts since the 1600s, has several Mayflower ancestors from whom he is descended through multiple lines (making Billy Bulger's statement very accurate).
- Kenzie, Ross B. "Descendants of John Weld". Retrieved 2008-11-14.
- Annals and Reminiscences of Jamaica Plain by Harriet Manning Whitcomb
- Note that before becoming associated with Texas, the Bush family was another well-established New England family like the Welds and several others mentioned in this article. George H. Bush, for example, was born in Milton, Massachusetts, and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. See also "earliest confirmed direct ancestor of the Bush political family."
- Governor Weld's son David joked, "Our father used to tell us that all our ancestors were opium smugglers--it's pretty much the family business...I've even had a hand in it myself." (Lambert, C.A., "The Welds of Harvard Yard", Harvard Magazine, November–December 1998)
- *His wife was the niece of the historian John Lothrop Motley. Lothrop Motley Weld, the son of Stephen Minot Weld, was named after his mother's uncle John Lothrop Motley. The name then passed to Lothrop Motley Weld II and Motley Weld III.
- Wright, Benjamin T. (1996). Skating in America (1921–1996): The 75th Anniversary History of the United States Figure Skating Association. Colorado Springs.
- Weld, M.E., "A Beautiful Stride," 2004, self-published by Mary's son, Chet
- Anderson, I., Under the Black Horse Flag, Boston, 1926.
- Arnold, G.W., The Old Farm, Boston, 1937.
- Badger, A., The Welds, privately printed, Chestnut Hill, 1987.
- Drake, F.S., The Town of Roxbury, Roxbury, 1878.
- C. W. Fowler, History of the Weld Family, 1879.
- Heath, R., Allandale Woods, Boston Natural Areas Fund, Boston 1989.
- Lambert, C.A., "The Welds of Harvard Yard", Harvard Magazine, November–December 1998.
- Sutton, S.B., Arnold Arboretum: The First century, Boston, 1971.
- Weld, W.G., "The Family of Weld", MS at New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston.
- Whitcomb, H.M. Annals and Reminiscences of Jamaica Plain, Boston, 1897.
- Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University, Colonel Eleazer Weld
- Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Larz Anderson and Isabel Weld Perkings
- BU Bridge News, Weld House & Dunn House
- Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, "Theodore Dwight Weld"
- Harvard Magazine, "The Welds of Harvard Yard" by associate editor Craig A. Lambert
- Historic Houses In Dorset, "Lulworth Castle"
- Jamaica Plain Historical Society, "The Weld Family"
- Jamaica Plain Historical Society, "Revolutionary War Burial Site Near Arboretum"
- Larz Anderson Auto Museum, "The Andersons"
- Project Gutenberg, Book of Annals and Reminiscences of Jamaica Plain by Harriet Manning Whitcomb