When History Collides: My Mayflower Cousins

On my mom’s side of the family, my grandpa’s grandmother, Alice (Warren) Johnson Beatty opened the door to finding some very interesting genealogy. For a long time, I wondered about the name of one of her sons, Simeon. It turns out he was named after his grandfather, much the way I was. His grandparents on his mother’s side were Simeon Warren and Frances Moss.

This part of my family has the deepest Michigan roots of all. Alice was born near Marshall, married John Johnson and they lived in Clarendon Township, Calhoun County, Michigan. The Warren family had settled in Butler Township, Branch County, Michigan. Frances Moss was the daughter of Paul Moss, of Convis Township, Calhoun County, who settled in 1836. Alice’s grandparents on her father’s side were Alanson Warren and Phebe Lanfear. Alanson was born 1 Feb 1789 in Poultney, Vermont to Simeon Warren and Mercy Betts. So now we see where the name Simeon comes from.

The elder Simeon Warren was the son of Nehemiah Warren and Anna Fuller, and this is where the story gets real interesting. Both Nehemiah and Anna are Mayflower descendants. Nehemiah was the great-great-grandson of Richard Warren, and Anna’s great-grandfather, Samuel Fuller, and great-great-grandfather, Edward Fuller also came over on the Mayflower.

Anna was also the granddaughter of “Little John” Fuller, the son of Samuel Fuller. Little John married Mehitable Rowley, and they settled in East Haddam, Connecticut. Anna’s first cousin was Lydia Fuller, who married Daniel Gates. Their daughter, Lydia married Solomon Mack, and they were the grandparents of Joseph Smith Jr., the prophet and founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Another first cousin of Anna’s was William Fuller, who married Rebecca Spencer. They were the grandparents of Oliver Cowdery, the Book of Mormon scribe to Joseph Smith Jr. Oliver and Joseph’s mother Lucy Mack Smith were third cousins, but there is considerable debate on the relationship between the Smith and Cowdery families at this time.

Oliver Cowdery, born October 3, 1806, in Wells, Vermont, and grew up in Poultney—the same town where my ancestor, Alanson Warren, was born; who was also a third cousin to Oliver Cowdery and Lucy Mack Smith.

Undoubtedly, there were hundreds and thousands of descendants of the Fullers who lived throughout New England at that time. Many probably kept in close contact with each other in their rural villages and farms; but many others had resettled and lost any conscious relationship with one another. I wonder if my Michigan pioneer ancestor, Alanson Warren, or his parents, knew the Cowdery family at all, or would have been aware they were related to them. I can only imagine they did. But even so, I doubt seriously they could have foreseen the historical ironies surrounding the Smith and Cowdery families that would be discovered.

The controversy over the Cowdery and Smith families is one that perplexes historians. Anti-Mormons claim Cowdery was the inspiration for the Book of Mormon, based on his knowledge of the View of the Hebrews (1823), written by the minister Ethan Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith Jr.), who also lived in Poultney, Vermont. The Cowdery family attended Smith’s Congregational church there from 1821 to 1826, just a few short years before publication of the Book of Mormon. Oliver moved to Manchester, New York, and after staying at the home of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith in the spring of 1829, he began to serve as scribe for Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon.

In 1790 the Warren family was enumerated north of Poultney in nearby Hubbarton, scene of a 1777 battle between American and British forces. By the early 1800s, they moved into New York state; moving west in that state before settling in south-central Michigan by 1840.

I count myself fortunate to have these historical connections, and of being a Mayflower descendant. Let history be debated, but no matter the outcome, this heritage is mine.

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