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signatures from depositions he made for Revolutionary War pension applications: left, his own in 1818 and right, for Barnabus Clark in 1837

Nathaniel was raised on his father's homestead, which likely was part of the older Holbrook lands on North Street, west of Braintree village. According to Albert Holbrook's manuscript, Nathaniel had a "withered arm," the result of a "fever sore early in life."1 At the age of sixteen Nathaniel enlisted in Capt. John Vinton's Company of Braintree to respond to the Lexington alarm on 19 April 1775. The men were discharged three days later, not being needed for this brief battle.2 With their patriotic spirits stirred, Nathaniel became one of the "eight months men" who enlisted soon after. He joined with Capt. Vinton's company again on 5 May and was committed to the end of the year. This was called an "independent company," but it appears they were within Col. Paul Dudley Sargent's regiment. They were stationed in Braintree (now Quincy) on the shore of Boston Harbor in the vicinity of Squantum. Another source confirms this. Nathaniel called it "Rye Hill...near...Squantum." When his term ended he reenlisted in Vinton's company, committing to a year of service in 1776, again under Col. Sargent. The company continued to be stationed around Boston. In one of Nathaniel's depositions for a fellow soldier's pension application, he thought they were primarily in Cambridge. This may have been a sort of camp headquarters for them, but the chief officer of operations around Boston, Maj. Gen. Artemas Ward, in describing work done by various regiments, shows that the 16th and others were mobile. Six companies under Sargent were involved with demolishing fortifications made by the British at Bunker Hill and building a fort at "Charlestown Point." This kind of labor may have been beyond the means of Nathaniel, but the extent of his disability isn't known. Evidence shows there was a constant need for medical care, and this may have occupied him throughout his entire term of service.
     When the British threatened to take New York City, troops were ordered to march there. David How, who served in Sargent's regiment, wrote a diary from which much of the following was taken.3 The 16th left Boston on the 18th of July, traveling by land through Medway and Mendon in Massachusetts, Thompson and Killingly in Connecticut to Norwich, and from there sailed for New York. They were positioned at what was known as Horn's Hook, where Gracie Mansion now stands, on the east shore of the island. The 16th was apparently engaged in building a fort there. In early September the British, after neglecting a chance to decimate the American army in Brooklyn, moved into what is now the Borough of Queens and exchanged artillery fire with the Horn's Hook regiments from across the East River. The British army advanced onto Manhattan Island on the 15th, and the American soldiers remaining there below Harlem moved north to a fortification at what was recently called Mount Washington, which is now the northern part of the Washington Heights neighborhood, and another at Kingsbridge in what is now Riverdale in the Bronx. The 16th went to Kingsbridge. There were fortifications of various sizes in the Kingsbridge area. Col. Hutchinson's 27th Massachusetts regiment came to New York from Boston at the same time as the 16th, and they reportedly were stationed at "Fort Independence." This was the largest in Kingsbridge, located in what is now the Marble Hill neighborhood. At least part of the regiment was called in to help repulse an advance north by the British, now known as the Battle of Harlem Heights. Nathaniel's brother Ichabod was also in Capt. Vinton's company (he also served with Nathaniel in 1775). As a lieutenant, he appears on a list of the disposition of officers in the regiment dated 4 October. He is described as "on command with sick." Was this a regular duty for him? This is interesting given that Nathaniel is said to have been a surgeon's assistant. Nathaniel was disabled and had not yet turned 17 - far from the average soldier, so was he put under Ichabod's watch, both as part of the medical personnel of the regiment?
     About this time, a soldier under Sargent described the hospital, which would have been a makeshift affair, in "West Chester." (more to be included).
     Sargent's regiment was on guard duty at Throg's Neck when the Battle of Pelham Bay not far to the north took place. Did this regiment fight there? On the 22nd they headed north with George Washington, heading for White Plains, and were engaged in the battle there. At the end of the month they went to Peekskill, crossed the Hudson at Verplanck and headed south into New Jersey. They passed through Bergen, Essex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties to the Delaware River and were involved in the conflict with the Hessians, the famous crossing (and recrossing) of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton. Although George Washington pressed the troops to reenlist whose term was about to expire, Nathaniel did not.
     Nathaniel was voted on of Braintree's tax collectors in 1783.4 A suit was filed against him regarding an assessment in 1785.5 He was voted town constable in 1786, and an assessor in 1787.6 The town charged him with not completing his tax collection and on 8 May 1788, the balance due was ordered to be paid. He doesn't appear in Braintree town records thereafter, but he was living the part of that town that was set off as Randolph in 1793.
     The Holbrook manuscript says that Nathaniel and a number of his children and their families moved to Providence in 1811. A notice in The Columbian Phenix of 29 December 1810 lists a "Dr. Nath'l Holbrook" for whom a letter was waiting at the Providence post office.

The sons were all shoemakers, a prevalent occupation in Randolph, and they may have moved to Providence for business opportunities. Nathaniel and Ruth returned to Randolph about 1815-16. Albert Holbrook says "His services as a neighborhood doctor was frequently called into requisition and his 'Holbrook's Bitters' was a household tonic in many families. The writer of this was furnished with a recipe for compounding it and used it with gratifying success very many years ago. He fitted up an establishment near his home for the manufature of potash, which was said to have been a successful undertaking.
     Nathaniel applied for a pension and was to receive $8.00 a month starting 11 April 1818. In the pension application, his brother Ichabod made the following statement: the

I, Ichabod Holbrook, a 2d Lieutenant in Capt. John Vinton's Company & Col. Paul D. Sargeant's regiment being ye 16th in the Massachusetts line of the Continental revolutionary army, do testify that I enlisted the within named declarant into my land company in January A. D. 1776 to serve for one year, & he served accordingly till his term expired.

He is called an invalid in the pension papers, and made the following statement on the application to renew the pension on 1 May 1820:

I, Nathaniel Holbrook of Randolph in the County of Norfolk and Commonwealth of Massachuetts, an applicant for a pension under the Act of Congress of the 1st May 1820, testify & declare that I have no property either real or personal except necessary cloathing, bed and bedding for myself and wife, and a few necessary articles of household furniture for our use. I have no family but a wife aged sixty-five years, who is feeble & infirm as I am also myself. I have procured the necessaries of life by light labour and the assistance of my children who are settled by themselves, but are not able to support me.

The Village Register announced the pension awards with the headline above, and included Nathaniel on a list of pensioners.

Albert Holbrook says "Living to the avanced age of nearly eighty seven years, he witnessed the withdrawal from life of most of his family...One daughter, Mrs. Mary Stetson, was left to care for him until his departure." The Sprague manuscript on South Shore families says that Nathaniel lived on the west side of North Street in Randolph south of Oak St.7 This surely was part of the older Holbrook land holdings along North Street north to Granite Street, in Randolph and Braintree. Ruth's death notice in the Quincy Patriot says she was the wife of "Dr. Nathaniel." It is reasonable to think that what he knew medically was learned on the job in the Revolution, presumably often a grim one.8

children of Nathaniel Holbrook and Ruth Man (from Braintree vital records to Esther, Holbrook manuscript thereafter):

i. Nathaniel b. 8 January 1780
ii. Benjamin b. 19 October 1781
iii. Ruth b. 30 April 1783
iv. Mary (Polly) b. 30 December 1784
v. Esther b. 4 September 1786
vi. Abel b. 5 April 1788
vii. Elizabeth b. 7 January 1791
viii. Lydia b. 5 April 1792
ix. Joel b. 14 November 1793

vital records sources: Nathaniel's birth and marriage intention dates come from the Braintree vital records. Marriage intentions had to be published and displayed publicly so that dissenters could come forward before the marriage. His death date comes from Albert Holbrook's manuscript. It is supposedly reported in The Quincy Patriot, but that has yet to be found.

1. The Holbrook manuscript is at the Rhode Island Historical Society.
2. Revolutionary War Pension File #S33310.
3. Diary of David How, etc. (Morrisannia, NY:1865).
4. Records of the Town of Braintree, 1640 to 1793 p. 543, 2 June 1783, voted to replace Capt. John Vinton, who paid a "bond" to be relieved of the duty. Holbrook Genealogy - not confirmed.
5. Ibid, 6 March 1786.
6. Ibid, 5 March 1787.
7. Waldo Chamberlain Sprague, New England Historic Genealogical Society
8. Ibid.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted