Ensign Abel Bliss

February 18, 1708/09 - April 30, 1762
Reference Number: 144
Submitter:  Robert W. Blount


Abel Bliss was born February 18, 1708/09 in Springfield, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. He was 4th generation and great-grandson of the immigrant Thomas Bliss 1 (the Hartford line) and wife Margaret Hulins. He was descended through their youngest son Samuel Bliss 2 and wife Mary Leonard, and thence through their oldest son Thomas Bliss 3 and wife Hannah Cadwell. This Bliss family may have moved to Springfield, Massachusetts from Hartford, Connecticut as early as 1651, when Margaret (Hulins) Bliss was thought to have lived there until her death in 1684.

 Abel Bliss was the middle child (7th out of 13 children) of Thomas and Hannah (Cadwell) Bliss. Upon reaching adulthood, he left his hometown of Springfield to become one of the early settlers of Wilbraham, Massachusetts between 1731-1736. He was reputed to have had great physical strength, and was supposed to have been instrumental in cutting the path from Springfield to Wilbraham, a distance of about 10 miles. Along with Thomas Merrick, he was responsible for drawing up a petition about 1740 to have the Outward Commons (Wilbraham) set off as a separate precinct, and his activity in organizing the first church there in 1741 was substantial.

Abel Bliss was married to Jemima Chapin on January 16, 1735/36. Born on January 5, 1704/05 in Chicopee, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of John Chapin and Sarah Bridgman, and the great-granddaughter of the immigrant Deacon Samuel Chapin of Springfield, Massachusetts. Abel and Jemima settled in Wilbraham, where they raised their 5 children:

 (1) Oliver Bliss (November 20, 1736-April 30, 1805 or 1806) was the 9th birth recorded in the new town of Wilbraham in its formative years. He married a cousin, Catharine Brewer, and they had about 9 children born in Wilbraham.

 (2) Abel Bliss, II (October 5, 1738-November 23, 1821) was born and died in Wilbraham, married first to Elizabeth Bartlett, and had 9 children with her. He was instrumental after 1791 with a group that withdrew from the traditional Congregational Church and formed the local Methodist Society. His wife Elizabeth died 1788, shortly after the birth of their ninth child, and later that year Abel married Sarah Stebbins, whom he was engaged to prior to his first marriage. Among his children with first wife were Abel, III (1775-1853), a devout Methodist and respected politician representing Wilbraham, and an active abolitionist, and Dr. Judah Bliss (1777-1845), a respected physician in Connecticut and later New York.

 (3) Jemima Bliss (October 12, 1740-June 9, 1764) married Lucius Allis in 1761, and lived in Conway, Massachusetts until her premature death less than 3 years later.

 (4) Silas Bliss (April 15, 1743-unknown) married a cousin, Miriam Bliss of Springfield, Massachusetts in 1768, and had about 11 children in Wilbraham. Silas built a magnificent house on Mountain Road in Wilbraham in the 1760s, pictured and written about in the 1963 History of Wilbraham, USA book.

 (5) Levi Bliss (April 29, 1745-October 8, 1811) married Martha Miller in 1768, and had at least 6 children born in Wilbraham. On April 29, 1799, an unthinkable tragedy struck his family. Three of his children drowned in the infamous “Nine Mile Pond Tragedy”, when their sailboat overturned on the local lake during an outing and drowned all six young people aboard.   

 When Abel Bliss first settled in Wilbraham, he built a simple log house about 1736 “on the west side of the mountain” (now Ridge Road). However, less than a decade later, he raised the ire of some of the local residents with the building of his new home. An account of this event is documented in the 1963 History of Wilbraham, USA, and reads as follows:

 “In 1744 he began to erect a large two-story house (32x40 feet) at 182 Mountain Road, the tallest ever built in the Mountains to that date. The events relating to the construction of the house are interesting. The plan for the pretentious new home brought Abel face to face with the strictures of the Worthy  Noah Merrick. The pastor, learning what a grand mansion his parishioner was about to build, no doubt feared that at least one of his church family was becoming inflated with worldly pride. It was necessary to check this tendency without delay. On a Sunday morning the text of his sermon was, “Build not your house too high”. Abel, properly rebuked and penitent, cut off the upright posts of his house seven inches, lowering the first story by that much. The house is said to have been the first in this section to have square panes of glass in the windows, all other houses to this time having had diamond-shaped panes.”

  The article goes further to indicate that Abel erected a tar-kiln on the river, gathering candlewood from the area, and as a by-product of this endeavor, made 200 barrels of tar which he sold to raise the money to start his house. This 1744 home built by Abel Bliss at 182 Mountain Road in Wilbraham still stands today, and is pictured in the referenced 1963 History book.

 Abel Bliss was commissioned as an officer of the military sometime before 1754, and may have seen service in the French and Indian War. He was mustered with the South Hampshire (Massachusetts) Regiment on the training field in July, 1754 at the age of 45 years. He received an Ensign’s commission under Colonel Worthington of Springfield, which was dated August 27, 1754. He also received a Justice’s commission under the crown from Governor William Shirley before 1759.

 Ensign Abel Bliss died April 30, 1762, and was buried at Adams Cemetery in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. His widow, Jemima, died January 9, 1772, and is also buried at Adams Cemetery, where several of their children and grandchildren were later buried.

 Sources for Ensign Abel Bliss:

 (1) Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America, by Aaron Tyler Bliss, 1981, 3 volumes.

(2) History of Wilbraham, USA, Bicentennial Edition, 1763-1963, by Charles L. Merrick (General Editor, Copyright), 1964.

 (3) Military Rolls of the Outward Commons, Soldiers of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, 1730-1840, by J. Bruce Tingle, 2000.

 (4) Correspondence with Bruce Tingle, Cemetery Commissioner of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, 2000-2001.

 (5) Birth Records of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, 1732-1930, surname “Bliss”, from the Corbin Collection microfilm, copied 2/99 from NEHGS.

 (6) The Samuel Chapin Genealogy, by Orange Chapin, 1862.

By: Robert W. Blount

November 18, 2001