I came across Theodore Higgins Arnold in researching one of the distant branches of my Arnold family. He is my second cousin, four times removed. Multiple genealogies, both published and online, list Theodore Higgins Arnold as the eldest child of Freeman Arnold and his wife, Sarah ("Sally") Higgins. I found documentation of Theodore Arnold's life, including his marriage and death, but could find no records to tie him his supposed parents. There are lots of unsolved mysteries in the many branches of my Arnold family, but for various reasons this one piqued my interest.
Freeman and Sarah (Higgins) Arnold
Freeman Arnold (c. 1764 – 1846) married Sarah ("Sally") Higgins (c. 1775 – 1860) on April 23, 1797. The records of Haddam Neck Congregational Church list the baptisms of seven children of Freeman and Sally.
- Sarah Arnold, born about 1801.
- Freeman Arnold, born about 1805.
- Justin Arnold, born about 1806.
- Phebe Almira Arnold, born about 1811.
- Samuel Higgins Arnold, born about 1813.
- Martha Arnold, born about 1815.
- Lyman Brooks Arnold, born 1817.
All of these children except for Sarah were baptized on October 3, 1819. Sarah was baptized on March 10, 1827. There is no record for a baptism of Theodore Higgins Arnold.
Theodore Higgins Arnold
My earliest information about Theodore Higgins Arnold records his marriage to Esther Selden on November 4, 1819, at the Haddam Neck Congregational Church in present-day East Hampton, Connecticut. He subsequently appears in the 1830, 1840, and 1850 U.S. Censuses for Haddam, Connecticut. In all of these records he is listed as "Theodore H. Arnold." And the Haddam Neck Congregational Church recorded his admission and membership to that church in 1837 as "Theodore Higgins Arnold."
Theodore Arnold died on September 24, 1852. His gravestone says he was 54 years old, which means he was born in 1797 or 1798. This gravestone and other records from the time of his death refer to him as "Col. Theodore H. Arnold." I have not found anything that explains the title of Colonel, but I assume it is from the Connecticut militia as he is too young to have served in the Revolution or the War of 1812, and there is nothing to indicate that he spent a substantial amount of time in the regular Army.
I have found no records from his life time that name the parents of Theodore Higgins Arnold.
I have found no records from his life time that name the parents of Theodore Higgins Arnold.
Connecting the dots (and the Arnolds)
This is the basic information I had when I started to consider whether Theodore Higgins Arnold was a child of Freeman and Sarah Arnold. Superficially, the connection makes sense.
- Theodore Arnold's birthdate in 1797 or 1798 would fit nicely in the four year gap between the marriage of Freeman Arnold and Sarah Higgins in 1797 and the birth of their eldest daughter, Sarah, in about 1801.
- Theodore Higgins Arnold's middle name matches the maiden name of his supposed mother, Sarah Higgins.
- At first it seems odd that there are baptism records for the other children of Freeman and Sarah Arnold, but not for Theodore. But this is easily explained by the dates. The other children of Freeman and Sarah were baptized well after they were born. All except for the eldest daughter were baptized on October 13, 1819. At that point, Theodore Higgins Arnold would have been about 21 years old, and no longer a minor. So the decision whether to be baptized would have been up to him, not his parents. This likely explains why Freeman and Sarah Arnold's eldest daughter, Sarah, wasn't baptized at the same time as her younger siblings.
But I'm a natural skeptic. While these facts suggest that the connection is possible, they don't provide any proof. So I went hunting for more information.
Eventually, I got curious about Theodore Higgins Arnold's name. Suppose he was named for a relative named "Theodore Higgins." Could I find that relative? A few searches turned up a Theodore Higgins who died October 8, 1776. His death was listed in the records of the same Haddam Neck Congregational Church where Freeman and Sarah Arnold baptized their children 43 years later. And the probate of his estate provides the names of his widow, Phebe, his only son, Samuel, and his only daughter, "Salla." Since Sarah Higgins was called "Sally" in many records, this is probably the same person.
As further evidence Theodore Higgins' only son, Samuel Higgins died in 1808. (He was a sea captain and died in the West Indies.) Freeman and Sarah (Higgins) Arnold had a son named Samuel Higgins Arnold born in about 1811. In fact, it appears that Freeman and Sarah named most of their children for close relatives.
- Theodore Higgins Arnold, named for his maternal grandfather
- Sarah ("Sally") Arnold, named for her mother
- Freeman Arnold, named for his father
- Justin Arnold, likely named for his paternal grandfather (Jabez Arnold)
- Phebe Arnold, named for her maternal grandmother
- Samuel Higgins Arnold, named for his uncle
- Martha Arnold, named for her paternal grandmother
That leaves their youngest son, Lyman Brooks Arnold. I wonder who he was named for.
The children of Theodore Higgins Arnold and Esther Selden
|Household of Theodore H. Arnold as enumerated in the|
1850 U.S. Census.
Theodore H. Arnold (age 53) was enumerated in the 1850 U.S. Census for Haddam, Connecticut. Also in his household was his wife, Esther Arnold (age 50), and four potential children.
- Ansel Arnold, age 27
- Nelson Arnold, age 26
- Wilson Arnold, age 21
- Henry H. Arnold, age 14
Of course, the 1850 census doesn't tell us the relationships between the people in a household. In the 1840 census, five people were enumerated in the household of Theodore H. Arnold:
- 1 male age 40–49 (Theodore)
- 1 female age 40–49 (Esther)
- 2 males age 15–19 (Ansel & Nelson)
- 1 male age 10–14 (Wilson)
The three boys in the 1840 census correspond to the three oldest boys in the 1850 census (and they match in the 1830 census, as well). So it seems reasonable to infer that those boys (Ansel, Nelson, and Wilson) were sons of Theodore and Esther. But what about Henry H. Arnold? It could be that he is another son and was omitted (or was not at home) in the 1840 census. But I believe he was a cousin, rather than a child of Theodore and Esther. There was Henry H. Arnold of the right age who died in 1856. His gravestone says that he was the son of Chauncey and Maria Arnold. Chauncey Arnold was a first cousin of Theodore Arnold and lived nearby. Chauncey's family was enumerated one page after Theodore's in the 1850 census. And in that census, Chauncey Arnold's household does not include a Henry Arnold.
Theodore Higgins and Esther (Selden) Arnold had at least one other child who wasn't captured in any of the censuses—Martha Arnold, who was born in about 1831 and died in 1834. It is possible they had one or more additional children who died young and were born between Nelson (c. 1824) and Wilson (c. 1829), but I haven't found any records of them.
There is also a nine year old girl, Cynthia E. Towner(?), who was enumerated in Theodore Arnold's household in 1850. She was enumerated with the family in 1860, as well. I have no idea who she is or what her connection to the family was.
|Theodore Higgins Arnold is my 2nd cousin, four times removed. This diagram shows that relationship (the heavy lines), as well as the connections to other people in this post. Click on the image for a larger (and more readable) version.|
Notes and Sources
The marriage of Freeman Arnold and Sarah Higgins was recorded in a list of marriages performed by Deacon Ezra Brainerd, Justice of the Peace and transcribed and posted by Jane Devlin.
The records of the Haddam Neck Congregational Church include the baptisms of all of Freeman and Sarah Arnold's children except Theodore Higgins Arnold, the marriage of Theodore Higgins Arnold, and the death of Theodore Higgins. I gathered this information from a set of abstracts of Connecticut church records:
Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630–1920, online index and images (Vol 027 East Hampton, 248 images, Arnolds on images 8–20, death of Theodore Higgins on image 124), Ancestry.com. Images from Connecticut, Church Records Index, Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Connecticut.The death of Samuel Higgins was recorded in the records of the First Congregational Church of Haddam.
Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630–1920, online index and images (Vol 048 Haddam, image 162 of 331), Ancestry.com. Images from Connecticut, Church Records Index, Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Connecticut.Theodore Higgins Arnold and his wife, Esther (Selden) Arnold are buried at Old Rock Landing Cemetery in Haddam, Connecticut. Images of their gravestones are available on Find A Grave, memorials 36049716 (Theodore) and 36051845 (Esther).
The distribution of Theodore Higgins estate, which lists "Salla" Higgins as his only daughter is part of Ancestry's enormous collection of Connecticut probate records:
Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609–1999, online index and images (Hartford, Probate Packets, Hickcox, J-Hubbard, Catherine, 1752–1880, images 704–722 of 1509), Ancestry.com,I found an image Henry H. Arnold's gravestone, listing his parents as Chauncey and Maria Arnold, on his Find A Grave memorial (#36052414).
Similarly, I identified Theodore Arnold's daughter, Martha Arnold, from her gravestone, also on Find A Grave (memorial #36054589). The gravestone identifies her parents as Theodore H. and Esther Arnold.