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The Hutchinson Family Singers of Milford, New Hampshire

My 5x great grandfather, Colonel Joshua Burnham, built a fine home in Milford, New Hampshire in 1824. He sold the home to fund his retirement, and it was purchased by Jesse Hutchinson to house his large family. The children and grandchildren used it as a summer home until the mid 1900’s. It still stands in Milford, and is down the street from a small cemetery where Colonel Burnham, and many members of the Hutchinson family, is buried.

It turns out that the Hutchinson family was quite famous. The first famous protest singers began their career in the mid 1800’s in the small town of Milford, New Hampshire. They sang about social issues such as abolition, temperance, woman’s suffrage and the civil war. There were thirteen Hutchinson siblings, and at one time or another all of them were party of the singing group. The biggest New Hampshire musical group that you’ve never heard of!

Originally known as the “Tribe of Jesse” when they first performed locally, they became known as the Hutchinson Family Singers. By 1841, the brother Jesse (1831-1853) became the manager of a quartet of four siblings, Judson (1817-1859), John (1821-1908), Asa (1823-1884) and Abby (1829-1892). They traveled throughout New England, and after performing in New York City in 1842 they made a tour of Great Britain in 1845/6. After the death of Judson, they split into the “Tribe of Jesse” and the “Tribe of John”, both under the name of the Hutchinson Family Singers. The two Hutchinson groups, including children and even grandchildren, performed until almost 1890. Later, the Hutchinson Family removed to Lynn, Massachusetts, where they lived near Frederick Douglas’s home. They traveled with him on his lecture tours.

Some of their songs have lasted until today such as “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground” and “There’s a Meeting Here Tonight”, followed by the New Hampshire favorite, “The Old Granite State.“ During their lifetimes, their most famous song was “Get off the Track” sung to the tune of “Old Dan Tucker.” They also popularized the spiritual “Let My People Go” which they learned from Harriet Tubman.

I have often wondered about the relationship between the Burnham family and the Hutchinsons. Both families were not native to Milford, New Hampshire, but they were from Essex County, Massachusetts. My Burnhams lived in the town of Essex, and there are still Burnhams living there. My uncle married a Hutchinson descendant. There are lots of possibilities to investigate here....

For more information:

“Singing for Freedom: The Hutchinson Family Singers and the Nineteenth Century Culture of Reform” by Scott Gac, by Yale University Press, 2007 “The Hutchinson Family Singers” on NPR, June 6, 2007 (commentary by Scott Gac, and also a link to hear the broadcast)

“Harps in the Wind: The Story of the Singing Hutchinsons” by Carol Brink, New York, 1947

“The Hutchinson Family: or the Descendants of Barnard Hutchinson of Cowlan, England” by Perley Derby, Essex Institute Press, Salem, Massachusetts, 1870
The Old Granite State
by Jesse Hutchinson, Jr.

We have come from the mountains, we have come from the mountains
We have come from the mountains of the Old Granite State.
We're a band of brothers, we're a band of brothers
We're a band of brothers and we live among the hills
With a band of music, with a band of music
With a band of music we are passing 'round the world.

We have left our aged parents, we have left our aged parents
We have left our aged parents in the Old Granite State.
We obtained their blessing, we obtained their blessing
We obtained their blessing and we bless them in return.
Good old fashioned singers, good old fashioned singers
Good old fashioned singers they can make the air resound.

Yes while the air is ringing with their wild mountain singing
We the news to you are bringing from the Old Granite State.
'Tis the Tribe of Jesse, 'Tis the Tribe of Jesse
'Tis the Tribe of Jesse and their several names we sing.

David, Noah, Andrew, Zephy, Caleb, Joshua, Jess, and Benjy,
Judson, Rhoda, John and Asa, and Abby are our names.
We're the Sons of Mary of the Tribe of Jesse
And we now address ye with our native mountain song.

Liberty is our motto, liberty is our motto
Equal liberty is our motto in the Old Granite State.
We despise oppression, we despise oppression
We despise oppression and we cannot be enslaved.

Yes we're friends of emancipation and we'll sing the proclamation
'Til it echoes through our nation from the Old Granite State
That the Tribe of Jesse, that the Tribe of Jesse
That the Tribe of Jesse are the friends of equal rights.

Like our sires before us, we will swell the chorus
Till the heavens aura shall resound the loud huzzah
Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

Like our sires before us, we will swell the chorus
Till the heavens aura shall resound the loud huzzah!

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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Comment by David Carlsen on April 19, 2011 at 1:18pm
Hi Heather, I am not related to your Joshua Burnham (that I know of), but I am related to the Hutchinson family you wrote about. For more information on the family, see my Web site at:

Even though I'm not related, I have close ties to your Joshua. His daughter, Mary, married my third-great uncle, Jacob Flynn, Jr. They had two children, Mary & Lucy, born in 1813 & 1815 respectively. For more info on Mary, see my web site at:

You are welcome to use the info on my Jacob Flynn site to fill out Joshua's descendancy chart if you'd like. Also, I'd appreciate receiving any more info that you'd like to share on Jacob & Mary's descendants.

Thanks, David Carlsen




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