Asa Underwood

b. 30 August 1754, d. 3 October 1834

Great-grandfather of Louise Underwood.
3rd great-grandfather of Laura Jane Munson.
Family Background:
Underwood and Allied Families
Appears on charts:
Pedigree for Louise Underwood
1832 Signature
     Asa Underwood was born on 30 August 1754 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.1 He married first Elizabeth Littlehale of Dunstable, daughter of Ezra Littlehale and Lydia (—?—), on 15 May 1777 in Chelmsford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.2 He married second Mercy Durant, daughter of Jacob Durant and Mercy Farrar, on 31 March 1790 at Tyngsborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.1,3 He died on 3 October 1834 in Dracut, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, at age 80.1,4 He was buried in Woodbine Cemetery, Dracut. Woodbine Cemetery is in present day Lowell, a result of Lowell having annexed parts of Dracut in 1874 and 1879.4
     Asa Underwood lived in Boston until he was almost twenty years old. In his Revolutionary War pension file is his own statement that he was living in Groton when, on the alarm of the 19th of April 1775, he marched with his neighbors to Concord. Several weeks later, he enlisted for a term of eight months. After serving out his term, he was dismissed but did not receive a discharge.1 Nevertheless, in the records Asa is called a Dunstable Minuteman .5 The following sketch for his service in the Revolutionary War appears in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War:
Underwood, Asa, Dunstable. Private, Capt. Reuben Butterfield's co. of militia, Col. David Green's regt., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775, to Cambridge; left place of rendezvous April 28, 1775; service, 9 days; also, list of men returned as serving on main guard under Lieut. Col. L. Baldwin, dated June 22, 1775; also, Lieut. Nathaniel Sartell's co., Col. William Prescott's regt; muster roll dated Aug. 1, 1775; enlisted May 6, 1775; service, 87 days; also, Capt. Ephraim Corey's co., Col. Prescott's regt; company return dated Cambridge, Oct. 7, 1775, and endorsed "The late Capt Parkers" co; also, order for bounty coat dated Camp at Cambridge, Oct. 31, 1775.6
His service record as published in The Roster of Texas Daughters Revolutionary Ancestors is as follows:
Private in Captain Reuben Butterfield's Company of Militia in Colonel David Green's Regiment which marched on the Alarm of April 19, 1775 to Cambridge. He was on the list of men returned in serving on main guard under Lieutenant Colonel L. Baldwin dated June 22, 1775, also in Lieutenant Nathaniel Sartell's Company. William Prescott's Regiment. His residence during the Revolution was Groton, Dunstable, Massachusetts.7
Soon after Asa was discharged, he removed to that part of Old Dunstable "now called Tyngsborough."1

     Asa's name appeared in the Nottingham (New Hampshire) church records on 23 July 1780, but there is no notation regarding the type of record. Almost exactly a year later, his twin daughters, Frances and Charlotte, were baptized at the Nottingham church.8 Before 1741 when the king settled a long-standing boundary dispute between Massachusetts and New Hampshire in favor of New Hampshire, Nottingham was in Massachusetts. Most or all of the area then called Dunstable was subject to the dispute, and Nottingham and part of what became the town of Tyngsborough were included in this area. Nottingnam in Merrimack County was renamed twice. Because there was another Nottingham in New Hampshire, it was first renamed Nottingham West, and later became the town of Hudson. The easterly part of the town of Dunstable, Massachusetts (as opposed to the larger area called Old Dunstable) was incorporated into a district as the result of bitter feelings over a generous sum of money offered as a gift to the town of Dunstable by Mrs. Sarah Tyng Winslow. The gift was to support a minister and a grammar school, but the gift was conditional and greatly favored those who lived in the easterly part and caused bitterness among those who lived in the westerly part. The town voted to accept the benefaction on 8 January 1789 with few from the westerly part present. Asa Underwood was among the voters. However, because the people of the west part of town were opposed to the conditions, Mrs. Winslow asked in a letter that if she might retract her proposal she would make it to "the people that lately formed the First Parish and to such others as will cheerfully accept of it." At a meeting of citizens on 25 May 1789, it was voted "that this town do relinquish their right to Mrs. Sarah Winslow's proposals to this town & that the persons mentioned in her letter to the town (April 28th last) have the benefit of her donation & that application be made to the General Court that they and their estates be incorporated into a district or separate corporation, so as that they may receive said donation." As a result, what is now the town of Tyngsborough was incorporated into a district on 22 June 1789. There, less than a year later, Asa married Mercy Durant whose father Jacob was a Revolutionary War veteran and, like Asa, a Dunstable Minuteman. Asa and Mercy had nine children, the first seven in Tyngsborough.9 In 1808, Asa sold his farm and the family moved to the adjoining town of Dracut where their youngest two were born. There he lived the remainder of his life.1 The following inscription is on his gravestone:
To the memory of Deacon Asa Underwood who died October 3, 1834.
In the 82 years of his age.
Thy relics we commit to dust; and angels bright thy spirit greet
In lays of deathless love, Servant of God; friend of man
Hail happy day! we meet again.
If correct, Asa was born in 1752 rather than 1754.

Additional Data

Asa Underwood appeared on the 1790 U.S. Census in Tyngsborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In his household were 2 males over 16 (Asa and unknown), 1 male under 16, 3 females, and 4 other free white persons.10 Click to view image

Asa Underwood appeared on the 1800 U.S. Census in Tyngsborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In his household were 3 males under 10 years of age, 1 male at least 45 years of age (Asa), 1 female between the ages of 16 and 25.11 Click to view image

Asa Underwood appeared on the 1810 U.S. Census in Dracut, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In his household were 3 males under 10, 2 males between the ages of 10 and 15, 1 male at least 45 years of age (Asa), 1 female under 10, and 1 female between the ages of 26 and 44.12 Click to view image

Asa Underwood appeared on the 1820 U.S. Census in Dracut, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In his household were 1 male under 10, 2 males between the ages of 10 and 15, 2 males between the ages of 16 and 25*, 1 male at least 45 years of age (Asa), 1 female under 10, 1 female between the ages of 10 and 15, 1 female at least 45 years of age. Five persons in the family were engaged in agriculture. *There is a column for males 16-18 and one for16-26, and a note that those enumerated in the first column are also enumerated in the second. Because the two males in question appear in only the latter column, they were between the ages of 19 and 25.13 Click to view image

Asa Underwood appeared on the 1830 U.S. Census in Dracut, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In his household were 1 male 15-20, 2 males 20-30, 1 male 30-40, 1 male 70-80 (Asa), 1 female 20-30, and 1 female 50-60.14 Click to view image

Under the Revolutionary Claims Act of June 7, 1832, a Certificate of Pension was issued to Asa Underwood on 9 March 1833. He was inscribed on the roll of Massachusetts at the rate of $26.66 per annum to commence on 4 March 1831 and payable semi-annually on 4 March and 4 September during his natural life. Arrears to 4 March 1831 were paid in the amount of $66.65.1 Click to view image

On 24 November 1941 at West Columbia, Brazoria County, Texas, Asa Underwood Chapter, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution was organized by Laura Underwood, Asa's great-granddaughter.15 Descendants who were past or present members of the chapter as of 1976 were Laura Underwood, Carrie Diggs Munson, Ella Diggs Harris, Louise Underwood Munson, Ruth Underwood Pooley, Joyce Munson Robertson, Lucy Underwood Lentsch and Abbie Harris Orr.


     Despite the best efforts of the writer and a highly regarded professional genealogist hired by the writer, the ancestry of Asa remains a mystery. There are several Underwoods in Boston city and church records in a time frame that makes them parent candidates, but timing is all that suggests a possible relationship. Close proximity to other Underwoods after moving north from Boston to Middlesex County hints at a relationship, but the Middlesex families are well documented and our Asa is nowhere mentioned. The progenitors of these families were two men, Joseph and William, whose relationship to each other, if any, is unknown. However, both were in Massachusetts before 1650, the significance being that they were, with little doubt, English immigrants. The writer has come to believe that Asa Underwood's parents or grandparents were Ulster Scots (Scots-Irish) who immigrated to Boston sometime between 1714 and Asa's birth in 1754. This "belief" is more properly labeled a hunch, for it has evolved with no substantive evidence to back it up. Rather, it has developed from a mention of Asa on an Internet site. But first things first.

     Keeping in mind that Boston records are very poor for the time period in question, there are three Underwood marriages in the records within twenty years of Asa's birth. They are John Underwood and Elizabeth Rich who married 1 January 1733, John Underwood and Mary Patterson who married 28 January 1747, and John Underwood and Hepzibah Ray who married 19 October 1752. Whether "John Underwood" is one, two or three individuals is impossible to say without more information. In the birth records, there are only four Underwood children close enough in age to have been Asa's siblings. All were the children of "John Underwood and Elizabeth his wife." John was born 14 February 1739, and was probably the son of John Underwood and Elizabeth Rich. The other three, Elizabeth, John, and Mary, were born between 1764 and 1770, and were perhaps children of the first mentioned child. The only thing that can be said with confidence is if Asa's parents were one of the three couples, his father's name was John. In all likelihood, however, his parents don't appear in the Boston records.

     Asa moved from Boston, probably in 1754, but before his twentieth birthday on 30 August of that year. In Middlesex County, his name appears in some connection to several towns, namely Groton, Dunstable, Tyngsborough, Chelmsford, and Dracut. His name also appears in the church records of Nottingham West, now Hudson, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. All of these towns are very close together. By today's reckoning, Groton to Dunstable is seven miles; Groton to Tyngsborough is about twelve miles; Tyngsborough to Chelmsford, about nine miles; Tyngsborough to Dracut, about ten miles; Tyngsborough to Hudson, about eight miles. These distances are from town center to town center, and when considering that New England towns are divisions of a county much like precincts or townships in other parts of the country, it becomes apparent that actual distances between events in Asa's life can not be reliably computed. A map of Old Dunstable illustrates this fact.

     The first record found of Asa in Middlesex County is a statement in his pension application file that he was living in Groton when he marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775. However, he was a Dunstable Minuteman, and no explanation has been found for the discrepancy. Perhaps he lived near the Groton-Dunstable line. On the map, the triangular area of Groton above the words "Old Line" was annexed by Dunstable before the Revolution. It's possible he lived closer to Dunstable town center than Groton town center. Whatever, the reason, it is as a Dunstable Minuteman that the first record is found that makes a verifiable connection between he and any other Underwood. Almost identical to Asa's Revolutionary War record is that of Phineas Underwood. Both were privates in Captain Reuben Butterfield's company, Colonel David Green's regiment that marched on the alarm of April 19th. This gave rise to the idea that Asa and Phineas were perhaps brothers or otherwise closely related.

     A search for Phineas Underwood resulted in three of that name in Chelmsford vital records where many Underwoods appear, including Asa who married Elizabeth Littlehale there in 1777, and his son Asa who married, had children and died in Chelmsford. The oldest Phineas, born 30 January 1721/22, was the son of the Joseph (a descendant of the immigrant Joseph) and his wife, Susannah Parker. No other record of him is found in Chelmsford. The next Phineas married Rebeckah Dunn in Chelmsford in 1777 and had four children, (the third) Phineas, Rebecca, Joseph and Jeptha, recorded there. Everything considered, and including the biblical name Jeptha not often seen in the records, but borne by a son of both the second Phineas and Asa, it seemed a reasonable possibility that the second Phineas was the son of the first, that he was the Dunstable Minuteman, and that he and Asa were brothers. Everything proved out except a blood relationship to Asa. It has since been discovered that the elder Phineas moved to Nottingham West (Hudson), New Hampshire, where he was the first town clerk. His children were born there, including Phineas who was the youngest and almost exactly a year older than Asa. Although that leaves open the possibility that Asa was an unrecorded child, there is no way to reconcile a New Hampshire birthplace with Asa's own statement that he was born in Boston. Having said that, Asa's twin daughters by his first wife were baptized at Nottingham West in 1781, though what significance, if any, that has to suggest a relationship with the Phineas Underwood family is anyone's guess. Asa lived at that time in Dunstable (labeled Tyngsborough on the map) east of the Merrimack River. Perhaps the meeting house in Nottingham West (Hudson on the map) was simply more convenient to his home than any other.

     Before the first Phineas Underwood was ruled out as Asa's father, and at a time when the writer was still convinced that Asa must have borne some relationship to the Chelmsford Underwoods, an Internet site was found that planted a seed of doubt. It was a biography taken from a nineteenth century county history, the subject of which was a descendant of Rhoda Underwood, Asa's oldest daughter, and her husband, Jonas Pearsons. In the biography, Asa is called a Scot. The information was duly noted, but given little credence at the time. It was the revelation that Asa was probably not related to the Chelmsford Underwoods that caused the writer to rethink her position.

     A fact that lends credibility to the assertion that Asa was a Scot is that although nineteenth century biographies are often exaggerated accounts of the subjects' lives and ancestries, being a Scot in eighteenth century Massachusetts was nothing to brag about. Neither the Ulster Scots or their religion was well received in Massachusetts, even though they had been encouraged to settle there as a barrier against the Indians. Scots-Irish immigration began on a large scale in 1714 and continued for many years. Over fifty ships carrying Ulster Scots arrived at Boston Harbor between 1714 and 1720. Other peaks were 1727–1728 and 1740–1761. Some of the immigrants stayed in Boston, and others moved on and founded their own towns in western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. There is nothing to indicate that Asa Underwood was ever a Presbyterian, but many Ulster Scots assimilated into the New England culture and became Congregationalists. This was probably out of necessity rather than choice, though a Presbyterian Church was built in Boston. As previously mentioned, Boston records are poor for the time period, but if Asa's parents or grandparents were Scots-Irish immigrants, and especially if they were practicing Presbyterians, the chances that they appear in the records are even more remote. All these things considered, the writer is of the opinion that Asa Underwood was of Scots-Irish descent but readily acknowledges that proof is lacking.

     Though it appears that Asa's ancestry is a proverbial brick wall, an interesting side note is that in the attempt to connect him to the Chelmsford Underwoods, it was discovered that Mercy Durant, Asa's second wife, descended from the immigrant William Underwood through two daughters. It is also interesting that Asa's son Ammon and most of Ammon's descendants were/are Presbyterians, but that may be the influence of Ammon's wife whose ancestry was either Scot, Scots-Irish, or both.

Children of Asa Underwood and Elizabeth Littlehale

Children of Asa Underwood and Mercy Durant


  1. [S109] Asa Underwood file, no. W26611; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900; micropublication M804 (Washington: National Archives), microfilm 2434.
  2. [S111] Essex Institute, Vital Records of Chelmsford, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849 (Salem: Newcomb & Gauss, Printers, 1914).
  3. [S114] Essex Institute, Vital Records of Tyngsborough, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849 (Lynn: Thos. P. Nichols & Son Co., 1913), 53, 85.
  4. [S110] Essex Institute, Vital Records of Dracut Massachusetts (Boston: The Essex Institute, 1914), citing gravestone record (Asa, Dea., Oct. 3, 1834, in 82d y. G.R.2, where G.R.2 is the code for Woodbine Cemetery).
  5. [S143] New-York Historical Society, Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the year 1914, XVIII and XLVIII (New York: printed for the Society, 1916; reprint Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 1996) as Muster and Pay Rolls of the War of the Revolution 1775-1783, 306, 307.
  6. [S149] Secretary of the Commonwealth, compiler, Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution, 17 vols. (Boston: Wright and Potter Printing Co., State Printers, 1907), 16: 251.
  7. [S132] Texas Society of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, The Roster of Texas Daughters Revolutionary Ancestors (Texas: Texas Society Daughters of American Revolution, 1976), 2164.
  8. [S115] Henry Onslow Smith, "Early Church Records of Nottingham, Mass., now Hudson, N.H.", New England Historic and Genealogical Register (NEHGR) 91 (July 1937): 261.
  9. [S145] Elias Nason, A History of the Town of Dunstable, Massachusetts, from its Earliest Settlement to the Year of Our Lord 1873 (Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1877), 151, 152.
  10. [S138] Asa Underwood household, 1790 U.S. Census, Tyngsborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, page 607; National Archives micropublication M637, roll 4.
  11. [S139] Asa Underwood household, 1800 U.S. Census, Tyngsborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, page 43; National Archives micropublication M32, roll 17.
  12. [S140] Asa Underwood household, 1810 U.S. Census, Dracut, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, page 135; National Archives micropublication M252, roll 20.
  13. [S141] Asa Underwood household, 1820 U.S. Census, Dracut, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, page 531; National Archives micropublication M33, roll 51.
  14. [S142] Asa Underwood household, 1830 U.S. Census, Dracut, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, page 181; National Archives micropublication M19, roll 67.
  15. [S144] Asa Underwood Chapter, The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, West Columbia, Texas, online <>.
  16. [S113] Essex Institute, Vital Records of Dunstable, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849 (Salem: Newcomb & Gauss, Printers, 1913).
  17. [S114] Tyngsborough VR (published).
  18. [S114] Tyngsborough VR (published), citing copy of Church record kept by Rev. Nathaniel Lawrence.
  19. [S111] Chelmsford VR (published), citing First Congregational Church records, Chelmsford Centre.
  20. [S110] Dracut VR (published), citing gravestone record G.R.2, where G.R.2 is the code for Woodbine Cemetery.
  21. [S635] Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910, online <>, 67: 92. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004. From original records held by the Massachusetts Archives.