Haselelpony Wood’s tombstone is located at the Old North Burial Ground, just a short distance on the left starting from the front gate. She is believed to be the only person with this name in modern history.
John Gee was lost at sea on Dec. 27, 1669, a sad Christmas surprise for his wife and five children. He left a 35-year-old widow bearing the extraordinary name of Haselelponah, a scriptural name meaning, “A shadow falls upon me.” The name occurs just once in the Bible, a reference to the sister of Jezreel, Ishma and Idbash in the genealogies of Judah.
Haselelponah was the oldest daughter of Balthazar and Hannah Willix of Exeter, NH. In 1648, when Haselelponah was 12 years old, her mother was waylaid on the road from Dover to Exeter, robbed, murdered, and her body thrown into the river. The father, Balthazar, became despondent and moved to Salisbury; Haselelponah was sent to work as a servant, and eventually met and married John Gee.
After the death of Gee at sea, Haselelponah moved back to Boston with the children and remained there for a couple of years until she met and married Obadiah Wood, a widowed “biskett baker” who lived on East Street in Ipswich, where she moved, bringing with her just one daughter, Mary. Wood’s first wife Margaret was the sister of John Sparks who operated a tavern on North Main Street. Margaret had born ten children with Obadiah before she died.
The marriage of Obadiah and “Haselelpony” as she came to be known was the talk of the Ipswich, her unusual name apparently being sufficient to arouse controversy. The couple, both on their second marriage, had ten more children. This impressive woman survived husband #2, and died in Ipswich in 1714 at the age of 79, the mother or stepmother of 24 children during her lifetime!
Obadiah Wood’s large lot bordering the river at Water Street was sold in parcels, one of which would later be purchased by the infamous pirate Harry Maine. But that’s another story…