The over 200 members of the Upham Family Society are descendants of John Upham who brought his family to Massachusetts Bay Colony from Bicton, England to Massachusetts in 1635. The Uphams were among 21 families who came to Massachusetts under the guidance of Rev. Joseph Hull of Somerset, England. The ship arrived in Boston on May 6, 1635. It carried 104 passengers. The name of the ship is not known, however, the passenger list was printed in 1870 in The New England Genealogical Antiquarian Register.
He was 35 years old when he arrived in the New World. He was a farmer and was accompanied with his wife Elizabeth, son John Jr. (age seven), Nathaniel (age five), and Elizabeth (age three) also John’s sister Sarah Upham (26).
He joined a small group of earlier settlers in what is now Weymouth. He negotiated with the Indians to buy some of the land that became Weymouth. Then, fifteen years later, after he moved to Malden, he was a witness to the document that established the boundaries of Malden and Charlestown.
In 1700, Phineas Upham, great-grandson of John Upham, received a land grant in North Malden which is now called Melrose. In 1703, Phineas Upham married Tamzen Hill and built the house which is still standing today called the Phineas Upham House of Melrose. It has been passed down through family tradition that the house was built for Phineas Upham in 1703 and that Phineas came to this house, then new, “on horseback with his new bride, Tamzen riding behind him on a pillion”. They had thirteen children in the “primitive dwelling on the wooded crest of Upham Hill” as one historian described it.
It was not long before the family outgrew its narrow quarters. Seven sons and six daughters came to bless the lives of Phineas and Tamzen and it became necessary to supplement the first building “by such additions that it came to be a large substantial dwelling, 30 feet in length and two stories high toward the south”. On the North the roof sloped nearly to the ground.
Two of Phineas’s sons, Amos and William, answered the call of Paul Revere to fight in the American Revolution and joined the fray at Lexington on April 19th of 1775’ serving in Captain Benjamin Blaney’s Company. They may have met their cousins in battle.
Other notable Uphams include Charles and Henry who served in the Civil War and Jessie who helped found the First Methodist Church.
The most famous member of the family is most probably James Bailey Upham of Malden who may or may not have written the Pledge of Allegiance.
“As the editor of the Youth Companion, a children’s magazine, Upham encouraged schools to fly the American flag, and as the country prepared to observe the 400th anniversary of Colombus’ landing, in 1892, Upham decided to create a flag ceremony. “He had the idea of the pledge to the flag” Wadland said, “What he wrote, we don’t know, He wrote something like “I pledge allegiance to my flag.’ And he gave it to his employee Francis Bellamy, and he apparently completed it. It was published in the Youth’s Companion with no byline.” *
A controversy later sprang up as to which of the two men was the actual author with current scholarship assigning the honor to Bellamy. However, Upham Society member Beatrice Wadland maintains “there would not have been a Pledge of Allegiance without James Bailey Upham.”