Despite the fact that there is frequent mention of Francis Purdy in Purdy Family history books and in the hundreds of family trees on Ancestry.com that show Francis Purdy as the progenitor of the Purdy line in America, we know almost nothing about the man. Differing family trees show his birth year ranging from as early as 1587 to as late as 1627. Many of these same trees provide exact dates for his arrival in America, his marriage date, and his death date. Unfortunately, none of the dates are known to be accurate. All that we really know about Francis Purdy is that he married his wife Mary Brundish sometime before August 5, 1642 since on that date Mary was listed by her married name Mary Purdy in her late father's probate document. We also know that Francis Purdy was later living with Mary on land in Fairfield, Connecticut that Mary had probably received as a dowry or inherited from her father. When Mary's brother John came of age in 1654 and thus was of the age that he could take title to his father's land by inheritance, he quit-claimed part of his inherited property to Mary, that section of the land she had been living on with Francis since their move to Fairfield. In doing so, John Brundish acknowledged that part of the inherited land belonged to his sister. Finally, we know that Francis Purdy died in 1658 based on the fact that there is recorded an inventory of his estate dated October 20, 1658. Everything else that is written about our 10th great grandfather is pure conjecture. But, this is our family history Blog therefore we are going to go ahead anyway and try to conjure up a possible story about the short life of our Francis Purdy.
According to Mary Brundish's baptismal record that was uncovered fairly recently, it showed that she was baptized on December 10, 1628 at the St Mary Church on Elm Street in Ipswich in Suffolk County, England, and if we assume that this is the same Mary Brundish who later married Francis Purdy, it means that Mary would have been only 12 or 13 years old when she married Francis in 1642. Considering that Mary's mother Rachel Hubbard Brundish had just lost her husband, Mary's father, a few years earlier it was probably not that usual in early Puritan New England for her mother to support, perhaps even arrange, for her young daughter's "marriage of convenience" especially if the new husband was an older and well established individual in a viable position to lookout for his new and very young thirteen year old bride. If we accept this logic it then supports the case that Francis Purdy might have been much older than his new wife although commonly accepted birth dates for Francis as early as 1587 seem highly unlikely since he would have been 55 years old when he married. The other qualification that the new husband be well established does not seem to hold true in the case of Francis Purdy. There are no surviving records of his becoming a "freeman," requiring his being at least twenty-one years old and a member of the Puritan Church, after he arrived in America nor are there any records showing that he owned land in either the Boston area, Wethersfield, or in Fairfield. In fact, after the marriage of Francis Purdy and Mary Brundish they lived on land that she had inherited from her father. This seems to contradict any suggestion that Francis Purdy had been a well established individual prior to his marriage. This being the case, we find it easy to support the suggestion authored by Alec Purdy, a Purdy descendant and family historian, who suggests that Francis Purdy may very well have been a friend of the Purdy family and perhaps even an orphan who had traveled with the family from England. He most likely was only a few years older than Mary and he possibly worked for Mary's father, John Brundish, in the tanning business. If this was true, Francis Purdy clearly was not yet a well established individual. He was likely a young man that Mary's mother trusted, young Mary liked, perhaps loved, and having them get married solved a minor problem for Rachel Brundish who had lost her husband John and was trying to care for four young children in addition to Mary.
If we accept the scenario that Francis Purdy lived with the Brundish family before he married young Mary Brundish, then it follows that what we know about the movements of John Brundish and his family in America would also apply to Francis Purdy. John Brundish and his wife Rachel are of course, my 11th great grandparents. We know that the Brundish family arrived in the Boston area sometime before 1635 and they were living in Watertown just outside Boston when John Brundish joined the local Puritan Church and became a freeman sometime in 1635. It is possible that John and Rachel may have immigrated as early as 1633 on the same ship as Rachel's two brothers, Benjamin and Samuel Hubbard. Fortunately we know a great deal about the life of Samuel Hubbard thanks in part to his own writings but also as a result of the interest in him as an historical figure as he is recognized as one of the founders of the Seventh Day Baptist Church in America. Samuel also was made a freeman in Watertown, Massachusetts on 4 March 1634/5 quite possibly at the same time as his brother-in-law John Brundish. Samuel Hubbard through much of his life was known to be a "religious agitator" so it is not surprising that he like so many other Puritans in the Boston area who were upset with the church leadership, joined a party of around 100 other Puritans in October of 1635 and marched through the wilderness to settle into several new communities along the Connecticut River, namely Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield. Again, it would appear quite likely that John Brundish and his family and possibly Francis Purdy accompanied Samuel Hubbard on the journal although while Samuel originally settled in Windsor, John Brundish likely continued on to the new settlement of Wetherfield, Connecticut located about 12 miles south of Windsor and just below Hartford. We know that Samuel Hubbard met and married Tacy Cooper in Windsor and in the spring of 1636 they moved to join John Brundish and Samuel's sister Mary and their family in the then remote village of Wethersfield.
Most references in historical writings on the Purdy family refer to Francis as "Francis Purdy of Fairfield." Fairfield, Connecticut was not founded until 1639 and while he is not listed as far as we can determine as one of Fairfield's earliest settlers and founders, we know that he married Mary Brundish in Fairfield sometime earlier than August of 1642 so he either suddenly just showed up in Fairfield and married 13-year old Mary, or he traveled with the Brundish family when Mary's mother, Rachel Brundish, remarried after her husband's death in 1639 and moved to Fairfield in 1641 with her children and her new husband. When John Brundish died he left his estate to his wife and children under the provision that the children's share of the inheritance would not pass to them until his daughters either turned eighteen or were married, and his son turned twenty-one. At the time of his death all of the children were under sixteen and Mary was the oldest. Since Mary was married at only thirteen, her share of the inheritance was turned over to her in the form of land in Fairfield plus probably a small sum of money. Her mother was able to purchase the land from the proceeds of the sale of her late husband's considerable land holdings in Wethersfield. There are some who believe that Mary's father had purchased land in Fairfield before his death and a share of this land in Fairfield passed to his daughter Mary when she married. This is possible but considering that Fairfield was not even settled until the year of John Brundish's death, the probability that he purchased land shortly before he died seems unlikely.
Here again, we find support for the suggestion that Francis Purdy was not a man of means when he married, for his home in Fairfield was actually purchased using proceeds from his wife's inheritance. During the entire period that Francis Purdy lived in Fairfield from 1641 until his untimely death in October of 1658, his name is hardly mentioned in any of the Fairfield civil or church records. The 1645 probate document that Francis and Mary signed following their next door neighbor's death and Francis' own badly damaged probate record following his death are the only two surviving records that verify that Francis Purdy ever existed assuming that we ignore that his children survived and passed along his name. Francis Purdy was probably a farmer who worked hard to shelter, feed, and clothe his family but he never achieved any status or wealth in the community. In the 1654 witch trial of Goodwife Knapp, wife of Fairfield resident Roger Knapp, Mary Purdy's name is mentioned as being part of a delegation that went to meet with accused witch Goodwife Knapp in prison. Mary Purdy is referred to in the writings as "Goodwife Purdy". The reference to Mary as a "goodwife" speaks to her lessor social status rather than referring to her as "Mistress Purdy" which would have implied a more elevated stature. While this alone is hardly proof of Francis Purdy own status in the community, it does seem to go along with our conclusion that he was not a major player in Fairfield, or in any of the other communities where he may have lived prior to his death. The fact that Mary Purdy believed in witches does suggest that the family was religious and likely Puritan although this is hardly surprising in Colonial New England in the mid 1600s.
Our Purdy family history continues with the story of my 9th great grandfather John Purdy, who was born around 1648 in Fairfield, Connecticut. John was only around 11 years old when his mother remarried. When John Purdy's stepfather, John Hoyt and young John's mother, Mary, moved to Eastchester, New York in 1665, it appears that John, then around 17, moved with them along with his brothers and sister and step-sisters. It was here in Eastchester where John Purdy met his future wife, Elizabeth Brown, who had probably moved there with her mother and older brothers from nearby Stamford, Ct about that same period of time. One of Elizabeth's older brothers, Hackaliah Brown, married in 1668 the daughter of John Hoyt, Mary Hoyt, who would have been John Purdy's step-sister. Obviously the Browns, Hoyts, and Purdys knew one another. John Purdy married my 9th great grandmother, Elizabeth Brown probably in the year 1668 or 1669 and one year later their first son was born, Thomas Purdy, my 8th great grandfather. Unfortunately, we know very little of the life of John Purdy, for equally unfortunately he too died young in 1678. He was only around thirty years old when he passed away and one has to wonder whether he may have inherited some type of genetic defect from his father and maternal grandfather, both of whom died young, that lead to his early demise. There again, the broad spectrum of illnesses that often lead to death that ran rampant in Colonial America, may have been his downfall. A common cold in 1678 may very well have moved quickly into pneumonia and with little to nothing available to cure the illness, an early and unexpected death might very well follow. One of the administrators of John Purdy's estate along with his wife, was his uncle John Brundig, his mother's brother.
Unfortunately, we know very little about the next two generations of our Purdy family line other than their names, birth and death years, and the names of their children. In the case of Thomas Purdy, our 8th great grandfather and the oldest son of John Purdy, we do not even know the name of his wife other than Mrs Thomas Purdy. We refer to Thomas Purdy as John Purdy's oldest son although there is at least one family history story that gives his birth year as later than his only brother and reports that Thomas Purdy may have died young, apparently without children which would be pretty alarming considering that we believe that we are one of his great grandsons. In the book "ye historie of ye town of Greenwich . ." published in 1857, when writing about the Purdy family, the author completely dismisses our line of the Purdy family by reporting that John Purdy died with "no issue." Fortunately the author was mistaken as John and Elizabeth Brown Purdy did have at least two sons. Their son Thomas Purdy lived in Westchester County his entire life probably farming on land that he inherited either from his mother or his wife's parents. He fathered four sons that we know of including his youngest son, our 7th great grandfather Nehemiah Purdy, who was born in 1727. Thomas died at age sixty-six in 1782. His life was somewhat obscure, perhaps to the frustration of future family genealogists, but he was real nevertheless.
Nehemiah Purdy like his parents and grandparents before him spent his entire life in Westchester County, New York. When he was around twenty-three years old in 1750 he married Mary Golding and together they had at least three sons and one daughter including their first born son, my 6th great grandfather, Jotham Purdy who was born in Westchester County on 10 September 1751. Here again, we hesitated to state the exact number of children born to Nehemiah and Mary Golding Purdy since the numerous Purdy family trees in books and on Ancestry.com report a wide range in the number of children in many of the families, particularly on our own line. One of the problems for Purdy genealogists is that by the fifth generation down from Francis and Mary there were many dozens of Purdy individuals living in Westchester County many of whom shared the same proper name. This of course, greatly complicates determining which son or daughter belongs to which set of parents which in turns has led to a great number of errors in the family trees. One thing is certain however, that the fifth generation of Purdys in America and particularly in Westchester County were faced with an important decision what with the onset of the American Revolution. They had to decide which side they were going to support: the side that would remain loyal to the English Crown or the opposing side that wanted to separate from England and form a new independent American government. It is truly amazing how many brothers, sisters, and close cousins all living in fairly close proximity in Westchester County had such a wide divergence of opinion with respect to their loyalties.
We tend to believe, perhaps we were taught to believe in our high school history class, that most Americans living in the year 1776 supported the fight for independence from England. If this was indeed the impression presented, it was not even close to the truth. At most only 40 to 45% of Americans supported Congress and their eventually decision to declare independence from England. On the other hand around 15 to 20% of the 2-1/2 million people living in America at the time of the Revolution or around 500,000, supported remaining with the Crown. These individuals tended to be an older and better established group who were more cautious and resistant to change. The remaining group, upwards of half of the people living in America at the time, were ambivalent and perhaps to busy in that daily lives to care one way or the other who controlled the governing of the county. Where one lived also had a lot to do with determining ones position. In the Boston area for example, support for breaking away from England was widely supported whereas in New York City and the surrounding areas the opposite was true although not to the extend shown in the Boston area. Ones religion also helped determine to some extent ones position. For example, families who were members of the Anglican Church probably favored remaining under British rule, whereas Quakers were not concerned one way or the other but especially would not have favored going to war for any reason. We also find that ones heritage determined to some extent ones position. People with Dutch backgrounds generally supported British rule where as people of Germany heritage tended the other way or were indifferent.
The largest block of Francis Purdy's descendants living during the period of the American Revolution resided in or around Westchester County, New York located about 30 miles north of New York City. New York was controlled by the British during most of the Revolutionary War. It should not be surprising that there was substantial support for remaining under British rule in Westchester County considering its location before and during the war. This was also true within the Purdy family although in the end a majority of the family but not all by any means, came to eventually support the American Cause. According to the history book "Westchester County, New York, During the American Revolution" by Henry Barton Dawson published in 1886, on 13 April, 1775 a vote was taken in White Plains in Westchester on a motion favoring the King and opposing the positions taken by the Congress. The motion read in part, "we meet here to express our honest abhorrence of all unlawful congresses and committees, and that we determined at the hazard of our lives and properties, to support the King and Constitution..." Voting in favor of the motion were 28 members of the Purdy family. While not all Purdy family members who supported the motion eventually fought with the British during the Revolution, at least initially a large group of the family did not favor breaking away from British rule. It would take an enormous amount of research, if such research were even possible, to determine the population of military age Purdy men living in Westchester County prior to the war. What we do know according to the history book "New York in the Revolution" by James Arthur Roberts published in 1897 is that at least 28 Purdy men served as soldiers in the War against the British either in the Westchester County militia or in the Continental Army. We could not determine the number of Purdy men who fought with the British, although they were a sizable group although a smaller number than the 28 men mentioned above. What we do know however, from the book by Henry Dawson, was that at least 15 Purdy families had their homes confiscated for supporting the British before and during the war, including the home of our 6th great grandfather, Jotham Purdy. We also know that a number of Purdy families who remained loyal to the English Crown during the war, emigrated to Canada at the end of the war including Jotham Purdy's brother Archelaus and his family, Jotham's sister Jemima and her husband and family, and at least three of Jotham's first cousins and their families. For reasons that we will discuss in the following paragraph, Jotham who was a Loyalist, did not emigrate to Canada.
Jotham Purdy was 22 years old when he married Margaret van Voorhees. Margaret's 2nd great grandfather, Stevense Coerte van Voohrees (1600-1684) is the 8th great grandfather of my grandmother Helen Spaulding Baker. What is really interesting here is that this same man is the 9th great grandfather of my grandmother's husband, my grandfather, Charles Schenck Baker. This of course, would make my paternal grandparents distant cousins. Stevense Coert van Voorhees emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam in 1660 just prior to the English assuming control of the city and the surrounding provinces and renaming the city New York. We wrote in an earlier paragraph that the people of Dutch descent particularly those living in the New York area tended to side with the Loyalists during and prior to the Revolutionary War. While Margaret's leanings as a Dutch descendant would not have been the deciding factor, the fact that Nehemiah Purdy and his sons including Jotham were probably farmers whose customer base likely lived in New York City and the fact that many of these customers were strong supporters of British rule in America, likely played a major role in how our Purdy ancestors felt about independence from English rule. That is, it may have played on their pocketbooks. We also suspect that the Purdy family had long ago dropped their Puritan heritage and based on the fact that it is known that some of the Purdy cousins were of the Anglican faith, I suspect that Nehemiah Purdy and his wife and sons and daughter were also all members of an Anglican Church or what was then called the Church of England.
What happened to the family following Jotham's death we do not know although they probably moved in with either Jotham's parents or with one of his siblings. Margaret Purdy was only 24 years old when Jotham was killed but she never remarried. She moved with her son and daughter following their marriages to Spencer, New York in Tioga County sometime in the late 1790s or early 1800s. She died at the age of 105 in Spencer on 9 November 1857. Margaret Purdy lived to see her granddaughter, Maria Purdy, marry Thomas Maxwell in Spencer on 12 September 1819 and she lived long enough to see all of her great grandchildren born including our 3rd great grandmother Susan C Maxwell who was born in 1823. Incredibly, she was still alive to see the birth of her great, great granddaughter and our 2nd great grandmother, Mary Catherine Sly who was born in 1844. The story of Thomas Maxwell and his family and our Sly family ancestors is told in Chapter 13 of this Blog.
Jotham Purdy may not have been a "Patriot" but he was willing to fight to defend his family and his beliefs and we are proud of him and pleased to be able to relate this story of our Purdy family ancestors.