Monday, October 13, 2014
What we read about the origins of our 8th great grandfather Robert Starkweather is that he was born in either Scotland, Wales, or possibly on the Isle of Man off the coast of England, and he immigrated to America in 1640. We suspect that this belief of Robert's origins began with the writings of our cousin Carlton Lee Starkweather in 1904 and as far as we can determine nothing has been uncovered either to support or reject his statement on Robert's birth location. Unfortunately, or at least statistically, it seems doubtful that our Starkweather progenitor came from either Scotland or Wales. Between the years 1630 and 1640 it is estimated that approximately 20,000 individuals from the British Isles emigrated to America and New England. It is further estimated that the vast majority of these individuals came from either the eastern counties of England or the coastal counties in southwest England. We could find nothing in any writings suggesting that any Puritans from Wales or Scotland emigrated to America during this time period. We further believe that asserting that Robert Starkweather arrived in 1640 is just a guess and it is based solely on the fact that his name was not recorded in any colonial records until the baptism of his first daughter in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1643.
So what do we actually know about our ancestor Robert Starkweather. Since Robert Starkweather and his wife Jennet Roberts did not marry until sometime before 1643, it is probably safe to assume that he was a late immigrant into New England since the Puritans in America during this period strongly encouraged marriage and tended to ostracize single men in their communities. Had he arrived much earlier than 1640, he undoubtedly would have already been married or at the very least been forced out of the community. It is also a probability that he was an unmarried man when he arrived since there is no evidence of other Starkweather children in any records other than those who were born following his marriage to Ms Roberts. Since we know that immigration of Puritans to America came pretty much to a standstill by mid-1640, then we can safely assume that Robert arrived in 1639 or 1640. Furthermore since the average age that Puritan men married is estimated to be around 26 years old (23 for women), we can conclude that Robert Starkweather was around 20 to 24 years old when he arrived in America in the year 1639/40. We also know that he was a Puritan based on the church records regarding the baptism of his children. It should also be noted that Robert Starkweather was not a typical early immigrant. For one thing he was single whereas most of the early Puritans arrived in family groups. Furthermore, the majority of the Puritans were from the middle class and about two thirds of the adult males were educated at least to the extent that they could sign their own names. There is no evidence that Robert Starkweather had any substantial net worth during his lifetime and since we know that he signed his name with a mark, we have to assume that he was uneducated. We also discovered as we further researched our great grandfather, that he never made much of himself, at least financially, during his lifetime. We can only hope that he was a great husband and a great father to his children and that he was well liked in his community. But then, we digress in our story.
Other than the baptismal records of the four children born to Robert and Jennet Starkweather while they lived in Roxbury, there are no other documents that are known to exist up until 1651 that provide us with any clues about the Starkweather family during this period. In December of 1651 there is a record of the sale of a house and land in Roxbury by Robert Starkweather. Apparently when Robert's father-in-law, John Roberts, died earlier in the year he had granted property to his son-in-law and of course his daughter. What we might deduce from this is that Robert and Jennet Starkweather and their children probably had been living in the Roberts' owned house since their marriage and it was natural that when John Roberts was near death that he would gave them the property. What does seem extraordinary however, is that almost immediately after receiving ownership of the house and land, John Starkweather turned around and sold the property and moved his family to Ipswich, Massachusetts located about 35 miles north of Roxbury and Boston. Perhaps he had concluded that with a little cash in his pocket and a fresh start in a new community, that was all that he needed to get his life back in order. Why they elected to move to Ipswich is unclear although we know that Jennet's older sister Elizabeth and her husband Edward Bragg had moved to Ipswich shortly after their marriage in the 1640s and they may very well have influenced the move. We need to point out however, that many family historians believe that Edward Bragg's first wife was Elizabeth Whittridge and not Elizabeth Roberts. This may very well be true although the very strong and unique relationship between the Bragg and Starkweather families suggests that their bond may have been stronger then just friendship. Carlton Lee Starweather in his book about Robert Starkweather and his descendents suggests that Robert Starkweather in 1673 was "of extreme poverty" and that Edward Bragg was "entertaining of Robert Starkweather and his family." Entertaining meaning that they were allowing the Starkweather family to stay at their home for longer than the allowed period of time. Puritans in most of New England controlled who lived within their community and how long they visited and apparently Edward Bragg was breaking the rules with respect to his Starkweather guests. Edward apparently satisfied the town officials by posting a bond in the amount of 50 pounds.
What is interesting of course, is the suggestion that Robert Starkweather was in a poor financial position and therefore not a worthy citizen of Ipswich. We do not really know much about the activities of Robert Starkweather from the time he moved to Ispwich in 1651 until his apparent financial problems in 1673. His name appears in the Ipswich Town records only twice, once in 1654 and once in 1655. On one occasion he was given permission to install a fence and in the other he was given permission to graze cattle on common land as long as took the responsibility for caring for the "common heard of young Cattle for this Towns use . . " The suggestion here seems to be that Robert Starkweather's occupation was to be the caretaker for farm animals that were owned by others and in return he was allowed to live on the common land and presumably graze his own animals. Obviously at some point he was no longer in the town's favor as Robert and his family ended up living with the Bragg family.
An inventory of Robert Starkweather's "goods" following his death taken in November of 1674 gave a total value for everything he owned at only 59 English pounds. This included only 12 pounds for the house (not the land) on Little Neck and the rest was for the value of a few animals, the furniture, some miscellaneous tools, and even 1 pound for the value of a "sword and beelt." Unfortunately, Robert's debts totaled almost as much as the value of his goods with his largest debt of 28 pound owed to his brother-in-law, Edward Bragg. Jennet Starkweather was for the most part left with nothing including no place to live. It is therefore not surprising that 52-year old Jennet remarried shortly after her husband's death. It is known that she outlived her second husband who died in 1684. We know the names of only four of Robert and Jennet's children although it is possible that there were more. The oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was around 31 years old when her father died and the youngest, Deborah, was around 26. We assume although could not confirm, that all three daughters were married at the time of their father's death. Their only known son, John Starkweather, our 7th great grandfather, was married at age 30, two years following his father's death. This chapter continues below with the story of John Starkweather and the controversial story of his Indian wife Ann.
The ancestry of Ann Starkweather is unknown but there are at least two contentious or perhaps "improbable traditions." that attempt to answer this question. The first theory is that she was the daughter of parents with the surname of Woodbury. The origins of this theory are unknown, however we did find a copy of a letter written by someone who signed their name only as F.B., published under a column titled "Genealogical" in a November 11, 1896 edition of the "Boston Evening Transcript" that attempted to answer the question. F.B.'s theory was that since John and Ann Starkweather both had a grandson and a great grandson named Woodbury, then the name Woodbury must be a family name, and it was assumed as likely by this writer that Ann Starkweather's maiden name was Woodbury. This was really a stretch but the name Ann Woodbury now appears firmly fixed as John Starkweather's wife in dozens of family trees on Ancestry.com and elsewhere.
On the other hand an equally "improbable tradition" is that Ann Starkweather was the daughter of Metacomet, also known as King Philip, a well known and hated Indian leader in Colonial New England. At least in this theory there is a possibility of truth and the family tradition that Ann Starkweather was an Indian has existed for many, many generations within the Starkweather family. We probably should begin with a brief description of the life of our possible 8th great grandfather, Metacomet, or as he was called by the English, Philip, the sachem of the Wampanoag Indians.
The Wampanoag Indian tribe was located during the 1600s in southeastern Massachusetts and along the very southeastern edge of Rhode Island. It was these Indians whom the Pilgrims first encountered when they landed at Plymouth in 1620 and it was the Wampanoag Indians and their leader Massasoit who befriended the Pilgrims and who were largely responsible for the Pilgrims surviving their first winter. It also would have been these Indians who shared with the Pilgrims our first Thanksgiving feast. Massasoit was the father of Metacomet and if we are related to Metacomet, then Massasoit would be our 9th great grandfather. Metacomet was the second son of Massasoit. Very little is known about him in his early years although it is thought that he was born around 1638 near what is now the City of Warren, Rhode Island located not far from what is identified as Mount Hope on the above map.
The seriousness of this war cannot be understated although the war itself is largely forgotten except by historians. Considering the relatively small numbers of both Indians and English people living in New England at the time, the loss of 3,000 American Indians and around 600 English colonists was enormous and represents a larger percentage loss of the population than caused by any of the subsequent wars fought since that period including the loss of lives during the Civil War. The hatred of the Indians following the war can best be personified by looking at what they did to the body of King Philip. He was beheaded and quartered and his head was displayed on a pole at Plymouth for the next 25 years. What we find ironic in hindsight is how many numerous places in the years following his death have been named after him including the names of roads, mountains, trails, schools, parks, lakes, and even a battleship. And even if Metacomet, King Philip, is not my great grandfather, we have to respect his restraint in trying for so many years to accommodate the English settlers and finally his reluctant willingness to fight and give up his life for what he believed were his peoples' rights.
At the end of the war many of the Indians who were captured were sold into slavery mostly in the Caribbean including Metacomet's wife and his nine-year old son. We do not know the number of children born to Metacomet and his wife Wootonakanuska. Metacomet's father was in his early 80s when he died in 1661 which would suggest that Metacomet as his second son was probably somewhere in his mid to late-30s at the time of his father's death or he was born somewhere between the years of 1620 to 1625, far early than the birth year often quoted of 1638. If Metacomet was in his early 40s when his youngest child was born it should not be surprising that he may have had many other other children some of whom might very well have been in their 20s at the time of their father's death. What happened to these children who surely must have existed is unknown although some of them, particularly the older girls, may very well have been absorbed into the Puritan population as wives. Puritan men were known to marry Indian girls although it was not encouraged and it was only accepted under the condition that the girls accept the Puritan way of life and the religion. Could John Starkweather's wife have been an Indian? Absolutely. Could she have been a daughter of Metacomet? Possibly. Now me must examine how this "improbable tradition" might have come about.
At the time of the King Philip's War, John Starkweather was living in Ipswich, Massachusetts and if his future wife Ann (an improbable picture to the left) was the daughter of Metacomet, then she was probably living somewhere near Mount Hope in southeastern Rhode Island around 100 miles south of Ipswich. In 1676 it was unlikely under normal circumstances that they would have met and married. This assumes of course, that John Starkweather was not part of the Massachusetts Militia during the King Philip's War. As it turns out the Massachusetts Militia was commanded by a Col. Samuel Appleton who just happened to live in John Starkweather's hometown of Ipswich. We have also learned from the book by Carlton Lee Starkweather that we previously referenced, that John Starkweather was a tenant on land owned by John Appleton, whom we believe was Samuel Appleton's brother. Both Appleton brothers were very prominent citizens of Ipswich and as it turns out Samuel Appleton was my 9th great grandfather as well as the son-in-law of previously mentioned William Paine. While we found no evidence that John Starkweather was a soldier in the Massachusetts militia commanded by Samuel Appleton during the King Philip's War, we nevertheless believe that there was a high probability that he did serve as did a large percentage of the male population. If we accept that John Starkweather was engaged in the war then that would certainly increase the possibility that the young and single John Starkweather encountered his future Indian wife in or around Mount Hope or at least somewhere in Rhode Island or southern Massachusetts, and that he returned with her to his home in Ipswich where they were married in 1676. The fact that the year of their marriage coincides with the end of the King Philip's War suggests that this "improbable tradition" of the marriage may indeed have a hint of accuracy. We must also not discount the "long family tradition" that Ann Starkweather was a daughter of Metacomet as being purely without merit. Such traditions do not just spring up from nothing. Furthermore, we must note that Ann's age fits well within the time period when Metacomet had likely fathered children. While it is true that the Puritan soldiers in many cases indiscriminately killed Indians during the war including elderly as well as women and children, this does not mean that everyone in the community condoned that behavior. We believe that there is very real possibly that many of the innocent Indians particularly the women and children might very well have been hidden and then absorbed into the community. Finally, Ann Starkweather did not receive her "full communion" into the Puritan Church until after her husband's death in 1703 and even then her time with the church was somewhat contentious as she was disciplined in 1709 for lying and being obstinate. She apparently "confesses" and was forgiven by the church in 1711 although her delay in becoming an active member of the church and her somewhat belligerent behavior later towards the church is suggestive that she may not have received a strict Puritan upbringing. The reason of course, may simply have been because her earlier years were spent living with her parents in an Indian community. While all of this is not proof of anything, it does seem a little strange that despite all that we know about John and his parents, siblings, and his children, we know absolutely nothing about the background and parents of our 7th great grandmother, Ann Starkweather. No information in this regard has been uncovered in any of the Ipswich public records nor in the abundant church records.
John and Ann Starkweather lived together in Ipswich from the time of their marriage until around 1694 when they relocated with their family to Preston, Connecticut around 125 miles south of Ipswich. We have pointed out a number of times in this Blog about how our colonial ancestors seem to up and move all the time thinking that each time they moved they were just seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children. While this is undoubtedly true, it occurred to us recently that even our generation is constantly on the move. My father was born in Elmira, New York but he ended up spending most of his life with my mother in Niagara Falls, New York. My parents had three children all of us born near or in Niagara Falls but all three of us moved: one of us to Florida, one to Boston, MA, and one to Corvalis, Oregon. This habit of relocating seems to be an inherited trait perhaps in all of us.
John and Ann Starkweather had seven children born in Ipswich between the years of 1677 and 1693 including my 6th great grandfather Richard Starkweather, their 5th child, who was born in the year 1686. We do not know much about the life of John during these years other than it appears he may have continued in his father's trade of raising and grazing farm animals as well as growing crops for food for his family. He was described in one of the historical documents in Preston as a "husbandman" which was old medieval term meaning a free tenant farmer or a small landowner. This expression confirms what is mentioned elsewhere that John Starkweather was a tenant on land owned in Ipswich by John Appleton. John Starkweather was around 46-years old when he moved his family to Preston. Apparently the lure of free land that he was granted in Preston on 26 August 1694 was too much to ignore. The "plantation" of Preston had been established only a few years earlier in 1686 and clearly the city leaders wanted to encourage new settlers. This move and change in John Starkweather's life seems to have encouraged him, especially now that he was a landowner for the first time, to participate in the management of his community. In 1698 John was appointed a "List Gatherer, in 1700 he was appointed a "Fence Viewer," and then on 5 January 1698, at age 50, and again on 30 December 1702, he became a "Selectman" in the city of Preston. The selectmen, there was more than one, were literally selected by the adult males in the community and as a small group they were responsible for running the day to day operations of the city. This honor for John Starkweather was further extended when he want on to represent Preston in the Legislature of Connecticut. During the years of 1698 until his death on 21 August 1703 he was involved in a number of other civic activities within the community many of which are noted in the town records including mention of him in the documents as "M' Starkweather", Mister as opposed to the lessor title of Goodman. His rise from the poverty of his parents to becoming a small tenant farmer in Ipswich, to marrying an Indian princess, and then becoming a landowner and town leader in Preston, Connecticut makes for a truly incredible story. The value of his estate at his death was around 200 English pounds which definitely would have placed him in the well-off category. Ann Starkweather survived her husband by 23 years finally passing away in 1727. Our 6th great grandfather, Richard Starkweather, was around 18-years old when his father died. His parents are buried side by side in the old Preston City Cemetery.
So ends the story of our Starkweather ancestors.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
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.
Monday, August 4, 2014
We have mentioned some of our Hutchinson ancestors in earlier chapters. Eugene's grandfather, Mosely Hutchinson (1795-1861), and his great grandfather Silas Hutchinson (1758-1836), are both mentioned in Chapter 14. Silas Hutchinson who was a drummer boy during the American Revolution, married Elizabeth Buell, a descendant of five of the passengers on the Mayflower thereby giving our family the distinction of being Mayflower descendants. Silas was one of the earliest settlers in the wilderness community of Ithaca, New York when he moved there from his family's home in Connecticut in 1788. He later became the first and perhaps only doctor in the area. Silas' and Elizabeth's son, my 3rd great grandfather, Mosely Hutchinson moved from Ithaca to Cayuga, New York where he became a farmer, a large landowner, an attorney and for a period a judge and a State Assemblyman. In Chapter 15 of this Baker Family Tree Blog we discuss the many of our ancestors who fought in the American Revolution including Silas Hutchinson the drummer boy mentioned above as well as his father Eleazer Hutchinson (1735-1813) who served as a captain in the Connecticut State Militia during the Revolution. Our Hutchinson family tree line includes many hard working American pioneers. The subject of this chapter however, is an individual who was the quintessential American pioneer who along with his family faced the hardships of the early American wilderness: building new towns in areas previously occupied by Indians and still under the constant threat of Indian attacks, food shortages, cold endless winters, illnesses and disease, and lose of children to early deaths. My 8th great grandfather Ralph Hutchinson was not to become a great American statesman nor a war hero. He was just one of the many common men in the early days of our country's development who through hard work and devotion to family helped create our country. His story is told below.
Ralph Hutchinson's name first appears in Colonial American records on 8 August 1656 in Boston, Massachusetts when his name and the name of his new wife Alice Bennett, were recorded on a marriage document. As was the custom and the law during this period of history in Puritan controlled New England there was no actual church ceremony performing their marriage. There was only a civil ceremony officiated by a local magistrate who in their case happened to the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Endicott. Governor Endicott was well known to be a zealous Puritan and an avid opponent of the Anglican Church's custom of marriages being performed by the church. His objection was based on the simple premise that such church weddings were not mentioned in the bible. It seems that life in Puritan Boston during this period of history was tightly controlled. A good number of the residents of the Boston area had immigrated to America seeking freedom to worship as they pleased but what developed in America at least early in the New England colony, was a very controlled type of freedom. One was free as long as one conformed to the Puritan rules. The Puritan authorities dictated much of how the citizens acted from what type of clothes they wore, to how they kept their hair (men to have their hair cut short), to their never attracting attention to themselves, and when and where they went to church and how they worshiped. On the 26th day of March of 1657 there was a record of Ralph Hutchinson being fined 10 shillings for entertaining a John Gilbert in his home which we presume meant that John Gilbert spent the night. Apparently this was against the rules without permission and the authorities required that they be informed if strangers were in town. Ralph had violated these rules. It is no wonder that so many of the early settlers migrated away from the Boston area to get away from such pressures. They had left England seeking freedom and what they found in the Boston area was a community where individuality and freedom of expression was tightly controlled by the leaders of the Puritan Church. As we will see in a subsequent paragraph of this story, Ralph Hutchinson and his family were soon to leave the Boston community.
We have no historical documents that tell for certain Ralph Hutchinson's birth year, where he was born, the names of his parents, or when he emigrated to America. We can only make educated guesses. Based on his marriage date and his death date it is safe to assume that he was probably born in England between 1625 and 1630. We believe that it is also a safe assumption that he emigrated as a child sometime before 1642 since after 1642 emigration to America from England came to a virtual halt as a result of the policies of King Charles I and the onset of the English Civil War. Whether he came with his parents or as an orphan accompanied by Hutchinson relatives we may never know. Since he ended up learning the carpentry trade, we have to suspect that at a young age he may have been given over as an indentured apprentice where he learned to work with wood and tools perhaps to help build the many new homes that were under construction in the Boston area in the late 1630s and through the 1640s. It is not hard to imagine that Ralph was related to one or more of the numerous Hutchinson families who had immigrated to New England in the 1630s. In the book "Genealogical Guide to Early Settlers to America" by Henry Whitlemore published in 1905, the author lists no less than sixteen men including Ralph with the surname of Hutchinson who settled in New England in the early years of the colony. Two of these men were named John Hutchinson which perked our interest since Ralph and Alice named their first son John perhaps after his grandfather John. However, after further research we found no evidence suggesting any relationship with a John Hutchinson or any of the other Hutchinsons mentioned in the book. His heritage will have to remain a mystery.
Ralph Hutchinson's first trip to Northampton in 1659 was made without his wife whom he had left home in Boston pregnant with their second child. Their first son John, whom we previously mentioned had later married Hannah Root, was born in 1658 and he was only a year old when his father left for Northampton. Also in the Hutchinson household were Alice's children by her previous marriage, James Bennett who was seven and Elizabeth who was five years old. Ralph obviously left his wife with her hands full when he made the 100 mile trek westward to Northampton and while the period of time that he was gone making arrangements to relocate is not known, what is known is that he and two other men sometime in 1659 were granted eight acres of land each. Their lots were located south of the Mill River and at the time, Ralph Hutchinson's new property was the southern most lot in the young six year old community of Northampton. Undoubtedly Ralph constructed a new log home for his family before returning to Boston to be with his wife and family before the birth of their second child, a daughter, who was born in February of 1660.
We know that Ralph and his family moved to Northampton shortly after the baptism of their new daughter Mercy in early March of 1660 for in July of 1660 Ralph Hutchinson was granted four acres of land on Elm Street in exchange for his providing 400 pieces of clapboard to be used as siding for a new and much larger meeting house that was to be built up the street from his new lot. Ralph was obviously recognized as the town's new carpenter and since the town was without a saw mill this meant that all of the clapboards he was hired to provide had to be arduously made by hand. We can only assume that Ralph was immediately recognized as a skilled carpenter which probably led to an expanding call for his services in this new growing community. In the historical records of Northampton Ralph is clearly designated to have been a 'carpenter' although it is not clear whether this meant that he built homes or that he simply prepared and supplied the wood building materials for the construction of homes and other structures. We suspect the latter as Ralph was hired to make the clapboards for the community meeting house and considering that no saw mill existed in Northampton until around 1673 there was probably a huge demand in the community for milled lumber and the like all of which were manufactured by hand using only axes and hand saws. Some of the writings that we found on Ralph Hutchinson suggested that he built a home on his land on Elm Street, however we believe this to be incorrect since he acquired the land south of the Mill River prior to his grant of land on Elm Street and he undoubtedly built a home for his family before or soon after their arrival in Northampton. We believe that the Elm Street property was granted as payment for the clapboards and the property was to be used as a staging area to construct the clapboards. In any case, Ralph sold the property sometime prior to 1667 and possibly soon after the construction of the new meeting house. The sale of the property obviously provided the Hutchinson family with always needed cash or equivalent tender.
Life in a new community like Northampton was not always easy nor was it exciting. Much of what we know about the early years of Northampton and Ralph Hutchinson comes from the book "History of Northampton" by James Russell Trumbull published in 1898. This brief description from this book is worth reading although we suspect that it is a bit embellished:
"Their homes, nearly all built of logs, were but scantly furnished, and contained little beyond the bare necessities of life. Their flocks and herds supplemented what the soil provided, and the nimble fingers of the housewife, and her daughters, manufactured the fabric, as well as the garments that clothed the family. They lived quiet and contented lives, attending two services at the meeting house on Sundays, and town meetings regularly on week days, at least most of the time did, as often as the business of the community demanded attention. Their food was coarse, but nutritious. Corn and wheat and rye were the staple at every meal; meat was abundant, pork, beef, mutton, wild game and fish, were plenty; potatoes were unknown, but turnips, cabbages, beans and a few others vegetables, were used to considerable extent."
We suspect that Ralph Hutchinson received food such as wheat, corn, beef and pork and even furs as payment for his services more so than cash since the majority of the residents of Northampton were farmers and cash, consisting of gold and silver, was probably scarce or not even in circulation. We also know that the Hutchinson family had an allotment of eight acres of 'meadowland' in addition to their eight acre home site. The meadow land was used for planting their vegetable garden, growing wheat and corn, and for the grazing of their livestock. Despite James Russell Trumbull's above description of what appears to be an abundant food source for the settlers of Northampton, an adequate supply of food was not always guaranteed considering the occasionally long and cold winters or the too wet or too dry summers that would have drastically reduced the growth of their gardens. The inclement weather, the undependable food sources, and disease and the total lack of medical attention was particularly hard on the younger children. Young Mercy who was born in March of 1660 shortly before their move to Northampton, had to endure the long trek from Boston to Northampton, and two long hot summers and cold winters before she died in the spring of 1662 probably from some untreatable illness. Only one month following the death of Mercy a second daughter was born to Alice and Ralph but she too died after only one year of life. Poor Alice. She had lost babies from her first marriage, then her husband died, and then two more babies died in the early years of her second marriage. We suspect that she and Ralph might take exception to Trumbull's statement in the above paragraph that "they lived quiet and contented lives . ." Life was tough in the 17th century in Colonial America.
On the more positive side, many of the earliest settlers in Northampton and for that matter in the other early settlements along the Connecticut River had been wealthy farmers in England before they emigrated to America. Their reasons for emigrating have been discussed extensively in other chapters in this Blog. They were Puritans and regardless of the drastic lifestyle changes resulting from their relocation, the importance of their being able to freely worship as they pleased overrode any of the obvious disadvantages. Many of these new settlers who became the leaders in the communities like Northampton were intelligent, educated, and highly motivated to lead in a manner that was in the best for the new towns. They also encouraged their residents to get involved both by requiring attendance at the town meetings and by encouraging residents to serve on various committees. Most of the major decisions in the community such as a decision to build a new meeting house were decided by the majority and not by the sole decision of the few leaders. Attendance at the religious services on Sundays was also a requirement of living in Puritan controlled Northampton. While the Puritans encouraged hard work they also practiced charity and if a family was experiencing difficulties such as the loss of a father during hard times, families helped other less fortunate families. Life in early Northampton was not always easy but it survived and eventually prospered largely as a result of the strong character of its inhabitants, our ancestors.
We have previously suggested that Ralph Hutchinson was not a wealthy man nor was he likely raised by a devote Puritan family. We also know that he was able to sign his name which means he was educated at least to some extent and we know that by 1661 he was recognized as a citizen of the community with all of the civil and political rights associated thereof. He was also a recognized member of the Puritan Church since he had obtained the status as a 'Freeman' in that year. There are a couple of interesting records in the Trumbull history that might hint at Ralph's relationship with the Puritan Church or at least give us a little insight into his personality. In April of 1662, the townspeople voted to formally establish a church in Northampton and the written Covenant prepared setting forth their decision was signed by over seventy individuals including Alice Hutchinson but not by her husband Ralph. Ralph's failure to sign the covenant might suggest that he disagreed with the decision although we might also note that many of the other wives signed the Covenant without their husbands including newlywed Ruth Baker but not her husband Joseph, my 8th great uncle. Edward Baker, my 9th great grandfather, also did not sign the Covenant. Perhaps these men were satisfied that holding religious services every Sunday in the Meeting House was acceptable and that going to the added expense of formally establishing and building a new church in Northampton was unnecessary. This may very well have been Ralph Hutchinson's position for we find that in November of 1662 he signed a letter with eight other men declaring their descent of the town's decision to offer free land to the new church pastor, Joseph Elliot. Their argument was that the land had "previously been sequestered perpetually for the ministry" and that giving the land away to the current pastor was shortsighted and would add cost in the future when a new pastor had to be hired and provided a place to live. Ralph's thinking on this matter seems at least to this descendant, to have been correct.
The home that Ralph Hutchinson provided his family in 1659 was probably small, built of logs with a thatched roof that leaked in a downpour, a dirt floor, few windows, and a fireplace and chimney that barely keep the cabin warm in the winter. However, as his family grew and Ralph with his carpentry skills, he was undoubtedly able to greatly improve and expand the home in the next few years by adding hardwood floors, installing clapboard siding, a few new glass windows, and a wood structured roof built and covered with wood shingles. We have to believe that the home was enlarged with the addition of a separate kitchen and new bedrooms to house the expanding family. Four additional sons were born to Alice and Ralph between the years 1664 and 1671 including Samuel Hutchinson, my 7th great grandfather, born in 1666 and Eleazar Hutchinson who died at the age of one in 1669. By the time of the birth in 1671 of their last son, there were a total of seven children living in the Hutchinson household including James and Elizabeth Bennett, children from Alice's first marriage. Also located on the home site were probably a barn and a major workshop to house Ralph's expanding carpentry business. Unfortunately, the location of the Hutchinson homestead was not in an ideal location within the community. The meeting house and later the church were located just over a 1/4 of a mile east of their home, but the walk to the meeting house and church required traveling down a dirt road which must have been a sea of mud in the wet spring months and very uncomfortable in the cold winter months. To make matters worse, they had to wade across the Mill River and while there was a vote to build a bridge across the river as early as 1662, the bridge was not built until 1673. The town justified delaying the building of the bridge and the terrible inconvenience it caused to the residents living on the other side of the river, including the Hutchinson family, by exempting them from having to pay the 'highway tax' for the maintenance of the roads. It is doubtful that Ralph would have accepted this logic. It is possible of course that the family may have traveled to church in a wagon so that at least the younger children and Alice would not have had to wade the river but it is unclear that this privilege of riding to church was allowed by the Puritans. Ralph would have owned a wagon and horses for both his family's use but also to haul his finished lumber to his customers within the community. Nevertheless, the lack of a bridge across the river plus the inevitable spring flooding of the Mill River must have been an incredible annoyance for the family and hard to accept. But hard work and devotion to family by men such as our Ralph Hutchinson helped create our country and make it great and a reason to be extremely proud of our heritage.
When the Hutchinson family settled in Northampton in 1659 there were just under 50 families living in the community. Within the next ten years the total population of the village had more than doubled. As was typical in our country during this time period, the majority of the settlers were farmers with only a handful of the men in the community listed otherwise as merchants or tradesmen such as carpenters, shoemakers, masons, tanners, blacksmiths, and so forth. Ralph was one of only two men listed as a carpenter during the time period prior to 1661. As the population grew his work load as a carpenter obviously grew as well. He undoubtedly benefited when the community built the new meeting house, the stockade fencing around the community, and the church, and he was specifically listed in the town records as having been hired in 1666 to help build a new grist mill. Notwithstanding his obvious workload on community projects, his largest volume of work would undoubtedly have been derived by supplying materials and labor helping to build new homes and farm structures including even wood fencing. In fact, it was not until 1670 when a major saw mill was constructed along the Mill River below "Baker's Meadows," that the demand for his hand milled materials would have been curtailed. There are no existing records of Ralph Hutchinson's business other than his being described as a 'carpenter.' We suspect however, that he probably employed a few helpers, possibly even apprentices, to help with the work. The family may have even provided housing on the property for these workers. Furthermore, Ralph's sons and his stepson James helped in some fashion despite their young ages and if they did not help in the carpentry business they definitely helped caring for the gardens and the livestock. By 1670, James Bennett was around 18, John Hutchinson was 12 and his brother Judah was 6 years old. They all would have been required to work to their ability. Even Elizabeth Bennett who was 16 years old in 1670 would have helped her mother in the house and in the fields. The children would have been expected to work with the family six days per week although in the town of Northampton like the other communities in Puritan New England, the children were required to attend school particularly in the winter months when the workload was slower.
When we think of the Puritan sons and daughters we picture them in a number of ways such as in a church pew with their parents, in a one-room school house in front of a strict teacher, working in a field with their parents, playing games in front of a fireplace in their cozy cabin, but foremost we think of them following the wishes of their devote parents and their church minister. What we do not think possible is that one or more of these children would be arrested for vandalism and theft. Nevertheless, this happened to young 15-year old James Bennett along with two of his friends in the year 1667. James Bennett was only four years old when his mother married Ralph Hutchinson following the death of James' father Francis Bennett a year earlier. James could not remember his father and while he knew that his mother's husband was not his real father he still must have looked to Ralph Hutchinson as a father figure. We have no reason to believe that Ralph Hutchinson was an overly authoritarian father although we know that he was a hard worker, opinionated, and he probably expected his employees and his children to following the rules. We have to assume that children 350 years ago were not really that much different than they are today and therefore it is not that unusual to find a 15-year old boy rebelling against parental authority. James Bennett along with his friend Godfrey Nims, broke into the home of a Robert Bartlett while the Bartlett family was away at church. The boys ransacked their home and stole "24 shillings in silver and 7 shillings worth of wampum." The court records showed that they gave the valuables to a local Indian who had promised to take them to French Canada. Their plan was to run away. The Court ruled that the two boys were to be fined triple the value of what they robbed and they were each to be whipped, in James' and Godfrey's case, with 16 lashes each and in the case of the younger Benoni Stebbin boy since he had known about the planned robbery but did not report it, with only 10 lashes. Fortunately for James Bennett his step-father stepped in to plead his case and ultimately James Bennett was not whipped and Ralph Hutchinson agreed to pay a fine of five pounds. Five pounds would have been an enormous sum of money for the Hutchinson family in 1667. Fortunately in the longer term all three boys turned out to be good citizens in their adult lives although in each of their cases misfortune was to eventually befall their lives. James Bennett was killed by Indians in 1676 at the young age of twenty-four. He left behind a wife and a young daughter. His good friend Benoni Stebbins was also killed by Indians at the age of 48 in the year 1704. Godfrey Nims died at the age of around 54 only several years following an Indian raid on his village where the Indians killed or captured his wife and most of his children. Life in New England in the late 1600s was not easy and it was filled with many dangers.
It is hard to understand the motives of a group of men from Northampton including Ralph Hutchinson who filed a petition in 1671 with the 'General Court' requesting permission to start up a new community located on the Connecticut River about 35 miles north of Northampton. Their petition was initially denied but after the petition was resubmitted the following year, their request was granted. The new settlers including the Hutchinson family, started relocating to this new community, later to be called Northfield, the following year in 1673. Ralph Hutchinson in 1673 was in his mid-40s and he and his wife had six children including the two Bennett children ranging in age from two years old to twenty-two years old. Why would they want to start from scratch again in this wilderness and somewhat mountainous area located just south of the New Hampshire and Vermont borders. Undoubtedly this same question might be asked about the hundreds of thousands of families who moved westward across our country during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. These pioneer families as they grew larger and the overall populations within the communities grew larger required more and more land to grow their crops and raise their livestock. Ralph Hutchinson must have realized that while they currently lived in relative comfort in their home in Northampton, there was no way that their eight acres and their limited meadow lands would be of adequate size to support their children as they reached adulthood and started their own families. Already James Bennett was a young adult and Ralph knew that land around Northampton was either too expensive if it was even available or too far out from the community center and away from the fertile meadow lands to be desirable as a home site. On the other hand, there were large home sites available in Northfield where the land was fertile and the lots were free.
Of the twenty 7-1/2 acre home-lots made available in Northfield, sixteen were initially occupied including one by the Hutchinson family. In 1675, two years after the initial settlement, James Bennett, who was then newly married, occupied a lot as did the James Root Jr. family (my 8th great grand uncle on my mother's side) and the Thomas Webster family (my 9th great grand uncle on my father's side.) Their original homes were either built of logs or rude frames covered with clapboards and the structures covered with thatch and then around this initial cluster of homes a stockade fence was constructed. The sketch above is a representation of how the initial Northfield community may have appeared shortly after its founding. It is unclear whether the Ralph Hutchinson home at least as of 1675 was within the area surrounded by the stockade fence. Clearly considering the homes, the Meeting House, the fort and the stockade fencing that had to be built, Ralph Hutchinson's talents as a carpenter must have again been put to good use. In addition to his own home construction, there was land to be cleared and crops to be planted and maintained. What we find interesting is that during this period from 1673 when the family first moved to Northfield until the Indians attacked Northfield in September of 1675 shortly after the beginning of what was later to be called the King Philip's War, Ralph Hutchinson maintained the ownership of his home on South Street in Northampton. It was as if he had a premonition of the troubles that were soon to befall his new community of Northfield.
We have discussed the King Philip's War in previous chapters in this blog most notably in Chapter 26 wherein we described the war and its impact on the Baker family in Northampton. The fact that there was an Indian uprising fifty-five years after the arrival of the Pilgrims should have come as no surprise to the Puritans in the late 17th century and definitely not to our present day historians. Even before the landing of the Mayflower in 1620, European fishermen had unknowingly delivered germs such as smallpox, spotted fever, typhoid, and measles to the Indians tribes of New England and the diseases quickly spread and decimated the Indian population who had not developed any immunities against these diseases. This damage was quickly followed by the newly arriving white men who rapidly displaced the Indians from their land and their sources of food. The Puritans justified the taking of the Indian land by claims that the tribes had sold their land, however the concept of a land sale was totally alien to the Indians. By the time of the King Philip's War that began in 1675 the population of Europeans living in New England had grown to 80,000 whereas the Indian population had dwindled to around 10,000. The first Indian attack occurred in June of 1675 against a few small homesteads near the small Plymouth colony of Swansea. The attacks quickly spread through the other New England settlements including an attack on Thursday, September 2, 1675 on the small rural town of Northfield.
Ralph's and Alice's troubles were not over when they returned to Northampton in mid-September of 1675 for only two weeks later on September 28th a group of Indians surprised, killed, and scalped a man and his young son who were cutting wood near their home. The man was Joseph Baker, my 8th great grand uncle, son of Edward Baker. Joseph's son was Joseph Baker Jr., his oldest, who was only nine years old when he was killed. One month later on the 28th of October, the Indians again raided Northampton and once again Ralph, Alice, and their children were able to escape with their lives fleeing back to the stockaded fort area with the other citizens. While no one was killed during this raid, four homes along South Street plus the barns and other outbuildings were burned by the Indians and again the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered and the wheat and other crops destroyed. One of the home sites burned belonged to the Hutchinson family. They ended up losing everything that they had not previous lost in the Northfield fire: their home, their furnishings, their clothes, their food supplies, and even Ralph's tools and wood supplies. They were now totally destitute and were it not for their neighbors who immediately offered them shelter and food who knows what might have happened to my Hutchinson ancestors. Unfortunately the Indian raids were not over and again in November Indian raids led to several more settlers being killed and more buildings burned. The Militia were quickly dispatched to Northampton where they spent the winter protecting the citizens and helping them further fortify their town. Once again Ralph Hutchinson's carpentry skills were again put to good use. The Hutchinsons and their neighbors whose homes were also burned applied for land grants within the fortified area and Ralph built a new home this time on the west side of King Street. Ralph was in his late 40s when he once again had to start over. Alice's two children by her first marriage, James and Elizabeth, were both married by 1675 and were no longer living in the new Hutchinson household. John, Ralph and Alice's oldest son was about 17. The other three boys were 11, 9, and 4 respectively. The family was still relatively young and life in this Connecticut River Valley community does not seem to have gotten much easier. We have no idea of how this string of tragedies may have affected Ralph and Alice's personalities and their joy of life in their later years. Alice had lost two children and her first husband by 1655 followed by the early deaths of two of her young daughters by Ralph. Within a two month period in 1675 she had two homes destroyed followed a year later in 1676 by the death of her oldest son James who was killed by Indians. Their youngest son Moses Hutchinson was also killed by Indians in 1704 a year after the death of Ralph who died in 1703 in his mid-70s. Alice outlived her husband by a decade living into her mid-80s and finally passing away in 1714. She had outlived both of her husbands and eight of her eleven children. While Ralph lived another twenty-eight years after the Indian attack in 1675 and the loss of his home, it is hard to imagine that he ever fully recovered. There is no mention of Ralph Hutchinson in any history books following the record that he was granted land on King Street after his home was burned. Apparently Ralph was not involved in any committees with either the church or the governing of Northampton. While we are confident that he continued to work hard at least as long as his health permitted, he apparently kept to himself preferring not to engage in public services. As they both aged they eventually came to live with their son Judah Hutchinson and his wife Mary Bridgman whom he married in 1692. For a period while he was still single Judah lived in Northfield and he may have later returned to Northampton sometime after 1687 to help his parents and perhaps assume his father's business. Both Ralph and Alice may have been buried on their own property and even if they were buried in a church cemetery we could find nothing in the historical records that provides us with a clue as to the location of their burial site.
History books and especially the text books used in our schools, teach us about the movements of our ancestors and they hit the highlights and dates of the historical events such as the landing of the Mayflower, the first Thanksgiving, the founding of Boston, the French and Indian Wars, the Puritan teachings and so forth. However these text books at best gloss over the incredibly hard lives of our early American settlers. We think that if we were able to transport our present population back in time into the late 17th century of Colonial America, most of us would or could not survive the hardships that daily faced our great grandparents. We have in the course of our studies and in the writing of these chapters grown to enormously respect our ancestors. We must thank them for what they have given us and for the hardships that they had to face and overcome so that we may be the beneficiaries of the relatively peaceful and healthy lives that we enjoy today.