My reason for choosing my Howell ancestors as the subject of this chapter is somewhat silly, at least initially. My 9th great grandfather, Edward Howell, married my 9th great grandmother, Frances Paxson, (which is sometimes spelled "Paxton") in England in the year 1616. Her Paxson/Paxton surname immediately got me wondering if perhaps Frances was a distant ancestor of my neighbor, friend, and golfing-buddy, Robert (Bob) Paxton. After many hours of research I finally concluded with an almost 100% certainty that Frances and Bob were from a common Paxton line which would then mean that my friend Bob and I are distant cousins. As family therefore, it should not be unreasonable for me to expect that on ocassion Bob should allow me to win a round or two of golf. This makes sense, but now to the story.
|Westbury Manor (recent photograph)|
|County Buckinghamshire, England|
What is known is that William Howell married his second wife, Anne Eyre, my 11th great grandmother, shortly following the death of his late wife sometime in early 1549 or 1550. It is recorded that Anne Eyre was born in 1527 which would have made her somewhat younger than her husband and thus capably of given birth to upwards of nine children prior to William's death in 1558. These births would include the birth of their oldest son and my 10th great grandfather, Henry Howell who was born in 1552. Poor Grandma Anne must have been continuously exhausted considering that she was pregnant most of her married life. Fortunately considering her husband's wealth, it is likely that their household was filled 24 hour a day with servants to care for the children, clean the house, and prepare the food.
|Church where it is believed that William is buried|
William Howell's last Will and Testament written on 30 November 1557 tells us a lot about my 11th great grandfather and in particular it shows us that he was deeply religious as well as very generous with his wealth. He not only gave money to multiply church parishes in his area when he died (and probably during his life as well) but he donated money to help the poor in at least six different parishes including Marsh Gibbon. He also left money to all of his family members but surprising he also left a "legacy" to his first wife's daughter, Agnes Page, the very one who had sued he and his first wife, her mother, a decade or so earlier. William's will clearly revealed that he owned multiple properties for he left his oldest son John his home and land in Marsh Gibbon and to his wife Anne he gave the use of the property in Marsh Gibbon until the children were grown as well as the use of additional property, a home, and a farm in another area of Buckinghamshire. My 10th great grandfather, Henry, William's second son, was to inherit the land held by his mother upon her death and he was to receive the home and land in Marsh Gibbon in the event that his older brother died without issue, that is without a son. William was only in his mid-40s when he died and considering that he wrote his will at least eight months before his actual death, it would seem that he knew that he was dying. In his will he requested that his body be buried in the chancel before the high alter of his church which according to his will was located in the Village of Wingrave in County Buckinghamshire. My great grandmother Anne died sometime after the year 1566, probably still in her early 40s.
|Marsh Gibbon showing Westbury Manor and St Mary the Virgin Church|
Henry Howell, their son and my 10th great grandfather, was around seven years old when his father died and he was probably in his late teens or early 20s when his mother died. While it is believed that he was born in Wingrave, he undoubtedly spent most of his early life living with his parents at Westbury Manor in the small Village of Marsh Gibbon. With his mother's death, Henry now a young adult may have left Marsh Gibbon, for at this point Westbury Manor was now the legal home of his step-brother John Howell per the terms of their father's will. It is possible however, that he may have continued to live in Marsh Gibbon. In either case, step-brother John Howell died without a male heir in 1575 when Henry was 23 and again, per the terms of their father's will, Henry suddenly became the owner of Westbury Manor. Unfortunately a lawsuit occurred that challenged Henry's ownership of Westbury Manor with the claim that Henry's father William had not legally acquired the title to the property in 1536. The lawsuit was ultimately settled in Henry's favor in 1587.
|Interior of St Mary the Virgin Church|
The next we hear of Henry Howell in the historical records, is when he married 22-year old Margaret Hawten, my 10th great grandmother, in May of 1583. Their marriage took place near Margaret's home in Swalcliffe, in County Oxfordshire, located about 22 miles northwest of Marsh Gibbon. Apparently Henry and his new bride Margaret moved back to Marsh Gibbon for in July of 1584 their first child, a son named Edward Howell, my 9th great grandfather, was baptized probably at the St Mary the Virgin Church in Marsh Gibbon. The location of both the church and their Westbury Manor home are shown on the map above.(Clicking on the map will enlarge it.) Marsh Gibbon would be a wonderful place to visit with so many very old buildings including the home of three generations of my family ancestors.
There is no evidence during the long life of Henry and Margaret Howell that they converted to Protestantism or Puritanism and away from the authority of the Church of England. During most of their lives, Elizabeth I was Queen of England and it was during her reign that England saw the emergence of Puritanism and its demand that the Church of England reform and move away from the original Roman Catholic manners of the church. As far as we can determine all seven of the Howell's children were baptized in the local St Mary the Virgin Church in Marsh Gibbon between the years 1584 when Edward was baptized and 1598 when their last child was baptized. It would seem that conversion to Puritanism and the rebellion against the Church of England first appeared among the children of Henry and Margaret and we know that at least two of their children, their oldest son Edward, my 9th great grandfather, and his brother Henry, moved to America. Their hope was undoubtedly to escape from the persecution of the Puritans in England or at the very least, to find a place outside of England to worship in a manner that was not forced upon them. As far as we can determine however, Edward Howell was not a radical Puritan nor a leader of the Puritans, nor did he place his family in a position where they might face foreclosure of their home and lands. Edward's father, Henry Howell, lived a long life finally dying at the age of 75 in the year 1625. His wife Margaret, my great grandmother, outlived her husband by over a decade finally dying in Marsh Gibbon before or around 1638. Their home Westbury Manor in Marsh Gibbon was left to their oldest son Edward who was finally granted the full ownership of the house and land on his mother's death.
St James Church in Barton Hartshorn
where Frances Paxson was likely baptized
Edward and Frances Paxson Howell were to have seven children before Frances' untimely death in June of 1630. Her age at her death is not really known although we suspect she was younger than her husband and possibly still in her 30s. She was buried on July 2nd in the graveyard of St Mary's Church. The burial service was undoubtedly attended by her large family and friends including her mother-in-law, Margaret Howell, who was still living with her son and his family at Westbury Manor. Edward not surprisingly as was the custom at the time, remarried a woman named Eleanor Maier shortly after his wife's death and together he and Eleanor had three more children the last being born in 1633. Edward was now in his late 40s.
|King Charles 1 of England|
|New England Settlements as of 1639|
Edward Howell lived near Water Mill located by
Mecox Bay in Southeastern Long Island
For the next fifteen years until his death at the age of 71 in 1655, Edward Howell played a major role in the early development of Long Island. In 1644, he constructed a water-powered mill on a small stream that flowed into the Mecox Bay that was used by all of the local residents to grind their grain, rye, and wheat. Portions of his original grist mill still exist today in the Village of Water Mill. (See map above and the photograph). Edward is further credited with being on the Governor's Council for Colonial Connecticut from 1647 until 1653 and a member of the Connecticut Legislature from 1647 until his death in 1655. During this period of history, Long Island was considered a part of Connecticut. Edward Howell was also a local magistrate for his community then called Mecox, and he helped compile many of the local rules and regulations for their colony, some of which still exist today on paper in his own handwriting.
It was truly remarkable when we discovered that possibly three of the children of Edward and Frances Paxson Howell were our great grandparents although admittedly there is some controversy as to the accuracy of these family trees. Their oldest daughter, Dorothy Howell (1620-1670) is believed to have married a man named Richard Woodhull (1620-1691) in 1644 and together they had around ten children. Their son Richard Woodhull Jr. (1649-1699) was the beginning of this branch of our family line to my grandmother on my father's side, Helen Mary Spaulding (1887-1937). My great grandfather Richard Woodhull was a prominent citizen on Long Island during his lifetime.
Dorothy's younger sister, Margaret Howell (1622-1707) was also one of our great grandmothers. Sometime in the early 1640s she married a man named John Moore (1620-1657) and together they had at least five children including their son Joseph Moore (1651-1724) who was my 7th great grandfather. This branch of my family tree carries down to my great grandfather, Charles Spaulding Baker, husband of Helen Mary Spaulding. Little is known about John Moore although like his in-laws he was a very early resident in the Southampton area of Long Island and an active member of their early governing body. He is referred to in most of the historical documents as the Rev. John Moore as apparently he and his family later moved and help found what is now the city of Newtown in Queens County (near New York City) where he became the leader of the local church. After his death in 1657, Margaret married a man named Francis Doughty and they moved into New Amsterdam where she and her 2nd husband eventually died. Incidentally, one of the descendants of my great grandparents Margaret Howell and John Moore is a man named Clement Clark Moore (1779-1863), who is my 3rd cousin 6x removed and the author of the forever lasting poem "The Night Before Christmas."
Dorothy's and Margaret's younger brother, John Howell (1624-1693) was also one of my great grandfathers. John married my great grandmother, Susannah Mitchell (1627-1711) around 1647 and together they had over ten children including my 8th great grandfather, John Howell Jr. (1648-1692). My great grandfather Charles Schenck Baker is also a direct descendant of John Howell. John Howell Sr. spent most of his life in the Southampton area where he filled many important positions both in the military as well as the government. The story of his life would definitely fill another interesting chapter in our family history blog.
There is one final relationship that probably should be mentioned although it is not a direct line in our family tree. The son of Edward Howell and his 2nd wife, Eleanor (not our great grandmother), a man named Edmund Howell (1632-1706) married a girl named Hannah Sayre. Hannah's father who it turns out was Thomas Sayre (1597-1670), and our 8th great grandfather and one of the original founders along with Edward Howell of our first English colony on Long Island. We mentioned him earlier. There is a great deal that we could write about all of these closely related ancestors who were early residents on Long Island, but, our story is now long enough and we must wait for another day.