Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chapter 52 - Our Compton Ancestors

We have to admit that despite many hours of online research we were unable to positively determine the family line between my 5th great grandmother, Anna Compton (1756-1780), and the man we believe to be Anna's 3rd great grandfather and my 10th great grandfather, John Compton (Abt 1599-1656). Based on birth and death dates and their locations we are comfortable that John Compton and Anna Compton are related. Where we are uncomfortable is that it is unclear as to Anna's father's name and the name of her grandfather. We will explain later the issues in detail as we outline our Compton family's early history in America. 

John Compton is believed to have been born around 1599 in Cranbrook, County Kent, England located around 40 miles southeast of downtown London. There are some that believe that John's father was a man named Thomas Compton who was the vicar of the Sutton-Valence parish in Kent, a vicar being a type of parish priest. Sutton-Valence was located just 9 miles from Cranbrook. The parish records show that Thomas Compton had a son John who was baptized in 1599 and the records further show that when Thomas died in 1606 he named his youngest son John in his will. Whether or not our John Compton was the son of this Thomas Compton wedo not know for certain particularly when later records of our John Compton in America show that he was born sometime between 1603 and 1605. Of course, if our John lost his father when John was very young, it is possible that the exact year of his birth could have been lost in history which was very common in the 17th century and earlier. Additional records show that in 1629 in Lydd Parish, County Kent (about 23 miles from Sutton-Valence) a John Compton married a Susan Seade and then four years later in 1633 a daughter of John Compton, Abigail Compton, was baptized in Cranbrook.

Unfortunately the name of John Compton's mother has never been uncovered, nor for that matter, the name of the wife of Thomas Compton, John's likely father. What is known is that in 1638 John Compton is mentioned in the will of a man named Smalehope Bigge who lived in Cranbrook and John is listed as one of his "kinfolk" in the will. Smalehope Bigge was around 13 years older than John when he died and the mention of kinfolk in the will might suggest that John was his cousin. Smalehope's mother, Rachel Martin Bigge, along with one of Smalehope's sisters and her family immigrated to America and the Boston area in 1635 or 1636, several years following John's immigration to America, and when she died in 1646, she too left money to John Compton. Obviously the kinfolk relationship might suggest that Rachel Martin Bigge may have been John's aunt and that Thomas Compton may have married one of Rachel's sisters. Unfortunately, nothing that we could find in any way supported this possibility and revealed the name of John's mother. What it does show however, is that our 10th great grandfather, John Compton, was definitely born and raised in County Kent, England and that he lived in his young life in the general area of Sutton-Valence, Cranbrook, and Lynn Parish.

County Kent, England during this period of history was a "hotbed" of Puritan activity and it is quite understandable that a young John Compton was caught up and drawn into the Puritan protests against the Church of England and the actions of the British Crown. As we have outlined in previous chapters in this blog, the Puritans were a group of English "Protestants" who sought to purify the Church of England by ridding it of its "Catholic" practices. The English church was originally a Catholic Church under the indirect control of the pope, however beginning around 1538 during the reign of King Henry VIII and under his command, a campaign commenced to destroy the shrines and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church. These actions ultimately led to the church being under control of the English Crown which hence ushered in the "divine right of kings." Ultimately however, while the English Crown assumed the role previously held by the Roman pope, the church itself did not change and mostly retained its basic Catholic practices such as hierarchical leadership, clerical investments, and the various and to many rituals of the church. It was these issues that basically led to the rise of Puritanism.  While the Pilgrims who moved to Holland and eventually in 1620 to the Plymouth Colony in America were not strictly Puritans, they were the beginning of the departure from England by some of its citizens who were fed up with the Church of England. The Puritans on the other hand, were hopeful of changing the church away from its Catholic rituals, however they soon realized that their cause was hopeless and beginning around 1630, they too like the Pilgrims, began migrating to America. In 1634, our John Compton with his wife and daughter joined with many others and sailed to America.

It is not known what ship carried the Compton family to America although it is entirely possible that they sailed with a John Stowe and his wife Elizabeth Bigge Stowe and their six children who are known to have also arrived in America on one of the six ships that sailed to Boston in March and April in the year 1634. Elizabeth Bigge Stowe was the sister of Smalehope Bigge and the daughter of Rachel Martin Bigge which would therefore make her another possible cousin of our John Compton. It would certainly not be surprising that the two families sailed together and it is further know that both families settled in Roxbury shortly following their arrival in America. We mentioned that John and Susan (Susanna) sailed with their daughter although some family historians note that their son William Compton, my 9th great grandfather, may have been born as early as 1631 and therefore would have also sailed with his parents. Shortly after their arrival both the Stowe family as well as my Compton family moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts located just south of the original Boston area where in September of 1634 John Compton was made a Freeman which meant that he was a member of the church, not an indentured servant nor a slave, and he had the right to vote and possessed all of the civil rights afforded by the community.

Anne Hutchinson on trial
Most family historians report that John Compton moved or at least owned land in Boston by 1635. If indeed the family relocated to Boston, it may have been because John's employment as a "clothier" improved as a result of more customers in the larger populated area in Boston. In any case, it is clear that John Compton was not wealthy.  Perhaps if John had not lived in the Boston area during this period of history he may have avoided the notorious Antinomian Controversy that hit the Boston area in 1637. We have read on numerous occasions that many new immigrants to America beginning around 1635 began leaving the Boston area to settle in new communities in Connecticut and Rhode Island.  One of their reasons for leaving the Boston area was their total dissatisfaction with the local government which was strictly controlled by the Puritan Church. That is, there was no separation between the Church and the State. One of the examples that we found that illustrated how the church was controlling the actions of its citizens was the story of a husband being arrested and thrown in jail because he was seen kissing his wife in public. This public act was forbidden by the Puritan Church and they had used their local theocratic government to enforce their policies. Many of the English had departed England to escape this type of behavior on the part of the Church of England only to find that the Puritan Church in Boston was even worse. The Antinomian Controversy was a failed attempt on the part of some of the Boston citizens to stop such activity on the part of the local government and our John Compton played a major role in this controversy.

The Antinomian Controversy actually culminated with the trial of one Elizabeth Hutchinson in November of 1637. Her arguments in the courtroom were a little more complicated that we expressed above regarding the churches' rigid control over its citizens. Basically she professed that "the doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace." In other words, simply obeying the law and the church rules should not be a requirement for receiving "salvation" or getting into heaven. Only God can make this determination. Elizabeth Hutchinson was supported by a number of prominent citizens including some clergymen but unfortunately that did not prevent her from being found guilty and subsequently banished from the community. Along with Elizabeth's banishment many of her supporters including our John Compton were first disarmed (their weapons removed) and then they too were banished from the community.  Obey our rules regardless. . . or get out.

In John Compton case, he along with around 175 others including Elizabeth Hutchinson's brother-in-law, the Reverend John Wheelwright, were banished to an area known as Piscataqua in the territory of Exeter on the border of present day New Hampshire and Maine. The land had only recently been purchased from the local Indians and until this point it was almost void of any British settlers until the arrival of John and his compatriots. It is unclear as to how and why John Compton was allowed to return to Boston but it is clear that after only two years he and his family were back in Boston. Obviously, the rural nature of life in Piscataqua may not have suited their lifestyle and John may have been willing to admit that he was wrong in supporting the positions of Elizabeth Hutchinson in order to be allowed to return to Boston. Whatever the circumstances, John and his wife Susan were admitted to the Boston 1st Church by 1642. In 1645, John is again listed as a Boston clothier, and additional records show that by 1649 he was a Boston property owner.  There are also some records that report that John hired an attorney in 1646 to try and recover some of his property in Boston that had probably been taken away from him when he was banished from Boston in early 1638. It is not known whether or not he was successful. There are also some references in the writings of family historians that report that in 1646 John Compton owed a lot of money to a man named Jonathan Brewster. If true, this would seem to imply that at least financially, my great grandfather had not done very well during his life. The exact date of John Compton's death is also not known although when wife Susanna Compton wrote her final will in 1664 she wrote that her husband John had "long since departed." Where John and his wife are buried is not known.

While it is generally accepted that William Compton was the son of John and Susanna Compton there is no definitive proof that such was the case. Furthermore the exact date and location of his birth is not known. We noted above that William was born in England and therefore sailed over to America with his parents, however there is no proof that such was the case and he may very well have been born shortly after his parents' arrival. His baptismal records have never been uncovered and when Susanna Compton wrote her will in 1664 she failed to mention her son William and in fact she left everything in her will to her grandson, Joseph Brisco, the son of her daughter Abigail Compton Brisco.  John Compton's will if he had one, has never been located. Nevertheless, based on where he lived when he was younger and the fact that there were no other known Compton families living in the Massachusetts area in the early 1600s, it would appear obvious that William Compton must have been the son of John and Susanna Compton and therefore our 9th great grandfather.

King Charles II
William Compton was probably in his mid-20s when his father died and undoubtedly he did receive some benefits from his father's will, most likely the ownership of land in or around the Boston area. Nothing is really known about William however, until his recorded purchase of land in 1662 up in Ipswich located about 35 miles north of Boston. Whether he actually ever moved there is doubtful as sometime between 1662 and 1666 he married my 9th great grandmother, Mary Wilmot, and together they relocated to Woodbridge in present day Middlesex County, New Jersey where they are credited with being among the earliest settlers in Woodbridge. Their trip to Woodbridge from Boston by land was almost 250 miles and one has to believe that they were highly motivated to make such a move.  What motivated them was probably a result of an historical occurrence that took part in our early American history.  In 1661, after the defeat of Oliver Cromwell in England, King Charles II was returned to the English throne. In 1664, King Charles granted to his brother the Duke of York, vast territories in America including land that at the time was under the control of the Dutch. This land included both New Amsterdam (present day New York City) as well as all of present day New Jersey. The Duke of York organized a fleet of ships to attack and take over this Dutch controlled territory, but the Dutch realizing that they could not defend their territory, quickly surrendered their colony to the British. At this point in history New Jersey was scantly populated with a few small Dutch and Spanish colonies along the coastline.  The inland areas were occupied by Native American Indians whose population had been devastated by diseases introduced earlier by the European settlers.  The Duke of York obviously wanted to profit from his newly granted lands, so he gave the land to a couple of his friends hoping that they would find a way to encourage settlement. They in turn devised a plan to rent the land to settlers that they hoped to recruit from England and to encourage such settlement they offered a guarantee that was not being offered in England, that of freedom of religion, freedom from persecution for religious beliefs, cheap land, and the right to manage their own affairs. Anyway, to make a long story short and without going into a lot of detail, their plan mostly failed at least with respect to encouraging new settlers from England. What did occur on the other hand, was that when Americans currently living in New England learned that they could move to a new territory where they would be totally free from Puritan control over their lives, many quickly made the long journey into a land that was soon to be known for its fertile soils and its attractive appearance.  

Some family historians write that William Compton moved for religious reasons and that he had become a Baptist and opposed to the ways of the Puritans. While we could not substantial that he was a Baptist, we did note that several of the other original settlers into New Jersey were Baptists including a man named Samuel Doty. Samuel Doty was the son of Edward Doty, one of the Mayflower passengers in 1620 and my 9th great grandfather. Whether or not William was a Baptist, he clearly expressed by his move to New Jersey that he, like his father before him, was very much against the way the Puritans had tried to control his and his family's way of life.

While are there are some fairly lengthy stories about the early history of Woodbridge, very little is mentioned in these writings of our William Compton which would lead us to believe that he was probably not a leader in his new community. William and Mary Compton are credited with giving birth to the first child born in Woodbridge, a daughter named Mary who was born in 1667. William in 1673 is recorded as having been one of the original 54 settlers who signed an Oath of Allegiance to the Dutch government who had briefly regained control over New Jersey.  Control was returned back to the British in 1674. The only other mention of our William Compton in the public records seems to be recordings of his land acquisitions, principally a patent he received for 174 acres in 1670. William and Mary are known to have had at least six children all born in Woodbridge including my 8th great grandfather, Jonathan Compton, who was born on the 18th day of December in 1674.

My great grandfather William Compton died in 1694. My great grandmother Mary Wilmot Compton died about 1713. The location of their burials is unknown although their oldest daughter, Mary, was buried in 1735 in a cemetery at the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Woodbridge and this graveyard is known to have been in existence before the death of her parents and as the sign at the cemetery reports, many of the original settlers were buried in this cemetery. In any case, their gravestones may have long ago crumbled away but their remains may still be there. We should be very proud of our great grandparents for having taken the risk of relocating such a great distance to a new wilderness location and then working hard under what were probably very difficult conditions to help build a new community and raise a family. These are certainly not the conditions that anyone of us today would want to face.

We know almost nothing about our 8th great grandfather, Jonathan Compton, other than a few basic statistics such as that he was born in Woodbridge on 18 Dec 1674 and that he was the fifth child and the third son of his parents. He married my great grandmother, Esther Martin, on 24 Sept 1701 and together they had seven children including my possible 7th great grandfather, Samuel Compton, who was born in 1705.  Jonathan and Esther spent their entire lives living in Woodbridge and it would not be surprising to learn that they during their lifetimes never left their township.  Jonathan was probably a farmer during his adult life, he undoubtedly served in the local militia as did all men in his community at the time, and other than finding his name mentioned several times in historical books noting that he inherited land from two of his brothers when they died, we really learned nothing about his life. His will was written in September of 1745 and when he died a few years later in 1747, his estate was reported to be worth 73.3 British pounds which was not much. It is possible of course, that he had provided for his children before his death. Esther who was nine years younger than her husband, is listed in a number of family trees on as having died on the same day as her husband. Whether this is accurate and how they may have died if it was actually together, is unknown although it is probably not accurate. Esther was mentioned in her husband's will and testament so we know that she was alive as of 1745 which means that the few family trees that show that she died a number of years before her husband are definitely wrong. Unfortunately we are just going to have to accept the fact that we will never know much about this generation of our Compton ancestry. One thing that we do know however, about the lives of our 8th Compton great grandparents is that during their lifetimes things changed enormously in New Jersey. When Jonathan Compton was born in 1674 the population of white people in New Jersey was around 2,000. When he died 73 years later the population had "exploded" to around 120,000 and homes, roads, farms, businesses, and churches were now everywhere, at least relatively speaking.

We also know very little about the life of my likely 7th great grandfather Samuel Compton. He was born and raised in Woodbridge and while the year of his marriage to my 7th great grandmother, Sarah Tharpe (Thorp) is very much in dispute, based on their birth years of 1705 and around 1710 respectively, a marriage year of 1730 seems realistic. Unfortunately there is a summary of records online of marriages in colonial New Jersey that lists their marriage date as 31 July 1753, however, based on the fact that in Samuel's will written in 1782 he lists all but one of his daughters as married, a 1753 marriage year would seem highly unlikely especially considering the fact that Samuel and Sarah Compton had at least seven children according Samuel's will and the first three were thought to be sons. Samuel and Sarah Compton spent most of their lives in Woodbridge in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Sometime late in their lives that relocated to Bernardsville in Somerset County located about 25 miles northwest of Woodbridge. According to Samuel's will, he left his former home in Woodbridge to his oldest son Ephraim Compton. Ephraim whom we believe was born in 1631, was very possibly the father of my 5th great grandmother, Anna Compton.

As we stated in the first paragraph, the exact family line between by 5th great grandmother, Anna Compton, and her ancestors is unknown although based on her birth location and her surname of course, it is obvious that she was a descendent of the above described early Compton settlers. Here is what we do know.  Anna Compton was born around 1756 in Middlesex County, New Jersey. It was here where she met and married my 5th great grandfather, Peter J. Harpending (1754-1840), and where together they had two sons, Samuel Harpending (1778-1852), my 4th great grandfather, and Peter Harpending Jr. (1780-1850). Anna died in 1780 undoubtedly due to complications from the birth of her second son. We know that their son Peter was obviously named after his father. We believe that it is possible that Samuel may have been named after his great grandfather (his mother's grandfather), but that is pure speculation. One other interesting connection is that Peter Harpending had a brother named Anderis (Andrew) Mention Harpending (1761-1831) who married a girl named Sarah Compton (1760-?) who might very well have been Anna's sister or perhaps her cousin or aunt although here again this is pure speculation. What is interesting is that Sarah and Anderis Compton named one of their daughters Anna which strongly suggests that the Anna and Sarah were closely related. Unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly the parents of both Anna and Sarah have not been positively identified. Many of the family trees on show Sarah as a daughter of Samuel Compton (1705-1782) and Sarah Tharpe (Thorp) (1712-1783) but this is unlikely as Samuel would have been around 55 years old when Sarah was born and his wife would have been 48 to 50 years old. What is more realistic is that both Anna and Sarah are daughters of one of Samuel and Sarah Thorp Compton's sons, possibly a man named Ephraim. Here is where we stand at this point and hopefully maybe in the future the actual facts will be uncovered and we will have the privilege of revising this blog. If anyone reading this blog has the answer or even a possible answer as to the names of Anna's parents, please feel free to contact Charles Baker at

1st Generation              John Compton and Susannah Seade
2nd Generation            William Compton and Mary Wilmot
3rd Generation             Jonathan Compton and Esther Martin
4th Generation:            Samuel Compton and Sarah Thorp
5th Generation             Ephraim Compton and unknown
6th Generation:            Anna Compton and possibly Sarah

While some of the family trees on list the name of Anna's father as Ephraim Compton they do not connect this Ephraim in anyway to Samuel and Sarah Compton although Samuel and Sarah are known to have had a son who was named Ephraim. Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion as to the birth year of Ephraim, son of Samuel and Sarah as there is with all of their children. Despite the fact that Samuel was born in 1705 and Sarah in 1712, some of the family trees on as we previously mentioned show their marriage year as 1753 which if true, would be quite unusual especially for a first marriage in this period of history. Sarah would have been 41 years old when she married. In these trees, their son Ephraim is shown as born in 1754 which would mean that he could not possibly have been the father of either Anna or Sarah. Other family trees show that Samuel and Sarah were married in 1730 and Ephraim their first child was born in 1731. These dates are far more realistic and make it very possible that Ephraim Compton was indeed Anna's father. Unfortunately this Ephraim is totally lost in history with respect to whom he married and the names of his children.  Anyway, we will just have to be satisfied that we know the names of Anna's early Compton ancestors in America. As we previously mentioned, my great grandmother Anna Compton Harpending died at the very young age of only 24 years old in the year 1780. Her husband, Peter Harpending, was a militia soldier during the American Revolution and he may have been away from home more than he might of liked especially if he was absent just prior to Anna's death. In any case, Peter's military story is told in Chapter 15 of this blog where he is listed as Patriot #15 and the story of my Harpending ancestors is written in Chapter 9 of this blog.

For the record my own relationship to the Compton family is as follows:

Anna Compton (Abt 1756-1780) m Peter Harpending (1754-1840)
Samuel Harpending (1778-1852) m Hannah Cozad (1782-1880)
Asbury Harpending (1814-1853) m Mary Sayre (1818-1877)
Hannah Harpending (1842-1891) m Charles S. Baker (1835-1891)
Asbury H. Baker (1860-1933) m Helena Rappleye (1860-1944)
Charles S. Baker (1885-1952) m Helen Spaulding (1887-1937)
Charles A. Baker (1916-2000) m Marian Patterson (1916-1973)
Charles A. Baker Jr (1942- )
Anne R. Baker (1943- )
Joan P. Baker (1950- )  

Until our next chapter . . . .

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chapter 51 - Our Mead Ancestors

First Generation: William Mead (1592-1663) and Philippa (?-1657): There seems to be a general consensus that my 10th great grandfather, William Mead, was born in the Parish of St. Mary in Watford, County Hertfordshire, England. It was here in this town where a baptismal record was uncovered for the first child born to a William and Philippa Mead, a daughter named Mary who was born in 1621. It is probably safe to assume that both William and Philippa were born in this area as well. Mary unfortunately died young, but at least three more children were born to William and Philippa including their youngest child and my 9th great grandfather, John Mead, who was born in 1634. Nothing is really known about the Mead family's life in England although it is probably safe to assume that William was fairly well-off financially and that he was a Puritan. Both of these conclusions are based on the simple fact that he and his family emigrated to America along with other Puritans in 1635 and he could afford the cost of the voyage. Watford, England in the early 1600s, was a small town located only 17 miles northwest of the center of London and it was not known to be a hotbed of Puritans as were so many other areas of southeast England. There has been some speculation that William Mead did not migrate to America because of strong religious reasons as did so many others, but more so because he was encouraged by the possibilities that might be available for his new family in this new and rapidly growing country of America. This speculation was certainly supported by the fact that once William arrived in the Boston area in 1635, he soon joined up with a group of local area colonists who were very unhappy with the harsh doctrines of the local Puritan church leaders and the church leaders' strong belief that church policies must control the actions of the government in Massachusetts.  Not surprisingly, William and the others soon departed the Massachusetts Bay Colony and moved southwest into the Connecticut colony. 

Stamford located just west of New Haven, CT
While there is no documentation as to where the Mead family first settled in Connecticut, it is likely that they first settled in Wethersfield. In 1641, William Mead and his family were part of a group of Puritan families who chose to leave Wethersfield and settle in a new community recently purchased from the local Indians that was soon to be named Stamford. Stamford was located at the very southwest corner of Connecticut just off the Long Island Sound and very close to the border line of the future State of New York. The first group of 28 families arrived in the summer of 1641 followed by other settlers including the Mead family in December of 1641. It would seem, at last, that William Mead had found his new home in America. He was soon granted five acres and a town lot upon which to build his new home. Until researching my Mead ancestors we had never focused on the early history of Stamford, Connecticut so it came as quite a surprise while reviewing a list of some of the earliest settlers in Stamford to discover than no less than nine of my great grandfathers were included in the list. We would have to assume that all of them would have known William Mead and his family.

Trial of Martha Mead
While William and Philippa lived in Stamford for the remainder of their lives until Philippa's death in 1657 and William's death in 1663 at the age of 71, almost nothing is know about their lives and William's involvement in their community. What is written is about their children and most of that is rather negative and reflects poorly on how they might have been raised by their parents. It all started when their then 22-year old daughter Martha became pregnant prior to her marriage to her future husband John Richardson in 1653. John married Martha shortly after learning of her pregnancy and they quickly moved away from Stamford to avoid a likely scandal. The baby was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts but died within its first month and John and Martha soon after returned to Stamford. Unfortunately, a scandal did eventually break out and in 1654 Martha was hauled before a court and despite her claim that she had been raped by someone other than her husband, she was found guilty of what was then a serious crime. She was then sentenced to a public flogging and a fine. As it turned out, she was again pregnant this time by her husband, so the flogging was suspended. Soon thereafter Martha and her husband moved out of Stamford, permanently.  Obviously this trial and the guilty finding would have brought great shame to her parents. As if this did not cause enough shame, their son John Mead, my great grandfather, was also hauled into a courtroom a few years later in 1656. John already had a reputation as a young man of being "very independent, headstrong, and often at odds with authority." In the case of his trial he was accused basically of strongly arguing with a law enforcement officer and since John would not admit any wrong doing he was sentenced "to prison till they (the Magistrates) may further consider the matter."  John eventually conceded, paid the fine, and was released from jail. In both Martha's and John's trials before the Court they were defended by their older brother Joseph who acted as their lawyer. Philippa died about the time her youngest son was released from jail, but their father William, then in his mid-60s, could not hide from the shame and the embarrassment caused by all of his children.

Second Generation: John Mead (1634-1699) and his wife Hannah Potter (1636-1700):  Despite John Mead's rather negative reputation in Stamford, he married my 9th great grandmother, Hannah Potter, in Stamford on the 10th day of July in the year 1657. He was only 23, Hannah was only 20 years old. John already had a reputation despite his young age, as a man who liked to make land purchase deals. This fact alone may have pleased John's new father-in-law, William Potter (1608-1684), who himself was a fairly wealthy man and a land speculator. William apparently was very generous to both John and his daughter both at the time of their marriage and again later in his last will and testament written in 1684. We suspect that John Mead's later success in life was due in large part to his father-in-law financial help perhaps even more so than his own father's help. William Potter is said by some family historians to be at one point the largest landowner in Stamford and of course, he was my 10th great grandfather.

John and Hannah Potter Mead along with John's brother Joseph and his wife Mary Brown Mead did not remain in Stamford for long considering John's and their sister's legal issues with the Court and in part the church, as well as their concerns about the strong Dutch claims over the Stamford area, and in 1658 they both sold all of their lands and homes in Connecticut and moved to Hempstead on Long Island. Hempstead had been founded back in 1644 by a large group of families from Stamford and other parts of western Connecticut. The land had been purchased (stolen?) from the local Indians following their almost total annulation during a massive attack on their villages only a few months earlier. Typical behavior on the part of the new English settlers. We are confident that the Mead families were welcomed new comers but their stay in Hempstead was short lived. In 1660 they moved back to Connecticut and with others they helped to establish a new community known as Greenwich located only 7 miles west of Stamford and at the time considered to be part of Stamford. In 1664 however, John Mead working with a group of six men, now known as "the Seven Proprietors," were able to separate their community from Stamford thus officially establishing Greenwich, Connecticut. Here again, of the seven men listed as the original founders of Greenwich, Connecticut, four of them were my great grandfathers and two were my great uncles.

John and Hannah Mead are believed to have had eleven children including my 8th great grandfather, John Mead (Jr) who was born in Stamford in August of 1658 shortly before his parents moved to Long Island. All of their children with the exception of John and possibly their second child, a son Joseph, who may have been born on Long Island, were born in Greenwich, Connecticut where their parents lived for the remainder of their lives. John apparently overcame the arrogant attitude of his youth for as one family historian proclaimed "John Mead was a prosperous and self-possessed man with a strong character." In 1670, he was put forth to be a freeman of Connecticut and later he was a representative in the Connecticut General Assembly in 1679, 1680, and 1681. John Mead died at the fairly young age of 65 on 5 February 1699. Hannah outlived her husband by less than a year dying on 13 November 1700. Both John and Hannah are buried in the Tomac Burying Ground in Greenwich although both of their headstones have long ago been lost. There is however, a monument within this cemetery that honors William Mead and his three children. The Mead family was obviously off to a good start.

Third Generation: John Mead (Jr) (1658-1693) and his wife Ruth Hardy (1660-1727): John Mead and Ruth Hardy were married in Greenwich, Connecticut on 27 October 1681 and according to some family historians, their marriage was the first recorded marriage in the new community of Greenwich although it would seem logical that some other none recorded marriages must have taken place following the communities founding 20 years earlier. Unfortunately, John Mead (Jr) died at the young age of only 34 years old but over the period of his short life he had four children, the oldest of whom was only 14 years old when his father died. Their second son, Jonathan Mead born in 1684 is my 7th great grandfather. John Mead was appointed in 1687 to the role of Constable in Greenwich which was quite an honor considering that at the time he was only 29 years old. He held the position up to the time of his death on the 12th day of May in 1693. We could find no documentation as to the cause of his death nor the location of his burial although it was undoubtedly in Greenwich. My great grandmother, Ruth Hardy Mead was only around 32 years old when her husband died so not surprisingly she remarried to a man named Joseph Finch although not until the year 1713 at which point all of her children had reached the age of twenty or older. Undoubtedly John Mead (Jr) was highly respected in his community and all would have been sadden by his early death. It is written that the town officers called a special meeting in Greenwich to honor John upon his death, an action that was quite unusual but showed what great respect that they must have had for John. We feel confident that both of John's parents along with his brothers and sisters attended the meeting to honor their son and their sibling.

Fourth Generation: Jonathan Mead (1684-1754) and his wife Esther Butler (1687-1731): Greenwich, Fairfield County, Connecticut may have been an excellent place to live during this period in history. It was far enough west in New England to have avoided such things as the King Philip's War fought between 1675 and 1676 but it was close enough to the great port cities of New Haven, Connecticut and to New Amsterdam (New York City by 1664) to receive the benefits of trade. Its location on the Long Island Sound and its fertile land made it an excellent location for farmers which made up the majority of its population. The area was soon known for its growth and sales of potatoes, grains, and fruits. While the majority of its population especially in the mid to the latter part of the 1600s, were Puritans, the church did not control the government of the colony as was more common in the Boston area during this period. Finally, Connecticut during the latter part of the 1600s was the largest of the northeastern Colonies considering that it population extended onto Long Island and almost westward to the Hudson River. While we do not know much about the life of our 7th great grandparents, Jonathan and Esther, what we do know is that they lived during a fairly peaceful period of our country's history. Jonathan died the year that the French and Indian War began in America and as far as we know he was not engaged in any militia actions during his lifetime.

Jonathan Mead and Esther Butler married in Greenwich on 7 December 1713. Esther's father, Walter Butler, like Jonathan's father and grandfather had been among the original "proprietors" or settlers in Greenwich so it is likely that Jonathan and Esther had known each other since they were young children. Unfortunately both of their fathers had died in 1693 when they were both quite young. It was somewhat surprising to learn that Jonathan was as old as 29 when they married and Esther was 26. One would have expected that they would have married at a younger age. All that is really known about our great grandfather Jonathan is that he was a "Cooper" or a maker and repairer of wooden casks and barrels and considering that Greenwich at the time was known for growing potatoes, grains, and fruits we have to suspect that a cooper must have been a fairly profitable business. Jonathan and Esther had eight children including my 6th great grandfather Jonathan S. Mead who was born on the 10th day of November in 1715, their second child and first son. Esther was 44 years old when her last child was born in 1731 and while the historical records are lacking, she apparently died shortly following the birth of a daughter named Sarah. Considering that her life consisted of giving birth every two to three years plus caring for numerous children much of her adult life, it is not really surprising to learn that she may have died fairly young, possibly as a result of childbirth. That said, we could not find any confirmation of her death nor the site of her burial.

Early Map of Dutchess County
We know that sometime after Esther's death probably before 1740, Jonathan moved from Greenwich north around 70 miles into what is now Dutchess County, New York. Obviously most of his children moved with their father. The area they moved was part of the Great Nine Partners Patent which had been formed back in 1697 following the "partners" purchase of the land from the local Indians. Settlers started moving into the area beginning around 1734 so the Mead family were among the early settlers especially if they moved shortly after Esther's death. It is a total mystery however, what would have motivated Jonathan to move away from his long term home, especially since he had to give up a good business and move when still in his early 50s. What happened to his life in Dutchess County is totally unknown although it is reported that he died in 1754 at the age of 69 years old. There are some stories however, that report he may still have been alive as late as 1759 so obviously the end of the life of our great grandfather has been lost in history.

Fifth Generation: Jonathan S. Mead (1715-after 1790) and his wife Sarah Guernsey (abt 1724-abt 1800)  Jonathan S. Mead would probably have been in his late teens or early 20s when he moved to Dutchess County with his family and somewhere around five years later he met and married Sarah Guernsey in 1743. My 6th great grandmother, Sarah Guernsey, is somewhat of a mystery person. Many of the online websites are clear as to the names of her parents but as best we can determine, her parents never went to Dutchess County so how 19-year old Sarah Guernsey ended up meeting and marrying Jonathan in Dutchess at such a young age is a total unknown. One has to believe that we do not actually know the origins of Sarah. What we do know is that Sarah and Jonathan had a least five children including their third child, a son named Hezekiah who was born in 1748. As far as we could determine, there are little to no historical documents that have been uncovered that tell us much about the life of Jonathan S. Mead. He was probably a farmer for most of his life and he apparently was not engaged in any governmental or religious leadership functions. It is noted that in 1775 he was a signer of the Dutchess County Declaration of Independence although at the age of 60 when he signed the document, it is unlikely that he actually participated in the war itself. There are some family historians who write that he fought in the war alongside his son Nathaniel but no evidence is offered. On the other hand, Jonathan was around 40 years old at the onset of the French and Indian War which was fought between the years 1754 and 1763 and it is known that his brother Enos Mead was a participant in that war. Whether Jonathan participated or not is unknown although considering that whether one was a soldier under these conditions was not always a volunteer decision. Furthermore, the last child of Jonathan and Sarah, our great grandfather, Hezekiah, was born before the start of the French and Indian War which perhaps suggests that Jonathan was away from his wife for awhile.  Anyway, both Jonathan and Sarah are believed to have died in Dutchess County, New York sometime after 1790 although the dates of their deaths and the location of their burials is unknown.

Sixth Generation: Hezekiah Mead (1748-abt 1810) and his wife (name/dates unknown): Here again there is a lot of information about the life of my 5th great grandfather that is missing. The single biggest missing item is the name of his wife, my 5th great grandmother. Her name cannot be determined with any degree of certainty which is kind of strange considering the existence of church records that name Hezekiah. The Mead family lived in Warwick in Orange County, New York following the American Revolution and Hezekiah's name appears several times in the records of the Old School Baptist Church in Warwick showing that he was a member between 1790 and 1800 and then again between 1810 and 1820. The 1800 to 1810 records apparently are missing. The following female names also appear alongside his name: Elizabeth Mead 1790, Mary Mead 1790 to 1800 and then showing that she died in 1805, and finally an Ann Mead as a member between 1810 and 1820. As far as we know, none of these woman were his daughters or sisters. Hezekiah had a sister named Ann although by 1810 she would have married and not been using the surname of Mead. Family trees on give us additional guesses like Charity or Charity Mercy Hyde and another woman named Hannah Paddock. In the case of Hannah Paddock there was even a Mead descendent who via a DNA test claimed to be genetically connected to both the Paddock family as well as to Hezekiah's mother's family tree, the Guernsey family, therein claiming absolute proof that Hannah Paddock was Hezekiah's wife. And finally, another family historian reported that Hezekiah married a woman named Sarah in Warwick. It is probably safe to say that we may never know my great grandmother's name. Perhaps an argument in support of his wife being Hannah Paddock is that Hezekiah and his wife named their first child Hannah, my 4th great grandmother, after her mother. Hannah was born in 1771 which is actually earlier than most family trees list the marriage date of Hezekiah and Hannah Paddock. Oh well. It is also possible we suppose, that Hezekiah may have had several wives and that records of their marriages and their deaths are simply missing.

Meads from Fairfield to Dutchess to Orange Counties
Hezekiah Mead grew up in Dutchess County, New York and there are clear records that he was a captain in the 7th Regiment in the Dutchess County Militia during the American Revolution. His career in the militia is described in detail in Chapter 22 of this blog and will be repeated below. What we know is that following the war, Hezekiah moved his then young family to Warwick in Orange County, New York a distance of around 50 miles. It was here that around eight more children were born to the Mead family. Unfortunately, other than a few church records, we could learn nothing about Hezekiah's life in Warwick. He was probably a farmer and having been a captain in the militia during the Revolution, we would have to believe that he was a respected citizen in his community. Another very strange thing is that there are no records as to when and where Hezekiah and his wife died and where they are buried. A number of his children in the early 1800s moved to the Elmira, New York area including his son Hezekiah who appears in a 1810 census record in Elmira. There are some historians who report that Hezekiah, the father, also moved to the same area with his children but there is no proof of this and it appears that they may be confusing Hezekiah the father with Hezekiah the son. Frankly we were unable to determine when and where my 5th great grandparents died although it probably occurred sometime after 1810 in Warwick based on the fact that he was still listed as a church member after 1810.

Battle of White Plains 1776
The following has been copied from Chapter 22 in this blog: "Hezekiah Mead, my 5th great grandfather, was a captain in the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia under the command of Col Henry Luddington.  We could not find whether he was ever accepted by the DAR or the SAR as a Revolutionary War soldier although there are enough records available to show convincingly that he was a Patriot. As a Captain, Hezekiah would have commanded around 85 to 100 men which would have been considered a "Company" and most of the men as militia soldiers were only part timers serving for a maximum period of 3 months and sometimes for only a matter of weeks. While Hezekiah may have volunteered earlier, the 7th Regiment was actually formed by July of 1776 and it is recorded that they were present at the Battle of White Plains fought on 28 October 1776. Following George Washington's retreat from the New York City area after the battle, the 7th Regiment was pretty much retired to serve principally in a "military police" role in Dutchess County by keeping the loyal British Tories under control. Perhaps the best known battle involving Capt Hezekiah Mead and the 7th Regiment took place in April of 1777 near Danbury, Connecticut. A British force of around 2,000 soldiers had departed ships in the Long Island Sound and then marched to Danbury where they then burned an American supply depot. They were soon attacked by American forces in Ridgefield, Connecticut as they were returning to their ships and while the American troops were hopelessly outnumbered, it is reported that their gunfire at the retreating British troops injured or killed up to 500 men. It is also reported that a group of 7th Regiment soldiers were later present at a skirmish at Fishkill, New York in June of 1779. Fishkill was also a major American supply depot during the war and it too was attacked by around 330 British soldiers. Whether our Hezekiah was present at the skirmish could not be determined and in any case from what we read, following the brief skirmish the militia soldiers soon marched home and disbanded so as "to tend to the summer farm chores." Such was the life of the part time militia soldiers during our American Revolution.

Subsequent Generations: The following is a listing of our Mead descendants down to the present time:

Hannah Mead (1771-1842) married Gersham Livesay (1771-1862)
Joseph Livesay (1806-1882) married Sally Bennett (1814-1881)
Ellen Livesay (1841-1917) married David DeGroff Reynolds (1836-1899)
Ella McBlain Reynolds (1863-1935) married Henry Clinton Spaulding (1863-1889)
Helen Mary Spaulding (1887-1937) married Charles Schenck Baker (1885-1952)
Charles Asbury Baker (1916-2000) married Marian Coapman Patterson (1916-1973)
Charles Asbury Baker Jr. (1942-  )
Anne Rappleye Baker (1943-  )
Joan Patterson Baker (1950-  )

The end (until the next chapter).


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chapter 50 - Our Johnson Ancestors

First Generation: John Johnson and his wife Mary Heath: John Johnson, my 10th great grandfather, was born in England around the year 1590. Unfortunately we were unable to uncover the exact year and location of his birth nor the names of his parents although it is apparent from the numerous articles found online that there has been no lack of effort on the part of family historians over the years to uncover these facts. Many family historians believe that he was born in County Kent, England to John and Hannah Throckmorton Johnson, however there have been no baptismal records uncovered that would substantiate this belief. In reality, the fact that he married my 10th great grandmother, Mary Heath, on 21 September 1613 in Ware, County Hertfordshire, England located about 30 miles north of London, plus the fact that all ten of his children were born in or near the Village of Ware, would strongly suggest that John Johnson may have been born somewhere in County Hertfordshire.

St Mary the Virgin Church, Ware, Hertfordshire, England
We know very little about John Johnson's life in England. What we do know is that between 1613, the year that he married, and 1630, the year that he emigrated to America, he and his growing family lived somewhere between Ware and Great Amwell in Hertfordshire. Both of these ancient villages are less than two miles apart and sit on the banks of the River Lea which flows southward down to the River Thames and London. We also know that of the ten children born to John and Mary only six survived to adulthood including my 9th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson,who was born in 1616. We have no way of knowing at what point in his life in England that John Johnson became a Puritan and a member of the group of English Protestants who both regarded the Reformation of the Church of England as incomplete but also openly sought to simplify and regulate the forms of worship. The major problem they believed was that the Church of England continued to operate in the same manner as the Roman Catholic Church which years earlier under the reign of King Henry VIII, had been thrown out of England. Unlike the Pilgrims however, who were so opposed to the Church of England that they moved to Holland, the Puritans and John Johnson continued to attend the local church services but openly they did their best to advocate changes.  One of the early Pilgrims in this area who moved to Holland and then later to Plymouth Colony was a man named Richard Warren, my 10th great grandfather, who married his wife Elizabeth Walker, my great grandmother, in 1610 in Great Amwell. It is very possible considering the small population in this area at the time, that the Walker family and John Johnson and his future wife Mary Health and her family may have known one another. 

Another interesting individual during this time period was my 9th great grandfather, the Rev Charles Chauncy, who was the Vicar of the St Mary the Virgin Church in Ware between the years 1627 and 1633. This is the same church where John Johnson and Mary Health were married and where their children were baptized and where in a few cases some of their young children were buried. They undoubtedly were very familiar with Rev Chauncy and unquestionably when Mary Heath Johnson died at the young age of 35 in the year 1629, the Rev Charles Chauncy must have overseen her funeral service.  What is interesting here is that Rev Charles Chauncy was then and later a Puritan who openly advocated changes to the Church of England, a fact which eventually led to his being fired by the church in 1633 and subsequently arrested and thrown in jail in 1634. In 1638 Charles Chauncy emigrated to America where he later became the second President of Harvard. The point of all of this is that we should not be surprised that our great grandfather John Johnson soon took on the beliefs of the many other Puritans who were living in the Hertfordshire area during this time period. In one of the historical records that we read it was noted that Hertfordshire "was a hotbed of Puritanism in the early 17th century."  We have to believe that our great grandfather soon became an outspoken advocate of change with respect to the Church of England and that eventually he became a strong supporter of leaving England when the opportunity arose to form a new colony in America.

King Charles 1 assumed control of the British crown upon the death of his father, King James, in March of 1625.  Charles had already displayed his disfavor of the Puritans and his recent marriage to a Roman Catholic French Princess was a clear reflection that he was not about to let the Puritans gain greater strength in England in both church affairs as well as in politics. At the time of his coronation the English Parliament was composed largely of Puritans and while King Charles' initial battle with Parliament was over an issue of money and the funding of a war against the Spanish, his temporary dismissal of Parliament in 1626 followed in March of 1629 by his complete dissolving of Parliament, left the Puritans largely in agreement that they too like the Pilgrims before them, had no choice but to leave England. King Charles undoubtedly agreed.

Great Grandpa Gov Thomas Dudley
In March of 1629 a group of prominent Puritans were granted a Royal Charter by King Charles 1 to form a colony in Massachusetts. The group named the Massachusetts Bay Company went on to elect John Winthrop as their new governor of the colony and Thomas Dudley as the Deputy Governor. For the record we need to mention that John Winthrop is my 1st cousin, 13x removed. His grandfather Adam Winthrop was my 13th great grandfather and his first cousin, Anne Winthrop, who arrived in America in 1631, is my 11th great grandmother. Even more interesting is that Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley (and later Governor) is my 11th great grandfather.

What role that John Johnson played in the organization of the Massachusetts Bay Company is unknown but unquestionably he was part of the large group of Puritan settlers who departed England in April and May of 1630 on a fleet of eleven ships now known as the Winthrop Fleet. It is estimated that between 700 and 1,000 new settlers were onboard these ships including men, woman, children, and servants. On one of the websites describing the settlers on the Winthrop Fleet, it described the background of the typical settler.  These descriptions undoubtedly give us a good profile of our great grandfather John Johnson. The typical settler it reads, left England for spiritual reasons and not economic reasons, they were for the most part financially well-off, they travelled in a family group with children, there were an equal number of men and women, they were generally all highly literate, they were mostly middle class as opposed to rich or poor, and only around 17% of the travelers were servants.  We know that John Johnson traveled with his six surviving children who ranged in age from 3 to 16 years old including my great grandfather Isaac Johnson who was then 15 years old. We believe that the list of passengers who traveled with the Winthrop Fleet, a list that included the name John Johnson, is a calculated list based solely on the names of the early Massachusetts Bay settlers, and not on a passenger list prepared at the time of their departure. Included in this list is the name of John Johnson's second wife Margery. If she did travel with John and his children then they must have married sometime between his first wife's death in May of 1629 and the departure of the fleet in April of 1630. While this is very much possible, the reality we believe is that she arrived in Massachusetts at a later date and they met and married sometime in or just before 1633. Not that it really matters but obviously John badly needed a mother for his children and Margery surely filled the role.

Many of the writings also list John Johnson as a passenger on the ship Arbella which was not only the lead ship that departed on 29 March 1630 but was also the ship on which Governor John Winthrop travelled as well as a few of the other highly prominent organizers of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Again, we believe that there is no factual basis to believe that he was on this ship and as reported in other documents many of the early Puritan leaders were distributed among the seven lead ships that primarily carried passengers as opposed to livestock and supplies. On whatever ship the Johnson family travelled, the voyage was long and hard especially for the young children who spent the majority of their time below deck in the small, crowded, and very dirty cabins. There were of course, no warm showers or bathrooms onboard and considering
that beer was used as a substitute for water which quickly spoiled on the long voyage, it is surprising that more young children did not die. Although, who knows, maybe beer helped comfort them during their long and miserable and boring days at sea. In reality, it was not the voyage that was the greatest curse upon the Puritans, for as Great Grandfather Thomas Dudley reported in a letter written about six months after their landing in Massachusetts, over two hundred of the original passengers had died after their arrival. Life in the new world was not easy.

John Johnson and his family arrived in the New World sometime in June of 1630. Their ship landed in the recently settled community of Salem although the Johnson family and others soon relocated to a new community later named Roxbury that was located about three miles south of Boston. In 1630, Boston was located out on a peninsula in the Boston Harbor and Roxbury was constructed on the mainland at the foot of the narrow section of land leading out into Boston.(Note that now because of the all of the dirt dumped into the Boston Harbor over the years, Boston has been greatly enlarged and Roxbury has been absorbed into the City of Boston.)  It was here in Roxbury that many of the early prominent and wealthier settlers located who had emigrated to America in 1630 with the Winthrop Fleet. It is not hard to imagine why 20% of the original emigrants on the Winthrop Fleet died during the winter of 1630/31 considering how difficult it must have been for a large number of families to all build homes/shelters before the onset of the awful winter approached. Fortunately all of the Johnson family survived this first winter and we are certain that all of them participated in the construction of their new home.

Eliot Burying Ground
John Johnson soon became a prominent citizen in Roxbury and in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As early as July of 1630 he served on a Coroner's jury which must have been a time consuming role considering the frequency of deaths. In October of the same year he applied to be a Freeman which he was granted in May of 1631. In October of 1630 he was appointed a Constable. John was considered by 1631 as one of the "first comers" in the founding of the first church in Roxbury and his name is mentioned frequently in the book "History of the First Church in Roxbury" by Walter Eliot Thwing published in 1908. Both he and his son Isaac Johnson, my 9th great grandfather, are listed as early donors and founders of the first public school in Roxbury. We read with interest that the Johnson home and a tavern he owned and managed was located on a main street in Roxbury and that the tavern was occasionally used as the site of public meetings (not surprisingly). His home site today is actually in Boston located at the corner of Washington Street and Ball Street.  In 1642, he was appointed as the Surveyor General of the Arms and Ammunition responsible for the care and storage of all of the guns and ammunition of the Colony. Apparently he was responsible for the distribution of the arms when the colony was threatened. Unfortunately in 1645, his home caught fire and shortly thereafter the gunpowder exploded completely destroyed his home. We are certain at that point, that John Johnson's name became well known to everyone living in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was also noted in one of the historical writings about the destruction of his home, that his home was also the storage location of many of the local public records, all of which were obviously lost. John Johnson is known to be a court deputy for a period of 20 years, in 1632 he was chosen as the Roxbury delegate to help advise the Governor, and he frequently served as his town's Town Clerk.  Throughout his life John Johnson's primary role was that of a farmer although by the time of his death much of the land he owned was granted to him because of his numerous public services. Governor John Winthrop wrote when describing John's services that "He was an industrious man and faithful at any assignment given to him." 

John Johnson's second wife Margery died in June of 1655. As was very common during this period of history, John married for a third time in October of 1656 to a widow woman named Grace Negus but their marriage lasted less than a year as John himself died on 19 September 1659.  He is buried in the old Burying Ground in Boston (formerly Roxbury) at the corner of Washington and Eustis Streets not far from his original home site. Also buried in this same cemetery is John's second wife Margery.  The exact location of their burials within the cemetery is unknown. We believe that one of the greatest pieces of evidences of John Johnson's stature in his community is the fact that when Governor Thomas Dudley wrote his final will in 1653 he named his friend John Johnson as one of the executors of his estate. Thomas Dudley is my ancestor on my father's side of my family and John Johnson is my ancestor on my mother's side of my family. What a small world.

Second Generation: Isaac Johnson and his wife Elizabeth Porter: My 9th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson, is perhaps best known for his military activities that ultimately resulted in his death in 1675, but we will discuss that in subsequent paragraphs. As we previously stated, Isaac came over to America at the age of 15 with his parents and brothers and sisters in 1630. Unfortunately, we know very little about the early life of Isaac as many of the early Roxbury records were lost in the fire that destroyed his parent's home in 1645. What we do know is that when he turned twenty on 4 March 1635 he was made a Freeman in Roxbury and a few years later on 20 January 1737 he married my 9th great grandmother, Elizabeth Porter, who was at the time 20-years old. Elizabeth was raised in Ware, England and we have to wonder if she might have known Isaac in England before he departed for America although at the time of his departure she would have been only 13 years old. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, both of her parents had died young and she was living with her brother Edward Porter and his family in England when they elected to sail to America and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636. Isaac and Elizabeth were married less than a year after her arrival. They were to have around twelve children during their lifetimes including my 8th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson (Jr) who was born in 1644.

It is not entirely clear what Isaac did for a living although he was undoubtedly a farmer on land that he received from his father when he married Elizabeth. The other records that we read, outlined his military service. He was first appointed as a captain of the Roxbury Militia in 1635 when he was only twenty which shows that his contemporaries must have respected him. He later became a member of the colony's Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company beginning in 1645, then appointed a Lieutenant in 1666 and in 1667 he was elevated to the position of Captain.  As we will describe, it was unfortunately his position as a military leader that eventually led to his death.

I clearly remember when I was young being taught American History in school. The history lessons always seemed to portray the American Indian as the evil enemy of the new British and European immigrants beginning with the colonization of Jamestown in 1607 and followed by the colonization of New York (New Amsterdam) and Massachusetts in the 1620s. The evilness of the Indians was also well displayed in many of the early motion pictures. What was ignored was that peaceful Indians helped the early Plymouth Colony settlers survive and that in the spring of 1621 the Pilgrims shared a "Thanksgiving" dinner with the Indians to celebrate their survival. Such celebrations were quickly a thing of the past. Isaac Johnson's almost continuous military service in the early years of New England was the result of the need to control the local Indians whose land was being absorbed by the colonists on almost a daily basis. One has to love the myth story about Dutchman Peter Minuit purchasing Manhattan Island from the Indians in 1626 for $24 worth of trade goods. If this even did occur we feel confident that the Indians had no idea that they were selling their land. These were the types of fables and trickery that have been passed along through the generations to help explain how the new settlers were able to gradually move westward (often killing the evil Indians as they absorbed their land.)  One other observation worth mentioning is that many of the Indians were killed by diseases such as smallpox which were obviously introduced into America by the thousands of new immigrants.

The first major Indian revolt in New England is known as the King Philip's War which took place between 1675 and 1676. King Philip was actually the English name given to the Indian chief known as Metacomet or Metacom who assumed control over the Wampanoag Indian tribe in 1662. At first Metacom tried to accommodate the colonial leaders by surrendering armaments and ammunition and agreeing to follow English laws. But then with the colonists constantly asking for more, this finally led to an open bloody uprising with the Indians' hopelessly attempting to drive out the ever growing English settlers. One of the ironies of this short war was that Metacom's father, Massasoit, was one of the Indian chief's who first helped the Pilgrim settlers and he may very well have attended the first Thanksgiving. Before we continue, it should be mentioned that there is strong evidence to suggest that Metacom was my 8th great grandfather and his father my 9th great grandfather. A brief description of Metacom and his relationship to our family can be found in Chapter 36 of this family history blog.

King Philip's War 1675-1676
The war actually began in June of 1675 when three Wampanoag warriors were executed in Plymouth for an alleged murder. Throughout the summer and fall, the coalition of Indian tribes held together under the leadership of Metacom attacked various villages in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. Ironically, the battle in which our grandfather Isaac Johnson fought and died, The Great Swamp Fight, which took place on the 15th day of December 1675, did not involve Metacom nor the coalition of tribes under his loose command. Typically perhaps of the English, they were worried that another Indian tribe, the Narragansett tribe, might join with the Metacom forces so that elected to attack this otherwise neutral tribe. The Narragansett Indians were located in present day Rhode Island and because of their neutrality and perhaps because Metacom hoped that they might soon join up with his forces, Metacom had purposely not attacked any of the English villages in Rhode Island. The battle which took place on a freezing cold winter day has been described as "one of the most brutal and lopsided military encounters in all of New England's history" and we are certain that our Isaac Johnson would agree. Around 70 of the 1,000 or so English troops were killed but in contrast around 97 Indian warriors were killed plus between 300 to 1,000 Indian woman, children, and elders were, for all intensive purposes, murdered in the ongoing enthusiasm. The Indian homes were burned and their food supplies destroyed. Fortunately for the Narragansett Indians, many of them were able to escape in the surrounding frozen swamps and were soon to join up alongside the forces of Metacom. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately for the Indians, the war was soon over following subsequent loses and the ultimate death of Chief Metacom on August 12, 1676.

The death of Isaac Johnson during attack at Great Swamp Fight
Not surprisingly, many of my distant ancestors fought in the King Philip's War and at the Great Swamp Fight. The commanding officer at the Great Swamp Fight, General Josiah Winslow, was my 1st cousin x11 removed. Second in command, Captain Benjamin Church, was my 9th great uncle. The commander of the Massachusetts Regiment, Major Samuel Appleton, was my 9th great grandfather. The commander of the Plymouth Regiment, Major William Bradford, Jr. was also my 9th great grandfather and the commander of the Connecticut Regiment, Major Robert Treat, was the brother-in-law of my 10th great uncle. The leader of the 4th Company of the Connecticut Regiment, Captain Nathaniel Seely, was my 9th great uncle. Captain Isaac Johnson, the subject of this story and my 9th great grandfather, was the head of the 4th Company of the Massachusetts Regiment.  Unfortunately as we have previously mentioned, Isaac Johnson was killed at the Great Swamp Fight. Apparently, the major access to the entrance to the Indian Fort was down a large log that crossed over a swamp area and it is written than Isaac was killed as he led his troops down the log. The sketch above is said to show Captain Isaac Johnson leading the attack towards the fort.

Isaac Johnson was 60 years old when he was unexpectedly killed. The location of his burial is not known for certain although it is believed that the dead bodies were carried around 10 miles north near to what is today the village of Wickford, Rhode Island where they were buried in a mass gravesite, now a National Historic Landmark in what is now called Smith's Castle. It must have been an awful day for Elizabeth Johnson and her children when they learned of their Isaac's death and his burial at an unmarked gravesite many miles away. Isaac's son, my 8th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson (Jr), was thirty years old when his father was killed.  Undoubtedly both he and his entire family would have hated the Indians and blamed them for the unnecessary death of their father. Elizabeth Porter Johnson outlived her husband by eight years finally dying on 13 August 1683.

Third Generation: Isaac Johnson (Jr) and his wife Mary Harris: My 8th great grandfather, the fourth child of his parents Isaac and Elizabeth, was born in Roxbury on the 7th day of January in the year 1644. While there are some conflicting historical records as to where and when Isaac married his wife, Mary Harris, it is generally accepted that they married in Middletown, Connecticut on 26 December 1669 shortly after he had moved there.  Mary Harris was born in Rowley, Massachusetts in 1651 only a year before her parents and my 9th great grandparents, Daniel and Mary Weld Harris, moved to Middletown in 1652. Middletown had only been settled two years earlier in 1650 and its location on the Connecticut River made it a popular spot for new settlers considering that it's location quickly made it a busy sailing port. During the 18th century, Middletown became the largest and most prosperous settlement in Connecticut.  Fortunately for Isaac and Mary and their three young children alive at the time of the King Philip's War and the nearby Great Swamp Fight, the local Wanqunk Indian tribe in their area had remained neutral or at least under the control of the local colonists and thus the small village of Middletown had escaped being attacked. We could not find any records showing that Isaac Johnson (Jr) participated in the King Philip's War although it is hard to imagine that he did not in some manner especially considering that his father-in-law, Daniel Harris, was made a lieutenant in the militia in 1661 and later commissioned a captain.  

Isaac Johnson's gravestone (1644-1720)
As best we could determine, Isaac Johnson (Jr) did not play an active role in his community at least not to the extent as had his father and grandfather.  He was primarily a farmer and based on the amount of land that he owned as mentioned in his last will and testament, he apparently was a large and fairly successful farmer. Mary and Isaac had in total around nine children who survived to adulthood including their oldest son and my 7th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson (3rd) who was born on 19 December 1670. Isaac died at the age of 75 on 3 February 1720 and he was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Middletown. My great grandmother Mary died almost ten years after the death of her husband and she is buried in Old Farm Hill Cemetery also in Middletown.

Isaac Johnson's gravestone (1670-1744)
Fourth Generation: Isaac Johnson (3rd) (1670-1744) married my 7th great grandmother, Margaret Miller (1676-1764), in Middletown on the 12th day of September in 1695 and together they had twelve children including my 6th great grandfather Isaac Johnson (4th) who was born in 1703. Isaac and Margaret lived their entire lives in Middletown most likely seeing the population more than double in size over this period. Here again, Isaac Johnson's life was not remarkable although he was a successful farmer based on what he left his family in his last will and testament. He died at the age of 73 in the year 1744. Margaret outlived her husband by 20 years. They are both buried in the Old Farm Hill Cemetery in Middletown.

Perhaps more interesting than the life of Isaac and Margaret is the life of Margaret's father, Thomas Miller, and his marriage to Margaret's mother, Sarah Nettleton, both of whom are my 8th great grandparents. Thomas Miller was born in England around 1609 and it was here that he married his first wife Isabel around 1630. Shortly thereafter they immigrated to America and soon settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts where they had several children before eventually moving to Middletown around the year 1652. Thomas is credited with building the first grist mill in Middletown in the year 1655 and at that point he was probably a respected citizen. Thomas Miller would probably have been a forgotten figure in American history were it not for what he did in late 1665. Apparently his wife Isabel may have been sick for she died in mid-May 1666, but that fact does not excuse then 56-year old Thomas from getting their family's young 22-year old maid, Sarah Nettleton, pregnant who shortly before Isabel's death, gave birth to Thomas' son who was born on 6 May 1666.  In this period of history such an action was severely punishable and while he quickly married his young maid after his wife died, Thomas was thrown in prison and threatened with a whipping as was his new wife. Fortunately, Thomas was later released from prison and perhaps because of his position in the community and the fact that he had quickly married my 8th great grandmother, no further punishments followed his brief prison stay. Thomas and Sarah Nettleton Miller went on to have a total of eight children including their sixth child and my great grandmother, Margaret Miller, who was born in 1676 when her father was 66 years old and her mother only 34 years old. Great Grandpa Thomas died at the age of 70 years old in August of 1680 (perhaps with a smile on his face.) His youngest daughter, Mehitable Miller, was born seven months following her father's death. My great grandmother Sarah not unexpected, soon remarried and then outlived her first husband by 48 years.  

Fifth Generation: Isaac Johnson (4th) (1703-1786)  and his wife Thankful Cowles (1700-1785): Twenty-three year old Isaac Johnson (4th) married 26 year old Thankful Cowles in Middletown, Connecticut on 26 October 1726. Thankful, my 6th great grandmother, was born and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut located about 20 miles north of Middletown. It is unclear how and when she met her future husband although the families must have gotten to know each other fairly well as Thankful's younger brother Timothy Cowles (1704-1733) only four years later married Isaac's younger sister, Content Johnson (1709-1733) in Middletown. Isaac and Thankful over the next 16 years were to have eight children including my 5th great grandfather, Asa Johnson, who was born in Middletown in 1735. As with most of the rural communities during this historical period, at least 80% of the families were farmers and despite the fact that many of these farmers owned a few slaves even in Middletown, Connecticut in the early 1700s, the large number of children in the typical family provided the needed labor to run the farm. Children as young as ten years old were typically put to work.  The consequence of course, of these large families was that as the children grew older and married, available farm land became in short supply, and families began to move westward in search of new and inexpensive farmlands. This was the case with all of our early ancestors including the Isaac and Thankful Johnson family who in 1747 left the Middletown area and moved westward, finally settling in the new community of Canaan, located in the northwest corner of Connecticut, a distance of a little over 50 miles from Middletown. Their decision to move to Canaan may have been influenced by Thankful's younger brother, Benjamin Cowles (1713-1802), having moved to Canaan a few years earlier around 1742. We know that Benjamin and his sister Thankful must have been close, as Benjamin and his wife Hannah Boardman (1715-1756) named their first daughter Thankful Cowles (1737- ?) after his sister. One thing needs to be mentioned at this point is that Benjamin and Hannah Boardman are also my 6th great grandparents. As it turned out their daughter Thankful Cowles married her first cousin, Asa Johnson, son of Isaac and Thankful Johnson and both are therefore my 5th great grandparents.

Thankful Cowles Johnson (1700-1785)
Isaac Johnson was around 52 years old at the start of the French and Indian War which began in the year 1755. Since only those male individuals 45 years old and younger were mandated to join the militia it would seem unlikely that Isaac participated in this war. That is not to say however, that he was not involved and perhaps the wages paid for the militia service might have encouraged him to enlist.  We mention this because we found the Isaac Johnson name mentioned a number of times in the rolls of the Connecticut militia men engaged during the French and Indian War. It should be noted however, that his name was fairly common so it may not have been our Isaac Johnson plus he had a son named Isaac Johnson who was 22 years old at the start of the fighting and he would likely have been involved. Fortunately, perhaps, whether our great grandfather was engaged or not in the French and Indian War which took place between 1755 and 1762, none of the fighting took place in Connecticut. That said, historical records still note that as many as 16,000 Connecticut troops were enlisted during the war and that almost 1,500 Connecticut troops died in battle, or from disease, or other causes during the war years.  Most of the actions of the Connecticut troops involved efforts to expel the French troops from various forts on or south of Lake Champlain.  The largest battles during the war however, took place further west in what is today Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Great Lakes region. In many cases the British were under the command of a young man named George Washington. In the end, the French and their Indian supporters were greatly outnumbered and ultimately the French were forced out of America including what is today the country of Canada. According to one of the websites online, the French and Indian troops numbered around 14,000 as compared to the English troops including the local militias which numbered around 50,000. Both sides are believed to have lost around 11,000 soldiers including those killed, wounded, or captured. If our Isaac Johnson was involved, he was likely part of the militia troops send up to the "Relief of Fort William Henry" that had been captured by the French in early August of 1757. Fort William Henry was located at the southern end of Lake George about 120 miles north of Isaac Johnson's home in Canaan. An Isaac Johnson is listed in a militia under the command of a Captain Uriah Stevens who just happened to be from Isaac's hometown of Canaan. Their service at the fort was only a matter of a few days as the French and their Indian allies had already captured and burned to the ground Fort William Henry. Following the surrender of the fort by the British, the Indians had killed many of the surrendered British troops. This notorious atrocity committed by the Indians following the battle was portrayed in James Fenimore Cooper's famous novel, The Last of the Mohicans, first published in 1826 and later made into movies including the well known 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans. One of the side effects of the French and Indian War was that it left the America Colony and the British deeply in debt. The British government in an effort to pay down the debt introduced heavy tariffs on sugar, coffee, wine, and other imported commodities from the American colonies followed in 1765 by the notorious Stamp Act. The American strong opposition to these taxes and tariffs eventually led to the American Revolution and the British loss over the control of America with the exception of Canada. Isaac Johnson died in 1886, three years following the official end of the American War for Independence. Thankful Cowles Johnson, his wife and my great grandmother, died a year before her husband at the age of 85 in 1785.

Sixth Generation: Asa Johnson (1735-1791) and his wife Thankful Cowles (1737- ?): Asa and Thankful married in Canaan on the 28th day of April in the year 1757.  As cousins they had probably known each for almost a decade before they married. Asa was only 21; his new wife was only 20 years old when they married. As we previously mentioned, Thankful Cowles was named after Asa's mother. They were to have six children together during their long marriage including their last child, a daughter named Anna Johnson, my 4th great grandmother, who was born in 1775.  Asa Johnson was his parents third son and considering the condition of the country at the time of his father's death in 1786 shortly following the close of the Revolutionary War, he probably did not inherit much. Furthermore, since their marriage occurred during the French and Indian War, he and his new wife were probably not richly gifted at their wedding by either of their families. What is known about Asa and his wife and their only daughter at that point, Hannah, is that in 1762 they moved to Williamstown in the northwest corner of Massachusetts about 65 miles north of Canaan. Why they moved there is anyone's guess particularly since they had no known relatives in the area and Asa Johnson is not known to have had employment in the Williamstown area.  The history of Asa Johnson in his few years in Williamstown is told in the book "Origins in Williamstown" written by Arthur Latham Perry in 1894. Apparently while in Williamstown, Asa spent much of his time buying and selling property and most of the time losing money in his many trades.  By 1770 it is reported in the book that Asa had sold all of his property including "his dwelling-house and out-buildings" and moved north again to Rutland, Vermont, a distance of around 70 miles. In 1770, the Johnson family was among the original founding families in Rutland. The following paragraph which further describes my ancestor Asa Johnson and his family is copied from Chapter 22 of this blog which describes our Revolutionary War ancestors, one of whom was obviously Asa Johnson.

Fort Rutland, Vermont, constructed 1775
"Asa Johnson moved his wife and three children to Rutland, Vermont from Massachusetts in the summer of 1770. He was 35 years old. The small farming community of Rutland had been settled in 1767 only a few years before the arrival of the Johnson family. Asa's wife, Thankful Cowles Johnson, had in fact been pregnant when they moved to Rutland and their fourth child, a daughter named Chloe Johnson, was born only a few months after their arrival. Chloe was the third child and the first female child born in Rutland. Only one payroll record with Asa Johnson's name exists in the federal archives, however it confirms that Asa Johnson can be claimed as a Revolutionary War Patriot. This payroll record covers the time period of October 21st through October 30th of 1781 when Asa served as a private at Castleton, Vermont in Capt Nathaniel Blanchard's Company of Militia in Col Thomas Lee's regiment. Asa's son Benjamin, age 23, is also listed as having served during this time period.  Castleton is located about nine miles west of Rutland. While it is likely that Asa Johnson served more than these few days in October of 1781, there is no evidence to suggest that he was involved in the capture of nearby Fort Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775 with Nathan Hale and the Green Mountain Boys, or involved in any of the other activities of the Green Mountain Boys such as the ill-fated attempt to invade Canada. It is very possible however, that Asa Johnson fought at the only battle that took place in Vermont during the war, the Battle of Hubbardton, that occurred on July 7, 1777. Nearby Rutland where Asa Johnson lived was the headquarters of the "Republic of Vermont" during a part of the Revolutionary War and it is probable that Asa was involved in the construction and then later in guard duties at the local forts including Fort Rutland constructed in 1775 and Fort Ranger near Rutland constructed in 1778. A sketch of Fort Rutland as it appeared during the Revolutionary War is shown above. Asa Johnson died at the relatively young age of 55 in January of 1791. We could not find the date of the death of his wife Thankful."  

Subsequent Generations: Anna Johnson, the youngest daughter of Asa and Thankful Johnson was born in Rutland, Vermont in 1775. She married Elijah Starkweather in Rutland around 1807 and sometime before 1830 they moved to Cayuga County, New York in New York's Finger Lakes region where four more generations of our family were born. The following is a listing if this line of my family ancestors down to the present time:

Anna Johnson (1775- ?) married Elijah Starkweather ( 1756-1847)
Adaline Starkweather (1818-1849) married John J. Yawger (1817-1895)
Elsie Ann Yawger (1844-1918) married David S. Coapman ( 1844-1910)
Marian E. Coapman (1867-1895) married Eugene Hutchinson Ferree (1866-1952)
Florence Adaline Ferree (1891-1938) married Douglas Ross Patterson (1888-1979)
Marian Coapman Patterson (1916-1973) married Charles Asbury Baker (1916-2000)
Charles Asbury Baker Jr (1942-  )
Anne Rappleye Baker (1943-  )
Joan Patterson Baker (1950-  )

Until the next chapter . . . .