Sunday, February 5, 2017

Chapter 47 - My Gates Ancestors

My original decision to write this next family history chapter about my Gates ancestors was based on three discoveries, one of which proved eventually to be wrong, and one that was really irrelevant. The irrelevant discovery was that I share my Gates ancestry with my 5th cousin, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft (of which I have been for many years a stockholder, a fact that is also irrelevant.)  The most exciting discovery which proved to be wrong, was that my 10th great grandfather was Thomas Gates, a very famous historical figure in that he was the first governor of the Virginia Colony at Jamestown from 1611 until 1614. Many family trees on still show him as the father of Stephen Gates, our first known Gates ancestor in America, despite the fact that it has been shown recently that he definitely was not Stephen's father (nor my 10th great grandfather.) Too bad since it sure would have made a great story. Anyway, what we do know for certain is that Stephen Gates and his family were among the early settlers of Hingham, Massachusetts which as we pointed out in our previous chapter is the current home of my sister Anne and her husband John Fanton. The Gates tie to Hingham shall have to serve as a good enough reason to make the Gates family the subject of this next chapter in our family tree. 

St. Andrews Church, Hingham, England

Based primarily on recently discovered baptismal records, it is now believed that the parents of Stephen Gates, our first Gates emigrant to America, were Eustace Gates (1566-1626) and Rose Wright Gates (1566-1635).  The baptismal record was found in the St Mary's parish church records in Coney Weston in County Suffolk, England located about 35 miles southwest of Norwich and around 20 miles south of Hingham, home of many of the original settlers of Hingham, Massachusetts. The date of Stephen's baptism is the 26th day of December in the year 1597. Very little is actually known about the life of Eustace Gates other than he married my great grandmother on 4 March 1592 and according to his last will and testament they had eight surviving children with Stephen being their fourth born. In his will dated 5 June 1626, Eustace refers to himself as a "laborer" which might imply in our present day vernacular that he was a lower income individual, however the fact that he prepared a will and left land to his wife and sons suggests that he was not poor and that he likely maintained a farm and was able to provide for his family. Eustace Gates is believed to be buried in the St Mary's Church cemetery in Coney Weston. His wife Rose after her husband's death apparently moved away from Coney Weston up to Hingham, County Norfolk along with some of her children including my great grandfather Stephen Gates. Rose Wright Gates died and was buried in Hingham, County Norfolk on 25th July 1635. She was around 69 years old at the time of her death. Fortunately for Great Grandma Rose she lived long enough to see at least four of her children marry and to witness and perhaps help in the birth of a number of her grandchildren. Stephen Gates, my 9th great grandfather married my 9th great grandmother Ann Veare, on 5 May 1628 in Hingham and before his mother's death in 1635 they had two children including my 8th great grandfather, who they named Stephen after his father. It is very likely that Rose Gates was buried in the cemetery surrounding St. Andrew's Church in Hingham and that her recently born grandchildren were all baptized within this same church (see photo above).

Stephen Gates lived in an area of England where Puritans were a major force and this was particularly true in the village of Hingham.  Between 1633 and 1639 around two hundred inhabitants of Hingham left for America most if not all of them being Puritans seeking religious freedom. After Stephen and Ann Gates and their three children boarded the ship 'Diligent' in June of 1638 along with about 100 other passengers most of whom had been living in Hingham, they left their former village devastated by its huge population loss. Among the many that abandoned Hingham during this time period was a man named Samuel Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's 3rd great grandfather. It is estimated that during the period of 1620 to 1640 around 80,000 people left England including around 20,000 who emigrated to New England so obviously Stephen Gates and his family were not alone. What we did find a bit surprising after reviewing what we could uncover about the life of our Stephan Gates, is that there was little evidence to suggest that he was a strong or deeply religious Puritan. His delay in joining a church once in Massachusetts and his delay in having his children baptized who were born in American, suggests that perhaps his primary goal in leaving Hingham and England was to just find a better life for himself and his family in America. That is, religious freedom may not have been his primary purpose for leaving as it was for many of the other early immigrants in America. The fact that Stephen Gates was able to afford to travel to America with his family at the age of 40 certainly suggests that he was fairly well off financially in part perhaps from his inheritance from his parents. During our research of the Gates family we were a little surprised that no other members of this immediate Gates family emigrated to America with Stephen which again suggests that the family as a whole may not have been deeply religious Puritans.

The ship 'Diligent' finally arrived in the Boston Harbor on 10 August 1638 after several very unpleasant months at sea on a crowded ship. The ship housed over 100 passengers with around 25% of the passengers being young children. Most of the passengers including the Gates family soon headed across the Boston Harbor to the new community of Hingham, named obviously after their former home in England. Here they expected to meet some of their old friends from Hingham, England who had immigrated to America and settled in Hingham, Massachusetts beginning in the year 1633 when the town was first founded. Early records note that Stephen and his wife arrived in America with two young daughters although it is now believed that also included with the Gates family was their 4-year old son, Stephen Gates Jr., our 8th great grandfather who was born in 1634. The Gates family lived in Hingham until 1652 at which time they moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and then subsequently to Lancaster, Massachusetts. When they first arrived in Hingham, they were granted a three acre lot for their new home on a street that is now named North Street. (Their home was located around 2-1/2 miles north of the current home of my sister Anne and her husband John Fanton.) They were also granted three acres for a "planting lot" plus later another twelve acres probably as an area to graze animals. During the almost fourteen year period that the Gates family lived in Hingham, four more children were born. There are no surviving records during this period that would show that Stephen Gates took any part in helping to manage his community or the local church and the fact that all four of his children born in Hingham were not baptized until 3 May 1646 would tend to indicate that he even delayed joining the local Puritan church until he was probably pressured to do so. Without going into any detail, a study of the early history of Hingham revealed that just prior to the Gates departure from Hingham, a major controversy took place within the leadership of the community, that may very well have caused Stephen Gates to withdraw his family from Hingham. A controversial relationship with the leadership of the local Puritan church may also have contributed in part to his decision to leave the area. We know from our study of our early American ancestors that moving away from home to find better opportunities in less crowded and less controversial areas was very common place.

The Gates family lived in Cambridge for only a short period before relocating to the then rural area of Lancaster, Massachusetts (then called Nashaway) in 1653. There in Lancaster, Stephen Gates' life seems to have found some meaning, at least initially, for he became one of the areas largest landowners, he was admitted as a freeman on 14 May 1656, and he was elected as a constable shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, Stephen's role as a constable was short lived for in 1657 he failed to notify all of the local residents of a town meeting as was his duty and then despite his claim that his failure was due to his being sick, he was subsequently fired. It did not help the family that Ann Gates, Stephen's wife, later mouthed-off about their local minister which was then followed by their daughter Mary speaking up at a public meeting defending her mother's negative comments about the church minister. It was recorded that young Mary Gates had simply inherited her father Stephen's "fiery temper." Like father, like daughter and perhaps like mother.

Perhaps Stephen Gates' unpopularity in Lancaster caused him to eventually return back to Cambridge sometime before 1662 where he leased a farm for his family to live. Unfortunately, on 9 June 1662 while lying in a sick bed at his home in Cambridge he prepared his Last Will and Testament and he died shortly thereafter. According to his final will, Stephen still owned land in the Lancaster area which he willed to his sons and his wife. His former home and its lot was given to his oldest son and my 7th great grandfather Stephen Gates Jr. Ann Gates according to her husband's will was to remain in the leased farm home in Cambridge until the lease was up and she was also granted one third of all the land owned by her late husband. On 18 April 1663, my 8th great grandmother married a man named Richard Woodward although he died shortly thereafter in 1665. Ann Gates lived to the age of 81 finally dying in 1683 in Stow, Massachusetts where she was then living with her son Stephen Jr and his family at the time of her death. One of the biographies that we read about the history of Stephen Gates noted that his children disputed the terms of his will claiming that their father was "not of a disposing mind." We could not find any details of their claims nor the end results of the lawsuit but we guess that considering the somewhat fiery nature of both their father and their mother, it is not surprising to discover that their children may have inherited this trait.

Apparently if there was a lawsuit over their father's last will and testament it was unsuccessful, as the oldest son and our 7th great grandfather, Stephen Gates Jr., not only inherited but moved back from Cambridge to his father's farm in Lancaster with his new bride Sarah around 1664. We find it interesting that Stephen Jr. married in 1664 a young girl named Sarah Woodward who just happened to be the granddaughter of his mother's second husband, Richard Woodward. It is pretty obvious how and when Stephen and Sarah must have met. Their first son Stephen III was born in Lancaster in 1665. For whatever reason, Stephen Gates Jr. must have quickly become dissatisfied with his Lancaster home for in 1667 they apparently sold their home and land and moved back to Cambridge where Stephen Jr. went to work as an assistant to a man named Edward Drinker who was a potter as well as a Baptist preacher. Mr. Drinker must have really liked his new assistant for a 1673 he helped Stephen purchase 300 acres of mostly wilderness land up near what is today Stow, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. The first settlers in the Stow area (then called Pompocitticut after the local Indians) arrived around 1660. Stephen Jr's property must have been truly beautiful as it was located on both sides of a river known as Elizabeth Brook and in part at the foot of a large hill known as Spindle Hill.

Lower Village Cemetery, Stow, Massachusetts
Stephen Gates Jr and his family continued to live at their home in Stow until Stephen's death in 1707. As we mentioned previously, Stephen's mother Ann, moved into her son's home in Stow sometime after the death of her second husband and she remained there until her death in 1683. Stephen's wife Sarah died a year prior to her husband's death and they are both buried side by side in the Lower Village Cemetery in Stow.

Gates Family Home, Stow, Massachusetts
The Gates Home remained in place in Stow until 1913 at which time an accidental fire burned the house to the ground. Stephen Gates Jr. left his home and land in his will equally to all of his sons but his oldest son Stephen Gates III remained in the home he inherited until 1694 at which time he sold his share of the house and land as did his other brothers including Thomas, my 7th great grandfather, to their brother Simon. Simon remained in the house until his death in 1752. Bottom line is that their Stow homestead (see picture above) remained in the Gates family for a total of six generations until it was finally sold out of the family.

George Geer (1621-1726) gravestone
Thomas Gates, my 7th great grandfather, was the third born child of his parents Stephen and Ann Gates. While there is some question as to where Thomas may have been born, his birth location in 1669 was probably in the Cambridge area as the family's move to Stow did not occur until around five years later. It is not entirely clear when Thomas actually moved from Stow, Massachusetts to Preston, Connecticut but we know that he sold his interest in his father's land in Stow in 1694 and he married Margaret Geer in Connecticut in December of 1695. My 7th great grandmother, Margaret Geer was born in 1669 in the New London, Connecticut area, possibly in Ledyard just to the north. Her parents were George Geer (1621-1726) and Sarah Allyn (1642-1723). The history of  the life of George Geer is interesting and while it is digressing a bit from the Gates family history, it is worth briefly telling. George Geer, my 8th great grandfather, was born in 1621 in England to a wealthy family. It is believed that both of his parents died when their two sons were young and George and his brother ended up going to live with their uncle who had then assumed control over George's parents' land and wealth. George and his brother received little to no education and while still young both brothers were shipped alone to America in 1635 apparently because their uncle wanted no claims to be made later over his "inherited" wealth from their father. Once in America George Geer and his brother were alone and no records still exist as to what happened to them until George's move to New London, Connecticut in 1651. There is a Geer family tradition however, that believes that young George Geer fought in the Pequot War between 1637 and 1638 under John Mason although this may be nothing more than a myth. George Geer shortly after arriving in New London, married my 8th great grandmother, Sarah Allyn and together they had around eight children including two children who are my 7th great grandparents, Margaret Geer of course, wife of Thomas Gates, as well as her brother, Jeremiah Geer (1683-1721) who married my 8th great grandmother Esther Hilliard (1685-1721). It was fascinating to uncover the fact that a daughter of Jeremiah Geer, Jerusha Geer (1721-1735) married the son of Thomas Gates and Jeremiah's sister Margaret Geer, a boy and her first cousin named Zebediah Gates (1699-1759).

                      George Geer and Sarah Allyn
daughter Margaret Geer                 son Jeremiah Geer              
husband  Thomas Gates                 wife Esther Hilliard
             |                                                |
Zebadiah Gates              married        Jersuha Geer     

Anyway, George Geer lived to the ripe-old age of 105. In his later years it is recorded that he was totally blind and lived with his daughter Margaret and her husband Thomas Gates at their home in Preston located only a few miles north of the Geer family home in Ledyard. While the photo above is obviously not George Geer's original gravestone, it does mark the location of his burial and gives some honor to his long life. One interesting website that we found online describes the present day Geer Hill Farm located in Ledyard, Connecticut which as best we can determine is the site of the original George Geer home. The original 50 acre plot of land was given to George Geer by his father-in-law, Robert Allyn, following George's marriage to his daughter Sarah. Robert Allyn apparently owned the land immediately to the west of the new Geer property that fronts the Thames River including an area now called "Allyn Point."

We know almost nothing about the life of Thomas Gates and his wife Margaret Geer Gates other than they spent almost their entire married lives in Preston, Connecticut and had at least six children including my 6th great grandfather Zebediah (1699-1752) who was their 2nd child. Apparently Margaret died sometime before her husband since she is not mentioned in his will that was signed on the 20th of August in 1751. Thomas is believed to have died sometime before 26 August 1752 when an inventory of his estate was taken although the exact date of his death is unclear. Both Thomas and Margaret are buried in the Preston City Cemetery. We visited this cemetery in June of 2016 but unfortunately we were not aware at the time that Thomas and Margaret Gates were buried there. Some of the historian/genealogists on the internet refer to Thomas as "Ensign" Thomas Gates implying that he served in the military at some point during his life. We could find however, no evidence that this was the case although almost all of the males in America during this period of history served at some point in their local militias. Battles with the local Indians were not uncommon during the late 1600s and early 1700s although the area of Preston, Connecticut had been purchased from the local Indians in 1686 and for most part there were no local engagements with the Indians during Thomas' lifetime. Thomas would have been a little young to have fought in The King Philip's War which took place between 1675 and 1676 and he had already died by the time of the French and Indian War fought between 1754 and 1763. It is entirely possible that a different Thomas Gates, a very common name, actually carried the ensign title. We suspect that Thomas Gates actually lived a very satisfactory life as a farmer. Preston was primarily a farming community in its early years and still is today for that matter. The crops grown in the area were hauled over to the nearby Thames River, loaded on ships, and then hauled down the river to the Long Island Sound where from there they were sold to customers in other parts of colonial America.

The son of Thomas and Margaret Gates, Zebadiah Gates, married his first cousin Jersuha Geer in Preston, Connecticut on 5 June 1727. The two cousins obviously must have know each other very well and almost from birth. Unfortunately they were married only eight years and had only three children together when Jersuha died unexpectedly at the age of only 33 in the year 1735.  Zebadiah was no doubt devastated with the loss of Jersuha but with three young children to raise including my 5th great grandmother, Esther Gates who was born in 1732, it was not unexpected that in 1637 he married for a second time, a woman named Mehetable Downing. Together Zebadiah and Mehetable had six children, their last child, a son, was born in 1754 only five years before Zebadiah's death in 1659 at the age of only 59.  Almost nothing is known of the details of the life of Zebadiah Gates other than he like his father probably owned a farm, lived his entire married life in Preston, Connecticut, and hopefully was financially successful and a wonderful father and grandfather.

                          Kneeling over the grave of Richard Starkweather, Preston City Cemetery
It is likely that Thomas and Margaret Gates were very familiar with John and Anne Starkweather who moved to Preston in 1694, a year before the Gates married and also moved to Preston. They also undoubtedly were friends of the Starkweather's son Richard Starkweather (1686-1760) and his wife Mary.  The Starkweathers were also our great grandparents and their family history story is told in Chapter 36 of this blog. We mention the Starkweather family because the son of Richard and Mary Starkweather, Elijah Starkweather, married the daughter of Zebadiah and Jersuha Gates, Esther Gates, on 6 February 1764. Together they are my 5th great grandparents. With Esther Gates being the last of my Gates ancestors we shall end this chapter other than to provide this family tree that shows are relationship to our Gates ancestors:

                Esther Gates (1732-?)
                Elijah Starkweather (1756-1847)
                Adaline Starkweather (1818-1849)
                Elsie Ann Yawger (1844-1918)
                Marian E. Coapman (1867-1895)
                Florence Adaline Ferree (1891-1938)
                Marian Coapman Paterson (1916-1973)
                Charles Asbury Baker Jr.,
                Anne Baker Fanton,
                Joan Patterson Baker,
                and all sons and daughters and

Temporarily the end.


1 comment:

Meredith said...

Thomas Gates (1642 - 1726) is my 8 times Great Grandfather.
Just found your blog - love it so far!!!!