Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Wood Family: Six Children in Eight Days, A Tragedy of Shakespearean Proportion

John Wood the Mariner (1590-1655), was born in England about 1590, married first Margaret Carter ( -1643) and second Elizabeth, and was connected in England to several families who settled Portsmouth.  The Wood and Shearman families were close knit families in Dedham, northeast Essex.  Both families were clothiers and the children intermarried.  Both would have belonged to the close knit London clothiers guild, a wealthy and powerful organization much like the Mafia.  Indeed, the Coggeshall, Shearman, Wilbore, and Wood families that settled Portsmouth can be traced back as descendants of clothiers in Dedham.  Imagine being used to that lifestyle and then dropped into the wilderness to build a life from scratch.

John and Margaret married in 1610 at Southward St. Savior’s Cathedral  on London’s wharf in 1610 at the same time Shakespeare’s Macbeth  was playing down the street at the Old Globe.  William Shakespeare’s father, John, was a clothier - albeit a destitute one - and a member of the London clothier guild along with Henry Wood, our John Wood’s father.  Shakespeare’s actor brother, Edmund, was buried at St. Savior’s in 1607.  Don’t you think the Shakespeares and Woods palled around some?

Our John went into the shipping business, the most efficient way to transport clothing goods in those times, and had connections with John Winthrop, mastermind of the fleets that brought hordes of English immigrants to the colonies and later Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  John was a Master’s Mate or Captain of a ship in Winthrop’s fleet in the 1630’s and had dealings in the New Amsterdam area before settling in Portsmouth

When he came to the Colonies is unknown, but we do know a group of religious dissenters left Dedham, England for the colonies in 1635.  Our Dedham Philip Sherman had already migrated to Roxbury by 1633.  There is thought that John first wife Margaret was killed along with their oldest son in the Mespath Massacre just outside New Amsterdam that took the life of Anne Hutchinson and burned out Thomas Cornell in 1643.  A John Wood bought land in Newport in 1645 and this is likely our John.  A daughter married in Portsmouth in 1647 and he was on the town council in 1648 so he clearly was in Portsmouth by then.  

Soon after John’s death, widow Elizabeth, who had 2 young girls from their marriage, married grandfather ancestor Hugh Parsons living on an adjacent farm.

William Wood (abt 1634-1696) was born in England before the family moved to the Colonies and was nine years old when his mother died in 1643.  At age 21 years, he inherited a quarter of his father’s homestead in Portsmouth.  William was admitted as a freeman to Portsmouth in 1658, married Martha Earle in about 1664, and they had 9 children.  The family relocated to Dartmouth, Massachusetts by 1667 where he took the oath of fidelity in 1686.  He died in Dartmouth in 1696.

Lt. John Wood (1664-1740), eldest child of William and Martha, was born in Portsmouth, but died in Little Compton.  He married Mary Church (1666-1748) in Hingham in 1688 and they had 11 children in all.  Mary’s father was Joseph Church (1638-1711), one of our grandfathers in the Church line, and he deeded substantial land in Little Compton to the couple.  Six of their oldest seven children died within eight days of each other in the influenza epidemic in March 1712 and were buried in four graves in the Little Compton cemetery.  Two years later, a seventh child died.  The only surviving among the older children was our grandmother ancestor, Mary Wood (1691-1745).  

Little Compton Church and Old Commons Burial Ground
Mary and John are buried at the Little Compton Old Commons Burial Ground along with the six children who died in the epidemic.  Janie and I visited the Little Compton Cemetery during the 2013 Cousins Reunion but at the time we didn’t know all the grandparent ancestors buried here.

In Memory of Lieu John Wood
Died February 22, 1739
In Ye 77 year of his age
In Memory of Mary Widow 
of Lieu John Wood
Died Nov ye 11 1748
Aged about 80 years
Daughter Mary Wood (1691-1745) was 21 years old at the death of her siblings and 4 months later she married Lt. Thomas Bailey (1690-1740).  They had ten children, one of whom - Thomas Bailey Jr. - was prisoner on an English prison ship during the American Revolution.  Mary’s will indicates she was a slave holder as she willed Negros to three of her children.   So began our Bailey ancestor line. 

Mary and Thomas are also buried in Little Compton Old Commons.

Inscription: In Memory of Mary, ye wife of
Lieu Thomas Bailey
Died October 7
1745 in ye 54 Year of her Age
John the Mariner is our 11th great grandfather, William our 10th, Lt. John our 9th, and Mary Wood Bailey our 8th great grandmother.

1 comment:

Janie Nute-Thomas said...

I love the background colors to your blogs now. Very artistic and pretty. Pleasing to the eye.