Sunday, August 28, 2016

Revolutionaries: Our Little Compton Baileys

We pick up on our Bailey family in Little Compton, Rhode Island, just a hop across the Sakonnet River from Portsmouth and about 55 miles down the coast from Plymouth.  Colonists from both areas looking for more grazing and farm land, to expand their holdings came to Little Compton in the early 1680’s. One of the original Little Compton founders was Colonel Benjamin Church from the Plymouth area, commander of Colonial forces during King Philips’s War in 1675-1676 and known as the father of the US Army Rangers. Four of Colonel Church’s brothers are our grandfather ancestors.

To catch up from the last post, Lt. Thomas Bailey (1690-1740) and Mary Wood (1691-1745) from our Portsmouth families married in Little Compton in July 1712 just months after six of Mary’s siblings died suddenly in an influenza epidemic. Thomas was living on his father’s lands and both inherited Little Compton land from their parents. They had ten children between 1713 and 1733, nine boys in a row and the last a girl, all born and raised in Little Compton. 

Of their children:
  • John inherited £300, land on Warrens Point and his father’s sword.
  • Constant Bailey inherited  £1,000, a good cow, and “a horse to ride of a credible sort.” He moved back to Newport where he was a cabinet maker. When Mary died, she gave Constant a Negro boy and 16 acres in Little Compton she inherited from her father.
  • Joseph inherited £100 and a good horse. He moved to Newport where he was a cordswainer (shoemaker).  Mary left him another 16 acres in Little Compton.
  • Oliver inherited all Thomas’ land in Freetown with buildings, saw mill, grist mill and fulling mill as well as £300.
  • James, Thomas, Barzilla, William and Lemuel were underage when their father died.  As executors, Mary and the oldest son John were to divvy up the remaining lands and property when the children came of age. 
  • Lemuel, the last son, died at age 13, the same year as his mother.
Generation Four

The second son, Thomas Bailey, Jr. was a husbandman - or farmer - in Little Compton on lands owned by his father which became Thomas Jr.’s when Thomas Sr. died. He married 20 year old Mary Bennett in Little Compton in 1734. Thomas was18 years old; his mother just had a child herself the previous year.  

Seven months after the marriage, Mary and Thomas had Phebe, our sixth great-grandmother. A second child for the couple was born two years later on October 3, 1736. Mary died days later, and we would presume the cause of death was related to childbirth. The following year, Thomas married 19 year old Abigail Lynd and they had four children. She died twelve years later at age 31; Thomas now was 34 and twice widowed. He married a third time the following year to 22 year old Deborah Carr. They had another 4 children, all girls.

Photo from Little Compton Families, Vol 1
Little Compton Families gives the following excerpt from an old book of photographs by Arthur Aspinwall:

The people of Little Compton, as might be expected from the descendants of the Pilgrims, were patriots, and none were more patriotic than Bailey. Occasionally they were troubled by visits from British warships, and upon one of these occasions a part of British seamen landed and captured Bailey and a coast guard who was on duty there and several others. They were carried to the boats, and upon arriving on the beach an effort was made to induce Bailey to tell them the number of men in the American army. The patriotic old man replied that they might as well attempt to count the sands of the beach as the troops upon which the Americans relied. This exaggerative bit of “yankee insolence” was rewarded by confinement in a British prison-ship for some time…Bailey, while confined, played off crazy and gave his answers in a peculiar way in hopes of being released. He told his captors that he must go home because his wife was wide open, his barn door was sick abed, and every pumpkin had a hog. In a short time he was released and went home to live a peaceful citizen.

Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors shows Thomas was on the British prison ship, “Lord Sandwich” in New York in 1776.  He was 61 years old.

Thomas lived to a ripe age of 77 years and is buried with lots of other Baileys in the Little Compton Old Commons Burial Ground.
Generation Five

Phebe Bailey (1734-1785) had a childhood of loss with the death of her mother when she was two years old and a stepmother died when she was 16. Little wonder it is that she married Isaac Hathaway, Jr. (1729-1798) in 1752 when she was but 17 years old.

Phebe and Isaac had 16 children starting the year after they were married; three died in infancy or early childhood. During the Revolution, Isaac and his two older sons served in the Revolution - Isaac as an adjutant in the 2nd Bristol Regiment and Quartermaster in the 1st Bristol Regiment in Rhode Island; son John served as a Colonel in the 2nd Bristol Regiment; and son Isaac, served in Rhode Island and in a Berkshire militia. Isaac's brother, Joshua, was a Major in the Massachusetts Minutemen.

Isaac, Phebe and eight or nine of their children left Freetown sometime before or in early1780 for Adams, Berkshire County, in the very western part of Massachusetts, a distance of 170 miles, most likely by ox cart carrying their belongings.  These would have included Phebe, 17; Robert, 16; Prudence, 14; Irene, 13; Henry, 11; Susanna, 10; Bailey, 9; Rebecca, 8; Rachel, 5; and Daniel, 3. Whether 25 yr old Isaac III accompanied them or joined them later is unclear, most likely he went along at the same time.
Berkshire County, showing proximity of Adams and Cheshire towns
Isaac's family was in Adams by October 1780 when son Isaac Jr. is recorded as belonging to the 2nd Berkshire militia.  Most likely, they made the trip in the spring to have time to plant crops. Isaac does not appear to have a Revolution land grant and does not appear to be in the group of Rhode Island Baptists that originally settled Cheshire. Indeed, the family was likely Quaker and Adams was settled in the 1760's by Quakers from Rhode Island.  An act by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1782 states,

Whereas it appears that Capt. Isaac Hathaway, of Adams, in the county of Berkshire, is now in the possession of a certain lot of land in said town, which he holds by an agreement made with John Murray, Esq; [John Murray was one of the original three buyers of 23 square miles of Adams in 1766] an absentee, but by reason of the losses the said Isaac has sustained by the war, and the public having the use of his money, he is unable to make that full payment for said lands that is required by law in order to compleat his title thereto; Therefore, Resolved, That the committee for the sale of conspirators and absentee estates in the county of Berkshire be and they hereby are directed to receive from him the said Hathaway his note of hand, with one responsible surety, payable in one year from the date of said note, to the Treasurer of this Commonwealth, or his successor in said office, for the sum of twenty eight pounds, with lawful interest, and to govern themselves in their conduct toward said Hathaway and the land he possesses, upon his paying the residue of the money due for said lands, in the same manner as though he had paid the whole in cash.  October 19, 1782.

Mary Hathaway (1757-1824), our great-grandmother ancestor, married Thomas Borden in 1776 and stayed behind  in Fall River. 

Phebe would have been in her early 40’s at the time of the move. Such hardship they must have endured to move with eight children, likely by cart and ox over rough roads with what belongings they could take to what was still wilderness, and to leave behind what family she had in Freetown, a well-to-do family at that.

Children of Isaac Hathaway and Phebe Bailey:
  • Captain John Hathaway served in the American Revolution and died in Hudson, New York in 1818, age 64. He married a young woman from Long Island and the couple returned for a few years to Freetown, MA, before going to Hudson, New York, in 1788 with a group of Massachusetts and Rhode Island proprietors to go into the ship business. He became a wealthy owner of a fleet of sloops.
  • Isaac Hathaway III served as a private in the Continental Army in the American Revolution. He married Jemima Constock in Adams, MA, and migrated with brother Robert and the Comstock family to Farmington in 1790, an area now called Hathaway Corners.
  • Mary Hathaway, our sixth great-grandmother, linked with our Borden family in 1776 when she married Thomas Borden, great grandson of our Richard Borden and Innocent Cornell.
  • Irene, born in 1759, died at age 3 1/2 months in Freetown.
  • Robert, born in 1761, died at age three weeks.
  • Phebe, born in Freetown in 1763, probably went to Cheshire, MA, when her family moved.  She died in 1797 but no other information available.
  • Robert Hathaway, born in Freetown, migrated to Cheshire with the family, and was a pioneer settler in Farmington, NY along with his brother, Isaac.  He died in 1806 in Hudson, NY.
  • Irene would have been about 12 years old when the family moved to Cheshire. She married in Windsor, MA, and died in Palmyra, NY in 1849.
  • Henry Hathaway, born 1769 in Freetown, married a young woman in Adams, MA, and died in Russia, NY in 1804.
  • Susanna, born in 1770, married in Adams, MA, and died in Norway, New York in 1845.
  • Bailey, born in 1771 in Fall River, married in New London, CT, became a master seaman. He died in Hudson, NY in 1831.
  • Rebecca, born in 1772, was seven years old when the family moved to Cheshire, MA, married there and died at age 27.
  • Rachel, born 1775, married in Cheshire and died in Russia, NY.
  • Daniel, born 1777, died shortly after birth.
  • Sally Hathaway was the only child born in Adams, MA, in 1781.  Father, Isaac, died in 1798 when she was 17 and she must have afterwards gone to Farmington where she married Joseph Comstock in 1802. She died in Michigan in 1862.
Life could not have been easy for Phebe. She had the deaths of a mother as a toddler, a stepmother as a teen, and three children of her own in their infancies. Her father was taken prisoner during the Revolution and she was in the midst of the Revolution herself with a husband and two sons as Revolution soldiers. Phebe had 16 children over a span of 28 years. She left behind three adult children when she moved into the wilderness with little expectation she would see them or her grandchildren again. Her daughter, Mary Hathaway Borden, had two young babies when Phebe had to leave the only home she'd known.

Memory of
Phoebe the wife of
Isaac Hathaway
who Died August 13th
Aged 51 years
And had Been the
Mother of 16 Children
13 of which were living
At her Death

Phebe died in 1785, four years after the birth of her 16th child and six years after that horrendous move to western Massachusetts. Her death is listed in Adams but she is buried in a small Baptist cemetery near Adams, the Old Churchyard Cemetery, Cheshire, Massachusetts. Isaac remarried eight years after Phebe's death and lived until 1798. 

Old Churchyard Cemetery, Cheshire. Photo from Find-a-Grave.

According to Find-A-Grave, the Old Churchyard Cemetery is on the National  Register of historic places, located beside the first site of the Baptist Church, and associated with the original settlement of New Providence plantation which was annexed to Adams in 1780. The Church house has been moved up the hill. Cemetery gravestones date from 1785.  Phebe must have been one of the first interred in the bucolic stone walled cemetery.

Little Compton Families, Vol I, compiled by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour, 1967.
A History of the Town of Freetown, Massachusetts, 1902.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our Portsmouth Bailey Family, and then there were none

Twelve ancestor families settled this land virginal to Europeans, and started an American experiment of religious freedom and separation of church and state. By 1712, second and third generations had left the island for the mainland or relinquished their surnames by marriage into another family line.* They left behind a few from the elder generations who died in Portsmouth, including John Borden (died 1716), Mary Earle Corey (died 1717), George Brownell and Mary Walker Earle (died 1718), and the last remaining grandparent ancestor on the island, Susanna Pearce Brownell who died in 1743. From the time of the first colonists in 1638 until then, they had greatly multiplied, accumulated property and wealth, built farms, lived through Indian Wars, and experienced tragedies. 

The last of our Aquidneck Island families to immigrate who came to roost in Rhode Island in the early 1650’s - the Bailey family.  
The Bailey Family

William Bailey, Sr. is shrouded in mystery and misinformation, though he is mentioned by various sources as the head of the family that came to Rhode Island.  Family tradition says he was a silk ribbon weaver in London.  The 1894 Records of the Bailey family, descendants of William Bailey of Newport, RI, states William Bailey, Sr., bought land in Newport in 1655 “partly bounded by the sea” and sold 20 acres in 1656 to a man from Portsmouth.  Otherwise, there are no records of this man.  This same book, however, lists him as married to our Grace Parsons who is actually the wife of a younger William Bailey, our tenth great-grandfather. The confusion comes about as the records clearly state a William Bailey, Sr., bought the Newport land in 1655 implying there was a Jr. there at the same time.

It is more probable that the William Bailey Sr. who bought the land and our tenth GGF William Bailey - referred to in Ancestry as William Bailey, Jr. - are one and the same.  There is no crumb trail of immigration ship, birth, marriage or death records telling us when this family may have arrived or where they were living before coming to Portsmouth/Newport.  A number of English Bailey immigrants arrived in New England in the 1630’s and 40’s, but none have been tied with certainty to our William. Further, there are no other Baileys in early Portsmouth/Newport colonial history which would be expected if a Bailey family arrived in those early times.

Generation One

William Bailey (abt 1631- abt 1670) arrived at the Colonies as a single young man about age 22, with or without a William Sr., and married our Grace Parsons in Portsmouth around 1653. He and Grace resided in the Middletown area of Aquidneck with property bounding on the Parsons and Thomas Lawton farms. 

William died at about age 39 leaving five minor children and no will which might indicate his death was unexpected.  His burial is unknown.

William and Grace had five sons:
  • John Bailey (1653-1736) married a Miss Sutton and remained on the family land in Portsmouth.
  • Hugh (1654-1724), sixteen years old when his father died in 1670, was taken into the custody of his grandfather, Hugh Parsons.  The elder Parsons left Hugh all of his land, house, belongs, a bequest that left his mother Grace without means of support and likely led to her situation as a reluctant wife in her second marriage.  Hugh married twice with 8 children from his first marriage and died soon after his second marriage in East Greenwich on land given to him by his grandfather Parsons. He is buried in the Hugh Bailey Lot on his land.  Hugh also died without a will leaving  young children who were appointed guardians by the town.
  • Stephen Bailey (1665-1724) married Susanna, both buried in Newport Cemetery.
  • Joseph Bailey, lived in Newport, no other information.
  • Edward Bailey ( -1712), married, had 4 children and lived in Newport and Tiverton.
Generation Two

John Bailey (1653-1736) was born and raised in Portsmouth.  At about 28, he married a woman with last name Sutton (1660-1709).  The rest of her name and from which Sutton family are unknown.  Indeed, her first name was possibly Sutton. Her grave stone is marked only with “Sutton.”  

John owned lands in Newport, Middletown and Tiverton. Remember Middleton is the middle of Aquidneck Island, with Portsmouth town in the north and Newport the south side of the island.  He moved to Middletown about 1682 when he purchased 50 acres and a building. His will indicates property that would be used on a dairy farm. John and wife Sutton had 12 children over a span of 20 years. He died at age 83, she at 69, and they are buried on his farm in the Old Bailey Cemetery, Berkeley Ave. in Middletown, RI.  

John’s will in 1733 indicates he was considerably well-to-do with substantial agricultural land holdings in the Newport-Portsmouth area and Little Compton which he distributed to sons and grandsons, even those under age. His will left two 18 acres lots in Little Compton to each of his grandsons as well as his eldest son, William Sr. The remainder of the Little Compton lands went to his son Thomas who was already working the farms there, described as “uplands, salt meadows, and ledges.” The Newport farm went to the eldest son, John Jr. Son, Samuel, received half of his land in Portsmouth he had purchased from Thomas Cornell, another of our ancestor grandfathers. Reflective of the time, his two youngest daughters received only £5 each and some household goods.

The opening of his will was beyond the usual “being of sound mind and body”:

 In The Name of God Amen, I John Bailey of Newport in ye Collony of Rhoad Island and Providence Plantations In New England yeoman Being in Good health of Body and of a Perfect Sound Diposing mind memory and understanding Praised Be the Lord Therefore Considering Ye Uncertainty of this my Naturall Life and the Necessity of Settling this my Temporal Estate In Order to my Great Change when It shall please the Lord to Call me hence Do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament (That is to Say) Principally and first of all I give and Recommend my Soul unto the Hands of My Creator hopeing for the Sake and upon the account of the Sole merits of Jesus Christ my only Saviour & Redeemer to Be Everlastingly Saved and my Body I Commit to the Earth therein to Be Decently Buried at the Discretion of My Executor Herein after nominated. And As to that Temporal Estate it Hath Pleased the Lord to Bless me with in this Life after all my Just Debts and funerall Expences are Honestly paid and Discharged I Give Devise and Dispose of the Same as followeth.

The will also reached beyond the grave anticipating squabbles among the children over his estate:

I Give all the Remaining Part of Personall Estate undisposed of unto my Son Thomas Bailey and for the Preventing all Differences which may happen to arise amongst my Children or Grand Children Concerning my Estate or ye Estate by my Daughter Ruth Late Deceased Do therefore further Declare my Mind and It Is my Will that If any of the Legatees Herein Before named, Children or Grand Children will not Conform to and Rest Satisfied with my manner of Disposeing, ordering or Giving the Same that then & In Such Case the Portion of Legacy of Him, Her or they that shall move any Suit In Law or Disturbance Shall Revert to my Executor to Enable Him the Better to Defend ye other Part of my Estate against Such Suit or Disturbance.

Generation Three

Being several sons down the line for inheritance, Lt. Thomas Bailey (1690-1740) went to his father’s land in Little Compton across the Sakonnet River and just south of Fall River and Tiverton. Little Compton belonged to Massachusetts until incorporated into Rhode Island in 1747. His older brother, William, had already settled onto farmland nearby. Thomas was living in Little Compton by 1712, age 22 - and perhaps earlier - when he married Mary Wood (1691-1745). Hers was the John and Mary Wood family who lost 6 children within 8 days in 1712. She is our Richard Warren Mayflower descendant link.

Mary and Thomas had ten children between 1713 and 1733, all born in Little Compton. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Little Compton was a modest, sparsely settled agricultural community with a population of just over 600. Little Compton Families says Thomas was the richest man in town at the time. The Thomas and Mary family lived in an early 1700’s home built in the center chimney style, still standing at 14 Grinnell Road.

Thomas Bailey House in Little Compton
Built about 1700, now in an exclusive neighborhood
Thomas died in 1740 at age 50 and Mary in 1745, age 54. Both are buried in the historic Little Compton Old Commons Ground behind the Congregational Church. In his will, he gave his wife and daughter, both named Mary, each half of the household goods and use of the best room in the house.  The sons received various amounts of money, land, cows, horses.  He had lands at Freetown with saw, grist, and fulling mills that he gave to a son, Oliver.

Lt. Thomas Bailey Headstone
Old Commons Burying Ground, Little Compton, RI
The Bailey Brook Farm in East Greenwich, RI was founded in 1677, likely by his his brother, Hugh. Listed on the National Historic Register, the property is still operated by the Bailey family as a dairy farm, 2068 South County Trail, East Greenwich, RI, 4 miles out of Providence.  

Another Bailey Farm is located on the island at 373 Wyatt Road, Middletown, RI, owned by the Bailey family until the 19th century. The farm has been reduced from more than 100 acres to about 45 acres, and the Old Bailey Lot Cemetery is nearby, likely once on the original farm.

The Historic Bailey Farm, Middletown, RI
William Bailey is our tenth and Lt. Thomas Bailey our ninth great-grandfather.

Lt Thomas’ son, Thomas Bailey, Jr. is a Revolution patriot, held prisoner in 1776 on the English prison ship, “Lord Sandwich” in New York. Another generation down the line in Little Compton, an 8th great-grand mother married into the Hathaway family. More to come on these families when we look at our Little Compton families.

Migration map:  Portsmouth/Newport, Fall River, Tiverton, Little Compton, Freetown
*Last death or immigration of the Aquidneck families
Lt. Thomas Bailey moved to Little Compton by 1712
Richard Borden moved to Fall River before 1694
John died in Portsmouth in 1716
Joseph moved to Freetown in 1712
George Brownell died in Portsmouth in 1718
Sarah Brownell Borden moved to Freetown between 1709 and 1712
Innocent Brownell Borden moved to Tiverton before 1694
Thomas Cooke moved to Tiverton by 1698
Mary Corey Cooke moved to Tiverton by 1698
Mary Earle Corey died in Portsmouth in 1717
Martha Earle Wood died in Portsmouth in 1696
Sarah Earle Cornell moved to Tiverton by 1681
Grace Parsons Bailey Lawton died in Newport in 1677
Susannah Pearce Brownell died in Portsmouth in 1743
Philipa Shearman Chase moved to Freetown in 1672
Mary Walker Earle died in Portsmouth in 1718
William Wood moved to Dartmouth in 1667
Lt. John Wood moved to Little Compton by 1681

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Portsmouth Parsons Family: A Reluctant Wife

The two decades of the Great Migration (1620-1640) have passed and England is in the midst of their English Civil War, a clash between the tyrant Charles I and his parliament, when the last of our Portsmouth families crossed the Pond - the Parsons in the mid-1640’s and the Baileys in the 1650’s.

Hugh Parsons (1613-1684) was born in Great Torrington, Devonshire, England in 1613 and has an unknown immigration date.  An arrival date of about 1645-46 would have coincided with roiling times in Great Torrington related to the English Civil war. If so, Hugh would have been about mid-30’s.

Hugh first showed up in Portsmouth records in 1658 when he was on jury duty, and later in 1662 as constable, 1663 as a freeman, 1667 enlisting in a troop of horse, and 1673 testifying in the Thomas Cornell murder trial. 

There is a great deal of confusion around when Hugh married and with whom he had daughters, Grace and Hannah. There were three Hugh Parsons in the New England area at the same time, one of whom was tried in Boston for witchcraft in 1652. At least one historian has speculated the witchcraft and Portsmouth Hugh Parsons are the same, but they have different death dates.  

The usually reliable Torrey New England Marriages for the Portsmouth Hugh Parsons is totally confusing. It lists Hugh’s marriage to Elizabeth England, widow of Wm, about 1635-1640 or after 1641, Portsmouth but no note what the Portsmouth location means. We know Hugh was not in Portsmouth this early or he would have shown up in some town records. Another alternative interpretation is that he married an Elizabeth in England, and this Elizabeth is the mother of his two children.

By 1662, Hugh married second wife, also Elizabeth (1613-after 1684), widow of John Wood living on land adjoining Hugh’s in Portsmouth. John Wood had died in 1655, so it makes sense that the widower Hugh married the widow Elizabeth, and that Hugh’s two daughters, Grace and Hannah, were born to a previous wife. Second wife Elizabeth helped prepare the corpse of Rebecca Briggs Cornell  (the Killed Strangely lady) for burial. Both she and Hugh testified at the Thomas Cornell’s murder trial in 1673. 

Hugh died in 1684 at age 70. His burial unknown, likely on his land. With only two daughters, this was the end of the Portsmouth male Parsons line. Hugh's will left his land and buildings to grandson, Hugh Bailey.

Daughter Hannah married first Henry Matteson in 1670  and they had two children, Henry and Hannah - that had to be confusing around the dinner table. Secondly, she married Charles Hazleton of Kings  Town, RI, in 1693, no children from the second marriage. She died the year after her father, Hugh.

Daughter Grace Parsons (1634/44-1677), the earlier birth year based on her marriage year in 1653 when she would have been age 18, was most likely born in America. She married William Bailey, Jr (1634-1670) from an adjoining Portsmouth farm in about 1653 and they had five children, all sons. 

In 1661, husband William and a neighbor, Thomas Lawton, agreed that William would have 60 acres of Lawton’s farm in a hunting swamp lying on one side of the farm on which Hugh Parsons lived. We know, then, that Parsons, Lawton, and Bailey were all in the same neighborhood. The agreement goes on to say that William would have the land for his lifetime and if his wife Grace kept herself a widow after her husband’s death, then she was also to have it for the full term of Thomas Lawton’s life and three years afterward. It appears to be an odd arrangement in which Lawton sells the land to Bailey, but with conditions which also included upkeep of the property and that William was not allowed to resell the land, so this wasn’t just a lease. More of this in a minute.

Grace was about 35 years old when William died in 1670 and she married, secondly, Thomas Lawton from an adjoining farm who had sold/leased land to William. Thomas was about the same age as Grace’s father, around 60 years old.  
George Lawton Farmstead in Lawton's Valley, Portsmouth
Thomas Lawton and his brother George were signers of the Portsmouth Compact in 1638 and early settlers in Portsmouth so they both had substantial land from grants. Thomas and George had land adjoining each other in Portsmouth, now known as Lawton’s Valley, and George's original historic farm house is still standing. George was an overseer of Hugh's will in 1684. 

Was Grace forced into an arrangement with the elderly Thomas Lawton in order to save the property for which William made conditional arrangements in 1661? Was her still living neighbor and father, Hugh,  complicit in the arrangement?

Things were clearly not going well for Grace at this point. 

In June 1674 Thomas Lawton drew up his will which starts out with “I do hereby declare that although Grace have not behaved herself towards me as a wife ought to do towards a husband, yet for the manifestation of my care of her, I do hereby give, bequeath unto her all the goods that are yet remaining in my custody of those that were hers when I married her and also one good feather bed and bolster; also 12 pounds per annum for life in lieu of all right she has.”

In June 1676 town records show that Grace “having presented her many grievances to the town often, and to the Assembly several times, for due and sufficient maintenance, she being much neglected in her husband’s absence; it was therefore ordered by the Assembly that 6 shillings per week in silver be paid her or her order during her life, or until her said husband Thomas Lawton shall come himself, or maintain her. During his absence or neglect, the said sum of 6 shillings per week shall be paid by his agent Daniel Lawton (Thomas’ 22 year old son), and an Inventory of moveable goods in her custody be taken, which inventory Daniel Lawton shall have. Grace to have the privilege of chamber she is now possessed of, and use of necessary movables, and the rights of her or any of her children now or in the future to any estate are not cut off.

In April 1677 town records show Thomas Lawton made agreement with 23 year old stepson John Bailey whereby Grace, “the present wife of Thomas Lawton,” should receive 10 pounds per year from John Bailey, and Elizabeth Shearman, daughter of Thomas Lawton, should have 3 pounds/year. In consideration of these, John Bailey was to have lease of the dwelling house, land, and orchard for term of time Grace lived without changing her name by marriage. The term of tenancy not to expire until one year after death or marriage of Grace. On the same date, he sold John Bailey all his household goods except a bedstead, chairs, etc.

Grace died the same year at age 42. We can only speculate on the cause of death. Her burial is unknown.

Grace and William’s second son, John Bailey (1653-1736) continued our ancestry in the Bailey line.

Hugh Parsons was our 11th great-grandmother and Grace our 10th great-grandmother.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Pearce Family: Sorting Fact and Fiction

Richard Pearces brother, Captain William Pearce, was Master of the ship Desire that brought our grandparent ancestors Richard (1590-1666) and Martha (1593-1662), and at least some of their children from England to Boston in 1638. William, a celebrated mariner, was killed by the Spanish while transporting settlers in 1641 as they approached Providence Island in the Bahamas. He had already been sailing to and from the colonies for several years before bringing Richard’s family to Boston.  William was Master of the Anne that brought families of the first Pilgrims to Plymouth Colony in 1623.

No good evidence exists for the popular myth that our Pearces were from the powerful Northumberland Percy family involved in the Gunpowder Plot in 1604, although origins of our Pearces may have been connected to the Northumberland Percys at some point in time. The family had multitudinous ways to spell the name - Piers, Peirse, Percy, Pearcy, etc...

Our Pearce family had an annoying habit of naming the first born sons Richard. Not only that, but the siblings of our Richards would have a Richard offspring - they loved the name Richard. One wonders whether the Pearce/Percy family genealogy lineage might be valid when it says our immigrant Richard Pearce is the great grandson of the Peter Percy of Northumberland, standard bearer to Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 during the War of the Roses. This Peter Percy named a son Richard, and every generation thereafter had a Richard.

A confused genealogy of the Pearce family written in 1888, though, makes connections without documented substance, and we can’t be sure of much of the information on the early Pearces before Portsmouth.  For example, the book claims the Pearces came over in 1638 on the ship Lyon, ignoring the fact the Lyon, albeit captained by William Pearce, hit a reef and sunk in 1632. This 19th century genealogy draws conclusions about Pearce-Percy lineage that simply may not be true - or they may. 

We don’t know for sure where our Pearces were until they show up in Portsmouth records in the 1650’s, but they may have been in Salem, MA. A Richard Piers mentioned in Portsmouth town records in 1651 is likely one of our Richards, and the name Richard Pearce begins to show with some regularity in 1657. No record exists in Portsmouth for wife Martha, and she may have died before the family moved here.

It appears most of Richard and Martha’s adult children remained in the Salem/Boston area. We know that Richard Sr., Richard Jr., younger Richard’s wife Susannah, and her father George Wright, came to the Portsmouth/Newport area. Oldest son, John, died in Boston in 1661. There are no records in Portsmouth of the other six children.

Richard Pearce, Jr. (1615-1678) married Susannah Wright (1627- before 1678 ) from Waltham Abbey. There is conflicting information whether Richard married Susannah in Waltham Abbey, Salem, or Newport, RI in 1642. More likely, Richard Jr. came with the rest of the family in 1638, already married or he married Susannah in the Salem/Boston area. Susannah is believed to be daughter of George Wright of Newport who also previously lived in Salem. 

Richard, Jr. stabbed a Walter Lettice in Newport in 1649, but we have no information on what happened as a result. Clearly, he wasn’t hanged so perhaps it was self defense.

Richard, Jr. named freeman of Portsmouth in 1669 may have been actually a Richard Pearce III.

Faithfully following the guide of primogeniture, Richard Jr.'s will left the house, land, fencings, orchard and swamps, oxen, cart, etc... to his oldest son, also named Richard, and to the other 10 children he left ONE SHILLING EACH! Was he cash poor, or were only those named Richard deserving?

Richard and Susannah had 11 children. Eldest son Richard, moved to Bristol, RI; Giles became a grantee in East Greenwich, RI, in 1678; George moved his family across the bay to Little Compton; John bought land and was one of the incorporators of Tiverton, RI. Daughter Martha, married Mahershalalhashbaz Dyer. That’s right, Mahershalalhashbaz. Evidently, these families sometimes got carried away with Biblical names, and this one comes from Isaiah - "Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Maher-shalal-hashbaz.” Martha lived to be almost 100 years old, quite a feat in those times.

The burial site for Richard and Susannah is unknown.

Susannah Pearce (1652-1743), daughter of Richard Jr., was born in Portsmouth in the middle of the sibling pack. She married George Brownell in 1673; her sister Mary married George’s brother, Thomas Brownell, Jr.  Susannah and George had eight children and she remained in Portsmouth until her death at age 90, surviving her husband by twenty five years. They are buried in the George Brownell Lot in Portsmouth.
George Brownell Cemetery Lot, Portsmouth, RI
Richard, Sr. is our 10th great-grandfather and Susannah our 8th great-grandmother.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Our Cooke Family: Smugglers, Shoemakers and Patriots

Immigrant Thomas Cooke alias Butcher (1600-1677) from the small village of Netherbury, Dorset, England, his wife Mary and three children sailed to Dorcester, Massachusetts, in 1637 on the ship Speedewell.  They traveled with a number of others from Netherbury, less likely for religious reasons than due to a prolonged drought in their area.   

St. Mary's Church in Netherbury, like so many in English villages we walked
Baptismal records for Thomas and other Cookes were found in Netherbury parish records.  The family most likely attended St. Mary’s Church which was begun in the late 1300’s and a Norman tower added in the 1400’s.  Check out the wonderful buttresses on the tower.

Using an “alias,” i.e. Butcher, as did the Cooke family was not unusual for this part of England.  Butcher was not a reflection of their occupation; the name was also spelled Bowcher, Bocher, and Boocher, perhaps a derivation of the Norman surname Bourchier.  Why were aliases more common in Dorset than elsewhere in England?  Evidently, smuggling was a big time occupation for Dorseters given their location on the southern coast of England, and smugglers used aliases.  Our Grandma Alice, proper New Englander she was, would turn over in her grave if she knew she might be descended from smugglers.

In any event, the connection of our Thomas Cooke as a Netherbury immigrant was made from Thomas being found in the Dorset parish records as Thomas the Butcher and likewise listed on a 1660 Portsmouth deed as Thomas the Butcher. 

The Cooke family had only a 15-20 mile jaunt from Netherbury to Weymouth to catch the Speedewell
From Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island
The year after arrival in the Colonies, Thomas purchased land in Taunton from Tetiquet Indians.  Even though a proprietor of Taunton and he took an oath of fidelity for the town, Thomas moved to Portsmouth by 1647.  He was illiterate, signing documents with his mark.  Evidence indicates he was Baptist, by this time a popular denomination in the area after residents built one of the first two Baptist churches in America in Newport.  

Wife Mary, mother of his four children, died in 1670 and Thomas, age 72, remarried to a second much younger Mary, last name unknown.  Besides Mary #1, numerous family members died in the same year, including a son, the son’s wife and three children, and a son-in-law, presumably due to the 1670-71 influenza epidemic.

John Cooke alias Butcher (1630-1691) was seven years old when he accompanied his family on the Speedewell and 18 years old when he was admitted as a freeman in Portsmouth  in 1648.  The Cookes, Shearmans, and Bordens had farms in close proximity, so it’s no surprise John married 20 year old Mary Borden (1632-1690), daughter of our Richard and Joan, in 1652 and they had ten children.  John's father deeded him 60 acres in Portsmouth and he acquired land in Pocasset (now Tiverton/Little Compton) and Barnstable.  
John Cook Lot, burial ground for he and Mary on his farm
John's will indicates he owned Negro slaves and had Indian servants.  John and Mary Borden Cooke are buried in a small unmarked plot in an open field on Glen Farm in Portsmouth, once John's land, beside a stone wall on the south side of Glen Road, 0.3 miles east of East Main Road.

Thomas Cooke (1667-1726), seventh child of John and Mary, married Mary Corey (1662-1743), daughter of William Corey and Mary Earle, sometime between 1692 and 1697 and inherited land near Barnstable, MA, and in Tiverton.  He and Mary settled in Tiverton by 1698 when he registered his cow ear mark there.  As well as owning land and cattle, he was a cordswainer, i.e., a shoemaker who makes new shoes rather than a cobbler who repairs.  Their burial is unknown, but most likely on their land in Tiverton.

Joseph Cooke (1667-1727), the oldest son, was born in Portsmouth just before the family moved to Tiverton.  He married Patience (last name unknown) in Tiverton in 1721 and they had four children,  all born in Tiverton and baptized at Trinity Church in Newport.  He inherited half the family farm in Tiverton, the other half going to a brother, but died at age 30 - a year after his father - and never claimed it.  The last record of Patience was her baptism along with eight year old son, William, in 1730 at the Newport Trinity Church.

Daughter Hope Cooke (1726-1791) was one year old when her father died.  She married Richard Borden (1722-1795), grandson of Richard Borden and Innocent Cornell, in Tiverton.  Husband Richard and son Thomas are recognized by the DAR as patriots of the American Revolution related to the Battle of Fall River.  That's a story for another day.  Hope and Richard are buried in the Fall River North Old Burial Ground.  We brought all our cousins to the old burial ground during the 2013 Cousins Reunion in Fall River and showed the mini-cousins their ancestor graves.  Just so they know.

Inscription:  Sacred to the Memory of
Mr. Richard Borden who departed this life
July 4, 1795
Aged 74 years
Inscription:  Sacred to the Memory of
Mrs. Hope Borden, wife of
Mr. Richard Borden who departed this life
March 1791
Aged about 70 years.
Thomas  the Butcher was our 10th great-grandfather and Hope, who married Richard Borden, our sixth great-grandmother.  Thus, our colonial Cookes passed through five generations before linking in to the Bordens.

Source:  Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island, Jane Fletcher Fiske.

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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Our Portsmouth Brownell Family, Macho Has A Down Side

Thomas Brownell (1608-1664) came from Ryecroft Parish of Rawmarsh in West Riding, Yorkshire, a bit farther north than our usual English immigrant.  He married Anne Bourne (1607-1666) at St. Peter’s Wharf in London in 1637.  Anne hailed from Cranfield in Bedfordshire, England, notably south of Thomas’ northern England Yorkshire.  Thomas and his brother George had moved to London to work for an uncle who was a fabric merchant, doubtless as young men, perhaps about 18-20 years old.  Did he meet Anne there?  Was she Austin-like staying with an aunt to meet London society?  She was 30 when they married - almost elderly for an unmarried woman in those days.

Thomas and Anne sailed to Boston on the ship Whale in 1638.  They settled on six acres in Braintree, MA, worked the small farm - perhaps Thomas also found some work in the fabric business here - and had one child before selling their house in Braintree to move to Portsmouth in 1640.  Was the Braintree-Portsmouth connection William Coddington, a key Antonimian/banned from Boston guy who was given land grants in Braintree between 1635 and 1637?  Did the Brownells find the Puritan government of Braintree less to their liking than separation of church and state in Portsmouth?

The first town record of Thomas in Portsmouth was in 1647 when he witnessed John Walker’s will.  Thomas held several public offices - as expected for a freeman - and had a 40 acre farm on the west side of the northwest end of the island extending down to Narragansett Bay.  These days, Brownell Lane runs through this location.

In 1664, 56 year old Thomas was killed in an equestrian accident racing 21 year old Daniel Lawton while returning from Daniel’s dad’s farm back into Portsmouth.  Young Daniel in the lead saw a riderless horse headed into the swamp when he looked back. Backtracking, he found the lifeless Thomas and a great deal of blood, hair and blood stuck to a tree, and brains spilling out as described in detail by Daniel at the inquest. 

Thomas and Anne had nine children, and 55 grandchildren!  How does one ever find enough names?  Given his sudden death, Thomas left no will and the Town Council divided the estate using the custom of primogeniture.  The bulk of the estate went to the oldest son, George, then age 19.  Anne retained the use, benefit and profit of the house and lands, but she died a year later.  The other sons received 20 pounds when they reached 21; the daughters were given 10 shillings until they were married.  They would then receive their 20 pounds.  Heaven forbid young women be given money to manage on their own!  What if the daughter didn’t remarry, like his youngest Susanna who died never married at about age 74?  She was pretty much up a creek, so to speak.  Well, we ladies got some help in this area a couple + centuries later.  Ever hear of Susan B. Anthony?  It’s Susan Brownell Anthony, for your information - not a direct descendant but named after a paternal aunt.

George Brownell Lot, Portsmouth
Thomas and Anne are buried in the historical George Brownell Lot in Portsmouth located 104 feet west of West Shore Road at telephone pole #11.

George Brownell (1647-1718) inherited his father’s lands and house at a young age and so worked the Portsmouth farm his entire life, likely lived in the town house, and held various positions in Portsmouth town.  He married 21 year old Susannah Pearce (1652-1743) in 1673 and they had eight children, all born in Portsmouth.  Several of George’s siblings spread out to Freetown and Little Compton.  Brother, Thomas Jr., married Susannah’s sister, Mary Pearce, in 1678.

George and Susannah are also buried in the George Brownell Lot in Portsmouth.

Daughter, Sarah Brownell (1681-1715) married Joseph Borden (1680-1715) in Portsmouth in 1703, another link into our Borden family.  They had 4 children, spaced apart about every two to three years, and died relatively young at ages 35 and 34 respectively.  See Sarah Brownell in the Borden post.
Plaque at Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River
Here are interred the remains of Stephen Borden, his wife, and fifteen of their immediate relatives removed from the family burying ground on Central Street, April 12, 1909.
Sarah and Joseph were the first Bordens buried in downtown Fall River where Central Street now runs between Durfee and Harbor Street.  All 23 graves from the Stephen Borden family burying ground were disinterred in 1909 and reburied in Oak Grove Cemetery, a beautiful Gothic arched cemetery which opened in 1855.  The automobile was coming into vogue in 1909, so I suspect a lot of other city cemeteries on the East Coast were being dug up to make way for street building.  

We have a 1909 newspaper photo of our great grandfather Joseph Nute riding in a “motor truck” purchased by the Fall River Gas Works Company.  According to the article, “it had coil springs in the rear - what we call “knee action” today - was chain driven and had solid rubber tires.”  The photo was taken at the “Narrows,” exactly the area where would have been the Borden cemetery.  Did Joseph Nute know his wife’s ancestors’ bones were dug up that year to make way for his motor truck?

Thomas Brownell is our 9th great grandfather, George our 8th, and Sarah our 7th great grandmother.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Portsmouth Corey Family

William Corey (1634-1682) immigrated from Bristol, Somerset, England with his widowed father, grandmother Agnes Wauker (1582-1670), and step-grandfather John Roome.  William’s widowed father, John, may have settled in Portsmouth.  The only mention of a John in Portsmouth records was a suspicion of felony in Newport in 1643.  No further action was taken so it's unclear whether William’s father died soon thereafter or had to leave town as his charge was slandering William Coddington, one of the head guys.  In any event, William was raised mostly by his grandparents.

The family’s immigration date to Boston is unknown, but certainly by 1637.  John Roome signed the Portsmouth Compact with his mark, along with grandparent ancestors Philip Shearman and John Walker, and moved the family to Portsmouth with the original Hutchinson settlers in 1638.  A house carpenter and miller, John Roome would have brought skills needed in the new colony and William followed in his footsteps.

The first mention of William is in 1657 at age 23 when he was granted eight acres from his step-grandfather and given freeman status by the town.  As a journeyman carpenter, he could have built himself a pretty nice house.  He was also granted a license to operate a “videling house,” or mom and pop kitchen in the 1660’s.  Evidently, town meetings were held in his great room and attendees could get their dinner at the same time.  According to online information, anyone descended from a colonial innkeeper is eligible to join the Flagens Trenchers Association of Colonial Tavernkeepers. 

William held several community offices and was a lieutenant and captain in the local militia.  He and buddy William Earle built a windmill for Portsmouth in 1668.  In 1676, he and three others moved a barrel of gunpowder and set up cannons to defend the island, one of them on John Borden's land.

In 1667, the two Williams traveled together back to England to claim deeds from the estate of John Roome.  These deeds conveyed title to two mansion houses in Bristol that had been passed on to William by grandmother Agnes.  The letter he carried from Agnes acknowledged him as the son of John Corey, deceased of Bristol, so his dad had certainly died by this time.

Along with all the close buddy stuff the two Williams did, Corey married Earle’s sister, Mary Earle (1631-1717) in 1657.  In 1670, William Earle bought 2000 acres in Dartmouth, MA, and sold a third of it to our William Corey.  Remember William Earle married Mary Walker, so these four grandparent ancestors - two Williams and Marys - were best buddies and had land next to each other in Dartmouth/Tiverton. 

William and Mary Corey had 10 children together.  The first eight were born in Portsmouth, and the birthplace for the last two was Tiverton.  William had purchased land in Tiverton just a few years before he died, and it is possible they lived on the land for a while.  Their oldest son, John, married the daughter of a Narragansett Indian chief.  Her name wasMinnetinka, and she went by the English name Elizabeth.  One of the younger sons, Caleb, settled on the Dartmouth land.  Sons William and Thomas took over the Tiverton land and purchased substantial additional land there.

William was indeed a jack-of-all trades - builder, landowner, farmer, tavern keeper, militia man - but he, his wife and likely his children were illiterate.

William died in 1682 at age 47 in Portsmouth.  A fourteen year old daughter died the same year. Mary, widowed at 51, took a second husband, Joseph Timberlake, the following year and lived to the age of 86.  Their burial sites and those of Agnes and John are unknown.

William and Mary’s fifth child, Mary Corey (1662-1743) grew up in Tiverton after age eight and married Thomas Cooke (1667-1726) some time between 1692-1697.    At 30, this was considered a late age for a woman to marry in those days.  She, nevertheless, bore six children.  Her husband Thomas died at age 58; Mary lived to the age of 81 without remarriage.  With this union, the Corey line joins the Cooke line.

William Corey was our 9th great grandfather and Mary our 8th great grandmother.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Killed Strangely: Thomas, Rebecca and Innocent Cornell

Thomas Cornell, Sr (ca.1594-1654) immigrated to Boston in 1638 with wife Rebecca Briggs (1600-1673), both from Saffron Walden, Essex, England, and most of his 9 children.  They were relatively older immigrants with Thomas about 44 and Rebecca 38 years old.  Thomas ran an inn in Boston but, after being fined for selling wine without a license, he had to stop his “entertainment” business. With the combination of the inn fiasco and being peripherally associated with the Antinomians, Thomas was not accepted as a freeman.  He pulled up stakes in 1640 and went to Portsmouth, there almost immediately made a freeman and given a bit of land.

 At age 46, Thomas was one of the older colonists, but overall financially well off.  Even so, he elected to accompany Anne Hutchinson and several other families in 1642 to settle the Mespath area north of New Amsterdam after Anne’s husband died.   In late August 1643, Indians set fire to the Cornell house and barn - basically leveled the settlement - but the forewarned Cornell family were able to escape.  Unfortunately, Anne elected to remain in her home.  She and six of her children were scalped and killed in the massacre.  With few remaining resources, Thomas returned to Portsmouth and managed to acquire land and build a substantial house on a 100 acre grant at the west side of the island.  He was back and forth between Portsmouth and New Amsterdam, accumulating land in the process in both places as well as at Dartmouth, MA.  He may have gone for a few years to England, leaving his family behind, as there is a gap missing his name in Portsmouth records. Together with Roger Williams he co-founded the village of Westchester north of what is now New York City.  An area bordering Westchester known as Cornell’s Neck later became part of the Bronx.   

When Thomas made his will in 1651, he took an unusual measure of leaving his estate to Rebecca and none to his children.  The girls were already married, but why not anything to his sons?  He died five years later and lies buried at the Captain Clark Cornell Lot in Portsmouth.

Cornell Cemetery Lot, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, designated as a historic cemetery
Rebecca’s brother, John Briggs, was a first settler at Portsmouth and signer of the Portsmouth Compact.  Quakers arrived in Portsmouth in 1657 after Thomas Sr’s death and Rebecca became Quaker.  She burned to death in a bizarre incident at the house and is buried with Thomas Sr. in the Cornell Cemetery behind the family house.  The original house burned in the late 1800’s and another built on the site operates as The Village Inn.

Thomas Sr. can count among his descendants a signer of the Declaration, a Revolutionary War general who served in the Continental Congress, Bill Gates, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, 
Senator Daniel Webster, John Kerry, Amelia Earhardt, founder of Cornell University Ezra Cornell and, by way of his granddaughter Innocent, Lizzie Borden.

Thomas Cornell, Jr (1627-1673), Thomas and Rebecca’s third child, was 11 when the family immigrated from Essex to Boston.  He went with the family from Boston to Portsmouth to New Amsterdam, where he married Elizabeth Fiscock in November 1642/43.  Now a married man, he remained behind when the family returned to Portsmouth after the Mespath massacre.  Shortly after joining the New Amsterdam militia as a 17 year old, he was charged with attempted murder and desertion.  He was taken for execution, but released after the executioner fired the musket over his head to set an example.

Thomas married twice, first to Elizabeth Fiscock in New Amsterdam with whom he had 5 children.  He and Elizabeth returned to Portsmouth just before she died and they moved into the homestead owned by his widowed mother, Rebecca Briggs Cornell. After Elizabeth’s death in 1658 he married secondly to Sarah Earle, daughter of our Ralph Earle, in 1660.  As mentioned, Thomas Sr. had deeded all his land to Rebecca and she in turn parceled out the land to the siblings - except Thomas Jr.  Thomas was to receive the homestead after Rebecca died, but amazingly she lived another 18 years after Thomas Sr’s death, all the while Thomas Jr, wife Sarah, a number of his children, his man servant and Rebecca were living in the two story house.

Cornell House, destroyed by fire 1889.  Rebecca's room was on first floor just left of entry.
Rebuilt house, now operating as The Village Inn, photo taken 2013 
On the evening of February 8, 1673, Rebecca’s burned body was found in her bedroom, likely from a coal or pipe ashes catching her clothing on fire.  Rebecca had been sitting in front of the fire in her bedchamber, smoking her pipe while the family had dinner.  She had earlier complained of not feeling well and refused to join the family at dinner.  After eating, one of the boys went to her room to inquire whether she would like some milk and found his grandmother in flames, so unrecognizable the family thought it to be a drunken Indian.

An inquest was held, the death ruled accidental and the body was prepared for burial by Elizabeth Parsons and Mary Walker Earle, two of our grandmother ancestors.  Two nights after burial, according to a report by her brother John Briggs, Rebecca’s ghost appeared and said “see how I am burnt by fire!” As Briggs was an upstanding citizen - indeed signer of the Portsmouth Compact - and ghosts were taken seriously in those times, Rebecca’s body was exhumed and a second inquest held declaring her death a homicide.  Thomas Jr.  was felt to have motive as he had been waiting years for his inheritance of the family homestead.  Reports were given about what would be today considered elder abuse.  Further, one of our grandfather ancestors, John Pearce, testified that Thomas had said "his Mother in her life time had a desire to have a good fire and that he thought God had answered her ends, for now she had it."  He was tried, convicted and hanged within a period of five days.  

White Horse Tavern
The trial may have been held at the White Horse Tavern, still standing in Newport and on the National Register of Historic Places.  He was hanged on Miantonomi Hill where now sits a World War I Memorial.

His request to the court to be buried beside his mother was denied, but the family was allowed to bury him somewhere on the property, just not within 20 yards of Rebecca.  Thomas Sr. and Rebecca are buried in the Cornell Lot in Portsmouth.  The story is recounted in the book Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell.

Sarah was six months pregnant at the time Thomas was hanged and the child was named Innocent Cornell (1673-1720).  See Sarah Earle above and Innocent Cornell in previous posts. 

Thomas Sr. is our 10th great grandfather, Thomas Jr. our 9th, and Innocent our 8th great grandmother.

Source:  Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell, Rebecca Crane.