Sunday, March 26, 2023

Our Thomas Tolmans, Four in a Row

Tollman “He who collects the King’s levy.”

This is a story of a dynasty built by a Great Migration immigrant of 1635, of opportunity taken and hard work given, wives who produced up to a dozen children, slavery, and genocide of Native Americans.

We have a genealogist’s nightmare here - four consecutive generations of grandfathers all named Thomas. 9th GGF Thomas Sr. (1608-1690), 8th GGF Thomas Jr. (1633-1718), 7th GGF Thomas III (1665-1738), and 6th GGF Thomas IV (1689-1724). All were still alive when the youngest Thomas was born.

Thomas Tolman, Sr. (1608-1690) and Sarah, 9th GGPs

Born in 1608 in Lancaster, Lancashire, England, Thomas was about 27 years old in 1635 when he, wife Sarah, and two young children joined the second wave of immigrants to Dorchester, Massachusetts. He and Sarah married in England in about 1630.

Lancaster is situated on the west coast of England where the River Lune opens into the Irish Sea. When the Tolmans lived there, Lancaster would have been market town and the site of an old Roman fort, the medieval Norman Priory of St. Mary, and the Lancaster Castle built by Elizabeth I. The red rose of the15th c. War of the Roses symbolized the House of Lancaster.

The first wave of Puritans arrived in Dorchester in 1630 and set up a church/meeting house on Meeting House Hill by 1633. Richard Mather, progenitor of the Mather preachers including Cotton and Increase and a famous preacher in his own right, joined the Puritan exodus in 1635 after he was suspended from the Anglican Church for non-conformity, and Thomas’ family was in this group. Mather was recruited for the  town’s First Church in Dorchester (originally Calvinist Puritan, now Unitarian Universalist), and served as their minister during the lifetimes of Thomas Sr. and Jr. until his death in 1669.

Thomas Sr.’s name was added to the Dorchester Church Covenant in 1636. He was appointed receiver of all goods arriving for unknown parties in 1639 and made freeman May 1640. His occupation was listed as wheelwright on one of his deeds, and early town records in 1654 show the town paid him a pound for wheels for the “gun,” presumably a cannon.

In 1636, a group of about 60 people left Dorchester en masse and trekked overland to an English trading outpost on the Connecticut River subsequently named Windsor. That left available land in Dorchester for those who arrived in the Richard Mather contingent. 

The original Tolman property is part of today’s Garvey Park in Dorchester, South Boston, south of Tolman Street. Thomas’s youngest son and his heirs lived there for more than 200 years.

Thomas Sr. had land not only in old Dorchester, but also grazing and farm lands on Pine Neck. As land became limited with growth of the community, he acquired forest and meadowlands in what later became Canton when the English forcibly moved the Praying Indians to Deer Island after King Phillip’s War. His large tract of land west of Old Dorchester reportedly extended a length of seven miles. Today’s Canton is among the country's most wealthy, affluent, and exclusive communities and, more importantly, headquarters for Dunkin’ Donuts.

Children of Thomas Tolman Sr. and Sarah:

  1. Mary, b.  In Lancaster, England 1631/32, married Henry Collins, six children, died 1722 in Lynn, age 91.
  2. THOMAS Jr, b. 1633 in Lancaster, England, soldier in King Phillip’s War, married Elizabeth Johnson of Lynn, MA, 5 children, died 1718, age 85.
  3. Sarah, b. 1636 in Dorchester, married Henry Leadbetter, 8 children, died before 1691, the year Henry remarried.
  4. Hannah, b. 1638 in Dorchester, married 1) George Lyon, and 2) William Blake, died 1729 in Milton, age 91, five children.
  5. John, b. 1642 in Dorchester, also a wheelwright and freeman in Lynn, soldier in King Phillip’s War in 1676 and selectman of Dorchester for several years; married 1) 1666 in Lynn to Elizabeth Collins (sister to Mary’s Henry above). She died 1690 and he married 2) Mary Breck. John and Elizabeth had nine children over a period of 20 years and she died 3 years after the last; he died 1724 in Lynn, age 82.
  6. Ruth, christened 1644 in Dorchester, married Isaac Ryall, carpenter who built the First Church of Dorchester. Isaac and Ruth had five children. She died 1681 in Dorchester, age 37, a year after her last child was born.
  7. Rebekah, b. 1647 in Dorchester, married James Tucker, died in Milton sometime after her father’s will 1688, five children. James was son of an immigrant from England. Reportedly, Queen Elizabeth I conveyed a manor in Gravesend to the Tucker grandfather in 1572.
First Church of Dorchester,
 built by Thomas Jr.'s son-n-law

Built by Ruth’s husband, Isaac Ryall in 1670 on the site of the original meetinghouse, the church houses the oldest congregation in the boundaries of Boston. The original parishioners were the “first wave” of Puritans to Dorchester in 1630 and the first church a log cabin with thatched roof; this was the congregation to which Thomas and family belonged.

Thomas and Sarah had at least 38 grandchildren. Sarah died in 1677 in Dorchester, age 65, and Thomas lived another 13 years.

In his 1690 will, Thomas Sr. gave money and household goods to the daughters, and land to the two sons. Thomas Jr. received the dwelling house and barn, a “great chub axe,” and meadows and uplands already conveyed at Jr.’s marriage. John, also a wheelwright, received meadows and uplands as well as iron hoops for wheels.

Find-a-Grave erroneously lists Thomas Sr. and Sarah buried at the Canton Corner Cemetery, but this is unlikely as the cemetery wasn’t opened until the early 1700s. Thomas and Sarah are likely buried in the historic Dorchester North Burying Ground at Upham’s Corner.

Thomas Tolman, Jr. (1633-1718) and Elizabeth Johnson (1638-1720), 8th GGPs

Thomas Tolman, Jr., was one of the Thomas Sr. and Sarah’s two children who crossed the Atlantic as a toddler in 1635. He married Elizabeth Johnson of Lynn, Massachusetts in 1654.

Elizabeth’s father, our 9th GGF Richard Johnson, (1612-1666) was an immigrant to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1630 and moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, about 12 miles north of Dorchester. As an immigrant, 18 year-old Richard first lived with Sir Richard Saltonstall, an older gentleman who led a group of English settlers up the Charles River to settle in Watertown. Sir Richard had been knighted in 1618 by James I, son of Mary Queen of Scots, and in his mid-forties brought his family to the Watertown area to set up the Saltonstall Plantation. Our Richard Johnson was perhaps his servant or aide, but after one winter in Massachusetts Sir Saltonstall threw in the towel and returned to England with his family, except for two sons and Richard. Richard, a farmer, was admitted as a freeman to Watertown in 1637, but moved to Lynn the same year. He received a grant of 30 acres in Lynn the following year.

Thomas’ occupation listed in his will was a wheelwright as was his father, an important trade for a colonial town, and he engaged in farming as well. He received ten acres in Great Lots of Dorchester in 1668, likely from his father for his marriage, and the family homestead and other meadows in his father’s will.

Both Thomas and his brother, John, served in King Phillip’s War of 1675-78. They were part of the Dorchester company who pursued King Phillip during the summer of 1676 leading to his death.

Massasoit, a Wampanoag chief, had an alliance with the Plymouth colonists that grew out of a peace treaty in 1621, but the Europeans continued to encroach on Indian lands. His son, Metacomet, who took the name King Phillip, led the Wampanoag against Massachusetts settlers, a rebellion that extended throughout New England and beyond Metacomet’s death in 1676. Atrocities were committed on both sides. King Phillip was shot and killed in Mount Hope, Rhode Island in August 1676 after he was tracked down by Captain Benjamin Church.  His dead body was hung, beheaded, drawn and quartered, and his head placed on a spike in the Plymouth colony for two decades.

Captain Church is our 8th great-uncle, grandson of Mayflower Richard Warren, and commander of the first Ranger company in America. His military tactics are still used by the US Army Rangers.

 Children of Thomas Tolman, Jr, and Elizabeth Johnson:


1. Thomas Tolman III,  b. 1665 in Dorchester, married Experience Adams in1689 in Bridgewater, d. 1738 in Stoughton; 7 children

2. Daniel Tolman, b. 1668, Dorchester, died in infancy

3. Mary Tolman, b. 1671, Dorchester, married Ebenezer Crane of Milton, a cordwainer (shoemaker) and tanner in Milton; Mary died 1759 in Milton, 12 children

4. Samuel Tolman, b. 1676 in Dorchester; in 1704 married Experience Clapp who died in 1726 and Samuel married secondly Patience Humfrey of Dorchester; 12 children.

5. Daniel Tolman, b. 1679 in Dorchester, married Sarah Humphries in 1708 in Dorchester, died 1761, 4 children.

Thomas made his will in 1711 several years before his death, leaving his “mansion house,” barn and gardens as well as his slave to Elizabeth. In 1718, the year of his death, he added an amendment, "my cattle I intend and comprehend in the moveables given her (Elizabeth), and the power to dispose of the same, and of my man servant, either by sale, testament or deed of gift to whom she will." All in the same sentence ... you may sell my cattle and my slave. Slavery ended in Massachusetts in 1783.

Substantial land went to his sons, including 60 acres in what later became Canton to Thomas III. He made an interesting, but not uncommon, provision that, should any of the kids dislike what they had been given such as to cause contention, half their inheritance would be taken away and divided among the others!

Thomas Jr. died in 1718, age 85, and Elizabeth in December 1726, at age 82. Both are buried in Dorchester North Burying Ground.

Thomas Tolman III (1665-1738) and Experience Adams (1663-1762), 7th GGPs

Dorchester was first settled by Puritans in 1630, and our Tolmans arrived in 1635. The town centered around the First Church of Dorchester, but began to spread out and encroach further on lands belonging to indigenous Machuseusett whose population severely declined from infectious disease and violence from the colonial settlers. The large area of Dorchester was diminished piece by piece by creation of other towns, including Stoughton (incorporated from Dorchester in 1726), Sharon (incorporated in 1765), and Canton (incorporated in 1797 from Stoughton) and finally what was left was annexed to Boston in 1870. So, land and grants held by the Tolmans originally identified as being in Dorchester might be part of Boston or later be in the towns identified as Stoughton, Sharon and Canton.

Thomas III, the firstborn and first son of Thomas Jr. and Elizabeth, was a yeoman, meaning a non-slaveholding, small landowning, family farmer as contrasted with a planter who might have hundreds of acres. 

Thomas III married Experience Adams of Boston in 1689 and they lived in Dorchester until settling around 1713 on the 60 acres given to him by his father in what finally became Canton. He is identified as a yeoman in deeds.

Experience was the daughter of 8th GGPs Henry Adams of Boston and Mary Pittee of Weymouth, married in Boston in 1663. Mary’s father, William, was an early settler of Weymouth in 1638; Henry Adams background is unknown.

They had seven children over the next 18 years. It’s hard to imagine having seven pregnancies, much less strung out over 18 years, but this is a relatively small family for the times. In 1713, 48 year-old Thomas, Elizabeth and all the children, even adult, moved to the area of Dorchester New Grant that became first Stoughton and finally Canton; all except Nathaniel who became a physician in Needham. In those days, one didn’t need to go to medical school to be a doctor, but merely to apprentice to a doctor for a period of 3 years.

Thomas III and Experience children were all born in Dorchester:

  1. Thomas IV, b. abt. 1689, married Mary Rice, died 1724
  2. Nathaniel, b. 1691, moved to Needham, MA, where he was a physician, and died 1729 at the young age of 38 and his widow died soon after. Their four children were placed in guardianships. Four grandsons were soldiers in the Revolution; one son was severely wounded at the Lexington alarm.
  3. Timothy, b. 1693, married Elizabeth Wadsworth of Milton, died age 80.
  4. David, b. 1695, married Prudence Redman, died age 50.
  5. Mary, b. 1697, married Joseph Hartwell, died 1782 in Stoughton, soon to become Canton in 1797.
  6. Bliss, b. 1704, married twice, to Mary and then Judith, died age 71
  7. Experience, b. 1707, married Silas Crane; they died a day apart in 1753 and were buried in one grave in Canton Cemetery.

Thomas III, 73, died in 1738 in Stoughton. Church records note “November 6, 1738, Thomas Tolman, our aged brother, fell down dead at his work.” Widow Experience lived another 24 years until 1762 “in ye 99th year of her age.” They are both buried at Canton Corners Cemetery. Thomas left no will, but had already distributed his considerable land to his heirs.

Thomas Tolman IV (1689-1724) and Mary Rice (c. 1695-1782), 6th GGPs

Thomas IV does not have a birth or baptismal record. His gravestone inscription reads “Here lyes Ye Body of Thomas Tolman, Dyed 3rd Feb 1724 in Ye 35th Year of his Age,” and from this we can extrapolate he was born in 1689. At the time of his birth, then, all four generations were still living - his 1st GGF Thomas Sr. who died in 1690, his GGF Thomas Jr. who died in 1718, his grandfather Thomas III who died in 1738, and little Thomas IV.

Thomas married 19 year-old Mary Rice from Dedham in 1714. Their firstborn, Thomas V, died in his first two years, soon followed by another child who bore the name Thomas V in 1718, our 5th GGF Isaiah, and a daughter Mary, born after her father’s death in 1724.

Thomas IV died young at only 34 years of age, very possibly from the smallpox epidemic which was so severe in Boston in 1721 the entire population fled the city taking it to surrounding areas and the other colonies. Cotton Mather - remember him from above? - used his pulpit to encourage the new technique of smallpox inoculation, “variolation" to lessen the severity of the disease.

Sons Thomas V and Isaiah were only five and two years old at the time of their father’s death and daughter Mary not yet born. All three children went into guardianship; that of Isaiah was granted to his uncle, Nathaniel, when he was four and to an Edward Glover in 1730 when he was nine years old. 

Probate records show Thomas IV was a husbandman and his possessions included a sword and other arms, cattle, sheep and swing, and 120 acres with a house and barn in Stoughton. He owed a debt to John Rice, Mary’s father.

'Yeoman' and 'husbandman' and Middle English occupation terms, with husbandman being a slightly lower rank than yeoman. Both were gradually replaced in the later 18th and 19th centuries by ‘farmer.’

The probate inventory was submitted to the court in 1728 and by that time Mary’s name was Hartwell. The widowed Mary whose three young children had gone into guardianship married Joseph Hartwell a little less than two years after Thomas IV’s death and had another six children.

A petition that evidently led to another probate hearing in 1742 was signed by Joseph Hartwell, husband of Thomas’ wife Mary. By this time 5th GGF Isaiah has turned  21 and soon to be married. Thomas III’s real estate was valued at one thousand eighty five pounds which Isaiah and brother Thomas split evenly after paying one hundred eighty pounds to their sister, Mary.

Children of Thomas IV and Mary, all born in Dorchester New Grant, later to become Stoughton (1726) and Canton (1797):

  1. Thomas V, b. 1716, died 1718.
  2. Thomas V, b. 1718, married Hannah Shepard, d. 1767 in Stoughton, age 48. Probate identified his occupation as husbandman.
  3. Isaiah, b. 1721, married 1) Hannah Fuller by whom he had eight children, 2) 5th GGM Margaret Robbins by whom he had 10 children, and lastly to Jane Philbrook, by whom he had one child. His father’s probate in 1742 indicates Isaiah is a blacksmith, but with his inheritance he became a wealthy farmer. He moved to Thomaston, Maine  in 1769 at age 48, and to the isolated Matinicus Isle in 1790 where he died at age 90 in 1811.
  4. Mary, b. 1724 after her father’s death, married Nathaniel Reynolds, died in Sidney, Kennebec County, Maine in 1806.

Elizabeth Hartwell, the eldest of 6th GGM Mary Rice Tolman’s children with 2nd husband, Joseph Hartwell (1726-1760), became the wife of Roger Sherman who began as a shoemaker in Stoughton and rose to become an astute businessman and lawyer in Milford, Connecticut, and the only signer of four of the great papers of the United States - the Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution.

Thomas Tolman IV
“Here lyes Ye Body of Thomas Tolman,
Dyed 3rd Feb 1724 in
Ye 35th Year of his Age,”

Next: Isaiah and his daughter, Margaret "Peggy" Tolman, the last of our Tolman line.

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