Thursday, May 10, 2012

John Cram and Ester White of Bilsby and Exeter

english origins
Bilsby Parish Church, courtesy of Wikipedia
John Cram was an early immigrant to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he and his wife Ester arrived in Boston in 1635. He was baptized in Bilsby, Lincolnshire, England on 29 Jan 1596/7.   John was the son of Thomas Cram and his wife Jane. The Crams had been in the Bilsby-Alford area for many years and John's ancestry can be traced in the Bishop's Transcripts to his paternal grandfather John Cram, b. about 1540. His father Thomas was born about 1593 and died by 30 March 1639 when his will was proved.  John's mother Jane had died in 1612 and was buried in Bilsby. John was one of eight children, the only one to come to Massachusetts.  

John and Ester were married in Bilsby on 8 June 1624. The first four of their children were born in Bilsby or nearby Farlsthorpe and the last four in New England. The impetus for their move to America was almost certainly the Puritan Minister the Reverend John Wheelwright.

Reverend Wheelwright was the vicar at Bilsby from 1623 until 1633. He was a controversial figure who played an important role in both the religious and political life of the new colony. Many of his English Parishioners followed him to America, including the Crams.

Ann pleads her case
Muddy river, now known as Brookline, was the first home of the Cram Family. At the January meeting of the General Court, John was give 16 acres of land. The Colony was only in its fifth year when the Crams set up house and began the arduous task of farming on uncleared land. Things did not always run smoothly in the new Colony and by 1637 trouble of a religious nature was brewing in Boston.  Anne Hutchinson, related by marriage to Reverend Wheelwright, was at the center of an affair known as the Antimonian Controversy. The dogma of the Puritan Church was not a hard and fast set of beliefs, but anyone who preached anything outside the mainstream came under fire, and when it was a woman doing the preaching, the Colony was sure to crack down. Anne was tried, found guilty and she and John Wheelwright were thrown out of the colony. The Reverend Wheelwright and his followers left Massachusetts and  established the town of Exeter in 1638.  Exeter was in New Hampshire.  Anne and her family went to New York, where she was killed by Indians in 1643. 

John Cram signed, or rather made his mark, on the Exeter Combination on 5 June 1639. the combination set out the basic philosophy of the new town, it was as follows:

Combination for government at Exeter, with the forms of oaths for rulers and people. Whereas it hath pleased the Lord to move the heart of our dread Sovereign Charles by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France & Ireland, to grant license & liberty to sundry of his subjects to grant themselves in the western parts of America - We his loyal subjects, brethren of the church in Ecceter, situate and lying upon the river Pascataquacke with other inhabitants there, considering with ourselves the holy will of God and our own necessity, that we should not live without wholesome laws and government among us, of which we are altogether destitute, do in the name of Christ and in the sight of God combine ourselves together to erect and set up amongst us such government as shall be to our best discerning agreeable to the will of God professing ourselves subjects to our Sovereign Lord King Charles, according to the liberties of our English colony of the Massachusetts, and binding ourselves solemnly by the grace and help of Christ, and in his name and fear, to submit ourselves to such godly and christian laws as are established in the realm of England to our best knowledge, and to all other such laws which shall upon good grounds be made and enacted amongst us according to God, that we may live quietly & peacably together in all godliness and honesty. Mo. 5 D. 4, 1639. 

Reverend John Wheelwright
In the first division of land, John was allotted 8 acres and 16 poles of upland. In 1643 he was one of the townsmen who signed the petition requesting to come under the authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Exeter was the last of the four New Hampshire towns to do so. He was given land in 1645 and 1648 He served as a townsman in 1648 and 1649. Also in 1648, his 15 year old son, Joseph, drowned, and his last child, Lydia was born.  

The Reverend Wheelwright left Exeter by 1641, and moved to Wells, Maine, as the Massachusetts Bay Colony was starting to take control of New Hampshire, and he was still in hot water with Governor Winthrop. He would eventually be pardoned by John Winthrop and allowed back into Massachusetts. The Crams did not follow him to Maine.

John Cram made a final move to the town of Hampton, New Hampshire. He lived in the area that would be known as Hampton Falls.  He and his wife must have been good upstanding  Puritans as they became church members in full. John died there on March 5th, 1681 age 85. His wife Ester died in Hampton 16 May 1677. 

John and Ester had the following children:
1. Elizabeth, bp. Bilsby 11 March 1625/6 no further record
2. John, bp. Bilsby 15 Feb. 1627/8 died young
3. John, bp. Bilsby 13 April 1629, buried in Farlsthorpe 16 April 1633
4. Jospeh bp. Farlsthorpe 5 Oct 1632 died Exeter June 1648
5. Benjamin b.about 1637 Exeter m. 28 Nov. 1662 Argentine Cromwell
6. Thomas b. about 1644 Exeter m. Elizabeth Weare
7. Mary b. 1646
8. Lydia b. 1648 unmarried in 1665

John Wheelwright returned to England in 1656 for about six years.  He went to college with Oliver Cromwell and was well received by him.  After Cromwell's death and the return of the Monarchy, Wheelwright once again sailed for Massachusetts and lived his final years in Salisbury, Massachusetts.   

Of John and Esters eight children only two seem to have had children, Thomas and Benjamin. Benjamin Cram married Argentine Cromwell, daughter of Giles Cromwell, in 1662. They lived in Hampton Falls.(Please read my article on Giles Cromwell)  They had nine children:
1.Sarah, born September 19, 1663, unmarried in 1707.
2.John, born April 6, 1665, married Mary; had seven children: Argentine, Abigail, Benjamin, Wadleigh, Jonathan, John, and Mary. 

3. Benjamin, born December 30, 1666, married Sarah Shaw; their children were: (1) Samuel, born April 30,1699, died young; (2) Lydia, born March 4, 1701; (3) Charity, born March 28, 1703; (4) Elizabeth, born February 8, 1704 - 5; (5) Hephshebeth, born August 6, 1706; (6) Jonathan, born October 8, 1708; (7) Samuel, born October 24, 1710; and (8) Benjamin, born about 1712 (9) Sarah b. 1716
4. Mary, born August 6, 1669.
5. Joseph, born April 12, 1671; married Jane Philbrick, May, 1700. Their children were: (1) Comfort, born April 16, 1701; (2) Abigail, born August 7, 1710.
6. Hannah, born August 22, 1673; married William Fifield, October 26, 1693.
7. Esther, born October 16, 1675, not married in 1707.
8. Jonathan, born April 26, 1678; died, unmarried, December 3, 1703.
9. Elizabeth, born January 3,1780- 81; married Samuel Melcher, May 16, 1700.

Benjamin Sr. wrote his will in 1707, he named all his children, except Jonathan, who died in 1703. He added a codicil two months after writing the original will in which he requested that Benjamin Jr. provide housing for his two unmarried sisters until such time as they married.  He did not name his wife, Argentine, or make any provision for her care, so I believe that she was already dead.  Benjamin's will was proved on Dec 5, 1711, he died sometime between it's writing and the date it was proved.

Benjamin Sr. left all his land and cattle to his son Benjamin Jr.  Benjamin was born in 1666 and married in 1699 Sarah Shaw of Hampton.  Sarah was the daughter of Joseph Shaw and Elizabeth Partridge, grand daughter of William and Ann Spicer Partridge.  Not much is written about Benjamin Cram Jr. 
their children were:
(1) Samuel, born April 30,1699, died young; 
(2) Lydia, born March 4, 1701; 
(3) Charity, born March 28, 1703; 
(4) Elizabeth, born February 8, 1704 - 5; 
(5) Hephshebeth, born August 6, 1706; 
(6) Jonathan, born October 8, 1708 
(7) Samuel, born October 24, 1710
(8) Benjamin, born about 1712 
(9) Sarah b. 1716 m. Jonathan Norris

File:Hampton Falls old map.gif
Map of Hampton Falls


Robert Charles Anderson. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633Vol. 1-3. Boston, MA, USA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995.

Virginia S. Hall. The Lincolnshire Origins of Some Exeter Settlers, 1867-1921

Charles Henry Bell.  The History of Exeter, New Hampshire, Boston, MA, 1888.

Probate Records of the Province of New Hampshire 1635-[1771], Volume 31  By New Hampshire. Probate Court    

Church of England. Parish Church of Bilsby (Lincoln). Bishop's transcripts, 1561-1832. (Salt 

Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1966).

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