Friday, July 25, 2014

Daniel Thurston of England and Newbury, MA

This is the first of four bios I am going to write about my Thurston ancestors.  As usual, is not a good source for their English ancestry, so proceed with caution when you are looking at Thurston family trees online. There is also a website, that will hijack your computer if you click on any of its links, so be careful.

When I was gathering my material for this article I compared the wills of the four men side by side. I was really intrigued by the progressive accumulation of wealth, land and household items.  Not every colonial family was so lucky.  Fathers would divided their estate among their male sons, reducing the land holdings for each successive generation. The Thurstons were not dependent on farming for a living so were able to not only make a good living, they were able to increase their wealth through the acquisition of more land. So, here is what I know about the first Daniel Thurston who is not my direct ancestor, but probably an uncle.

english origins
In 1880, Brown Thurston a painter, publisher and genealogist, traced his ancestry and published the first edition of his book, Thurston Genealogies.  In this book, he speculated that the English home of Daniel Thurston, immigrant to New England, may have been Cranbrook in the county of Kent. After the publication of his book he received letters from various Thurstons, including two from English Thurstons, who suggested that Daniel was not from Cranbrook, Kent but rather from Thornbury, Gloucestershire. They based the idea on the facts that, one; their name was Thurston and they came from Thornbury, and two;  other men, supposedly from Thornbury, immigrated to Newbury, MA,  namely 
John Poore and Richard Dole. 

Brown Thurston included these letters in his second edition of Thurston Genealogies, published in 1892. He seemed to have changed his mind on the origins of Daniel Thurston, joining the Thornbury camp in suggesting that he was possible from that location. No possible parents were identified by either letter writer or Brown Thurston. An internet search for the name Daniel Thurston of Thornbury gave me a rather comical answer to the parental question.  According to several sites the father of Daniel was Fadanbro Thurston. He, Fadanbro, also had a son he called Danbrofa.

say what???
Fadanbro and Danbrofa, what the hell kinda names are those? (sorry, genealogical research sometimes gives me a potty mouth). Come on man, somebody is pulling our leg here, right? I mulled over these names for a while and finally realized what I was probably looking at. Some researcher was more than likely guessing at birth years for Daniel's father and brother and added some short hand generic names like fa(ther) of dan(iel) and his bro(ther). I do not believe that these are real names, so scratch them from your tree. Daniel's parents are unknown. 

coming to america
Just as there is no record of Daniel's parents, there is no record of his arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  We know that Newbury was first settled on the north shore of the Parker River in 1635, but on a map of the original house lots, based on the town land grants, there is no lot for Daniel Thurston. The first mention of Daniel is found in the Newbury town records when it was recorded that on "24 Nov 1638 there was granted unto Daniel Thurston an house lott on the neck over the great river, over four acres". 

Daniel was probably born about 1600 so he was about 38 years old when he got this land grant.  He was also married, but nothing is known of this wife except her date of death; 25 May 1648. Daniel and his wife appear to have had no living children.  They do seem to have been charged with raising Daniel's nephew and namesake Daniel Thurston, aka "The Kinsman". 

When first established, the Newbury meeting house was built close to the north side of Parker River, and most of the early homes seem to have been clustered around the meeting house green.  Daniel Thurston's land was on the south side of the river on what was called the Newbury Neck.  To get to the meeting house, for Sunday service and town meetings, he and the others living on the south side would have to take ferry across the river.

On 12 March 1642 a committee chosen to "stint" the cow common gave their report to the town.  Daniel Thurston was allowed a stint of 1 1/2. This was an old English way to divide a common.  Stinting was a formula for the number of animals a man might have on the common.  For instance, a horse might require 4 stints, a cow three, or a sheep one. No formula was recorded for the Newbury system, but 1 1/2 stints was a very small number compared to others in the town.

where's everbody going?
Some time after 1642 the powers that be decided that they hadn't chosen the best spot for the town.  They said there wasn't enough good plow land and their cow common was to far from the settlement. So, what to do? Pack up and move!  The town center was to be moved from next to the Parker River to closer to the banks of the Merrimac River, several miles to the north. This was not universally popular and a group of men, including Daniel Thurston petitioned the court to remain where they were. They asked the General Court to allow them to keep one of the two ministers, establishing two churches in the town.  The General Court said no. Several of the petitioners promptly left the town, but Daniel stayed, accepting a grant of 39 acres in the new town. 

The old town center remained in Newbury, but the new settlement eventually became Newburyport. The cow common is West Newbury. 

new wife
Daniel's unknown first wife died in May of 1648.  The puritans had a strong dislike for "singles".  Men and women functioned best when they were married. And, lets face it, life in 1648 was a slog made easier if there were two of you.  Marriage was a business contract, hopefully you liked your partner, maybe you would grow to love them, but that was not your main concern.

Daniel remarried a scant three months after his wife's demise. On 29 August 1648 Daniel married Mrs. Anne Lightfoot. She was the widow of Frances Lightfoot of Lynn. Frances wrote his will on 10 Dec 1646 and he died fairly soon after as it was proved on the 29th. His estate was small, only about 50 pounds and Anne did not get much out of it.  That might explain why it took her awhile to get remarried. There was no mention of sons or daughters in his will, she may have been very happy to get remarried and have a stable family life.

Daniel wrote his will on 20 June 1665.  He died the following February.  An inventory was done in March and the total of his estate was valued at 573 pounds.  Ann was given a feather bed and pillow, her own box and chest, her own clothes, her own brass kettle, her own iron pot and ten pounds of goods.  These "goods" were to be stuff such as corn, butter, cheese, etc. And she would have her "widow's thirds". This was one third of her husbands estate or income from the estate, for the remainder of her life, unless she married again. Her husband also gave her the option of living with his "kinsman" Daniel who would provide her with a "comfortable living" in meat, drink and clothes in lieu of the previous bequeath. All of his land, animals, goods, house and barn went to Daniel his nephew.  

A stark example of what's mine is mine, what's your's is mine. One day she lives in her own house with her things, the next, they belong to someone else. We  don't know what she chose, but as she was an probably an elderly woman without children, I imagine she would have stuck it out with young Daniel.  Ann died 17 Feb 1673. 

what's mine
Here is the inventory of Daniel's estate:

house and barn          80-0-0
30 acres upland        200-0-0
30 acres marsh         100-0-0
4 beds                      30-0-0
household stuff          20-0-0
4 oxen                      28-0-0
10 cows                    50-0-0
9 young cattle            23-0-0
27 sheep                   16-0-0
2 horses, 2 colts         16-0-0
other goods               10-0-0

What stands out right away to me is the value of bedding, costing more that cows or horses.  The beds were worth almost half of the value of the house and barn. Unlike later inventories, the household items are not broken down. He only had 60 acres of land, possibly because he had no sons to help him farm.  The marsh land could have been the land he had on the Newbury neck.  It would have been used to grow salt hay, which was used as feed for the animals. He obviously got more "stints" in the common, as he had a significant amount of animals. There was no retirement back, so Daniel probably worked until the day he took to his death bed. 

Ancestral descent from Daniel Thurston
This Daniel has no descendants, he had no children. I am related to Daniel "the Kinsmans" Thurston. He was possible a nephew of this Daniel. 


Thurston, Brown. ... Thurston Genealogies. Portland, Me.: B. Thurston, and Hoyt, Fogg & Donham, 1880. Print.
Dow, George Francis, and Mary G. Thresher. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1911. Print.
Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750. New York, NY: Knopf, 1982. Print.
Currier, John J. History of Newbury, Mass., 1635-1902. Boston: Damrell & Upham, 1902. Print.
Coffin, Joshua, and Joseph Bartlett. A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845. Boston: S.G. Drake, 1845. Print.
Herringshaw, Thomas William. Herringshaw's National Library of American Biography: Contains Thirty-five Thousand Biographies of the Acknowledged Leaders of Life and Thought of the United States; Illustrated with Three Thousand Vignette Portraits ... Chicago, IL: American' Association, 1909. Print.
Probate records for Daniel Thurston on 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

John Gage of Ipswich and Bradford

In a previous post I wrote about the ancestry of John Gage who left England with the first wave of Great Migration immigrants and settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.  He probably lived for a few years in Boston  but soon removed north and was among the first settlers of the new town (plantation) that would eventually be known as Ipswich.  Here is what I know about his life after his arrival in Massachusetts.

John Gage is believed to have been among the first setters of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He was the fiftieth  member of the First Church of Boston. This would indicate that he arrived in the year 1630 and that he had come with the Winthrop Fleet. Although I have read multiple times that John sailed on the Arabella, the flagship of the fleet, there is no passenger list for the ship and there is no proof that he was on that particular ship. It has also been claimed that his wife Amee was on the Arabella.  Not only is there no proof that she was on the Arabella or any of the other ships in Winthrop's fleet, there is no proof that John and Amee were even married at the time of his immigration.

Nothing is known of John Gage and his time in Boston.  The first few years of the colony were a time of hunger and hard work as the colonist struggled to learn how to survive in their new home. Hundreds died, hundreds more took one look around and headed back to England. Living in Massachusetts in 1630 was not for the faint of heart. Despite the hardships, men women and children continued to pour into Boston and Salem. There was abundant land for those with the stamina to adapt and survive.

In 1633 John Winthrop the Younger, son of Governor John Winthrop, established the new plantation of Ipswich some 50 miles to the north of Boston. John Gage joined John Winthrop along with 12 or so other men on his expedition to start the new plantation. Many of my early American ancestors lived in Ipswich, for at least a time, but he was the earliest resident. It's funny to think that all these ancestors, who I know so little about, all lived together in the same town and knew, probably more than they wanted to, intimate detail about each others lives.

Ipswich rapidly became a center for trade and craftsmen.  My ancestor Richard Kimball, a wheelwright, was lured away from Watertown.  John Gage worked as a carpenter, a trade with plenty of work.  Despite having a trade, most men had to farm their land to make ends meet.  Besides, land was where the money was, and the buying and selling of lots started almost as soon as they were handed out.

lot laying
During the 5 August 1634 meeting of the General Court of Massachusetts it was declared that the new plantation of Agawam was thereafter the town of Ipswich.  At a General Court held in March of 1634/35 it was ordered that John Winthrop, John Endicott and John Humphrey had the power to divide the land belonging to the new town.  With that, the business of setting up a town began. John Gage was chosen to be one of several lot layers for the town.  Lot layers established the boundaries of each land grant.

The land, of course, was not given out equally to all men.  John Winthrop got the largest grant, he was given 300 acres in the first division of land. His land was near the wonderfully named Labour in Vain Creek.  The first land given to John Gage was part of a meadow, his share was four acres.  He was also allotted an additional 6 acres of land, described as "lyeing upon this neck of land the town standeth". Almost as soon as the first lots were given out, questions arose as too boundaries.  The town lot layers were frequently called on to settle boundary disputes.

john's land
John Gage was given various plots of land including meadows and marshes.  He had land near the Egypt River and near the Chewbacco River, in what is today the town of Essex. His house lot was on the Ipswich River, south of the Meeting House Green on what is today called Green Street. Ipswich has many houses that survived from his time, but his did not.

John's land was where the brown house is. 
The first houses were probably just log cabins, sawmills had yet to be established and any planks of wood would have been cut by hand. When milled planks were available the log houses would have been replaced by something more substantial. The house lots were required by law to be fenced, and women would have their vegetable and herb gardens near their house.  We don't know how long the Gage's lived by the Ipswich River but according to Thomas Franklin Water, John Gage built a house on his land near the Egypt River. This area became known as Ipswich Village and John Gage lived on the road to Rowley.

john and amee
John Gage married Amee Unknown some time prior to the 1638 birth of their first child. Their marriage was not recorded nor was the birth of their child. Amee's surname is unknown.  She may have been related to Henry Kingsbury or maybe she was a Wilford.  In either case there is nothing other than some references to uncles and cousins, nothing definitive.  In fact, the only reason we know her name was Amee was because she was named in a 1654 land deed. For me she remains, Amee Unknown. John parents are also unknown but there is a strong possibility that he was the John Gage baptized in Kersey in 1606, son of John and Jane Lufkin Gage of Boxford.  If you are under the impression that John was the son of Sir John Gage and Penelope D'Arcy then please see my previous post as this is just not true.

Amee and John had 6 children, all boys.  All survived to adulthood, a rare feat, but three of the men died in their 30's. We don't know when Amee was born but she died in June of 1658. Her youngest son was ten. Her husband waited 5 months before he remarried. Most widows and widowers married fairly soon after the death of their spouse, mostly for practical reasons.  Women needed a husband to provide for them and men needed women to keep their house and family.

1. Samuel b. about 1638 Ipswich, m. 10 June 1674 Bradford, Faith Stickley, d. 20 July 1676 age 38

2. Daniel b. about 1639 Ipswich, m. 3 May 1675, Bradford,  Sarah Kimball, d. Haverhill Nov 1705 age 66

3. Benjamin b. about 1641, m. (1) step-sister Mary Keyes, (2) 11 Oct 1671 Prudence Lever, d. 10 Oct. 1672 age 31

4. Jonathan b. about 1643, m. 12 Nov 1667 Andover,  Hester Chandler, d. 15 March 1675 age 32

5. Nathaniel b. about 1645, m. Bradford, by 1696 Mary Green, d. 3 Apr 1728, age 83

6. Josiah b. about 1648, m. (1) Lydia Ladd, (2) Mary Dow, d. Haverhill 5 July 1717 age 69

wife number two
John married widow Sarah Keyes of Newbury on 7 November 1658 in Ipswich.  Her English ancestry is unknown as is her maiden name. Sarah's first husband, Robert Keyes, died 1647, so she was widowed for a considerable time.  The fact that she had 8 young children may have affected her desirability as a marriage partner and it was not until her older children were themselves married did she in fact remarry. Five years after their marriage, Benjamin, the son of John, married Mary, the daughter of Sarah.  After John's death Sarah returned to Newbury, probably living with one of her children, and died there in 1705. Her probated estate contained only household items.

John's land on the Egypt river was very close to the north border between Ipswich in Rowley and on today's map it looks like it is in Rowley. The borders between the towns were constantly changing and new towns were created from the large original towns. A family could live a house on the same piece of land and over the course of 50 years find themselves living in three different towns. John, as a lot layer, was frequently called on to run the border between two towns.

In 1660 John began selling parcels of his land in Ipswich. In 1665, John Gage of Rowley, purchased 300 acres of land in Rowley.  This tract of land was in the part of Rowley that would very soon become the new town of Bradford.  Today Bradford is a part of the the town of Haverhill, MA.

Will of John Gage

John Gage died on 24 Mar 1672/73 in Bradford aged about 68 years old.  His son Benjamin had died the year prior, but all his other son were alive and named in his will as was his widow Sarah.  He named all his surviving sons as administrators of his estate. He made provisions for the care of his wife and then divided his estate among his sons.  He owned 350 acres of land plus some acreage on an Island. He must have owned more land at one time as he gave his son Benjamin land at the time of his second marriage to Prudence Lever.

My family tree from John Gage and Amee Unknown:
John Gage and Jane Lufkin (possibly)
John Gage and Amee Unknown
Nathaniel Gage and Mary Weeks Green
Mary Gage and Benjamin Thurston
James Chadwick - Mary Thurston
Hannah Chadwick - Jonathan Blanchard
James Blanchard - Phebe Carter
Chloe Blanchard - Samuel Thornton
John C. Thornton - Jennie Clover Rowell

Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995. Print.

Records of the First Church of Boston 1630-1868 found at the website:

Probate Records for Essex County MA via 

Records and Files of the Quarterly Court of Essex via university of Virginia website

Schofield, George A. The Ancient Records of the Town of Ipswich: Vol. 1, from 1634 to 1650. Ipswich, MA: G.A. Schofield, 1899. Print.

Waters, Thomas Franklin, Sarah Goodhue, and John Wise. Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Ipswich, MA: Ipswich Historical Society, 1905. Print.

Waters, Thomas Franklin. Ipswich Village and the Old Rowley Road. Salem, MA: Printed for the Society, 1914. Print.

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