Sunday, August 10, 2014

Daniel Thurston and Mary Dresser of Newbury, Massachusetts

Here, finally, is a Daniel Thurston with some background.  Unlike his father and his great uncle, we know when and where this Daniel was born.  Daniel was a second generation colonist, so although life was not as difficult for him as it was for his father and  uncle, it was still pretty rough. The Commonwealth experiment in England had recently ended and Charles II returned from exile; England once again had a king. New Englanders thought of themselves as Englishmen, and they went to great lengths to show their loyalty to the Crown. Daniel's father had taken a oath swearing his allegiance to Charles. The early colonist felt a longing for "home" so Daniel likely knew his father's origins and heard stories of his home in England. Unfortunately the stories were forgotten and we do not know where the Thurstons hailed from in England.

Daniel was born in Newbury, Massachusetts on 18 December 1661, his parents were Daniel and Ann Pell Thurston.  He was their fourth child, but two of his older siblings had died before he was born, in fact he was the second son to be named Daniel. It was very common, at that time, to reused the name of a deceased child for the next one born of the same sex.  Daniel had three younger brothers, each named Stephen, two passing away and the name recycled a third time.

The town of Newbury had only been in existence for 26 years but had undergone significant changes since it's beginnings. The first settlement was on the north side of the Parker River.  Daniel's family lived on the Newbury Neck on the south side of the Parker River.  The town center eventually moved farther north to the south bank of the Merrimac River. This second site would eventually become Newburyport. The Thurston's had to cross the river  and travel some distance to attend church services or do any business in the town.  A bridge would eventually be built but Daniel and his family had to cross the river by ferry.

The Puritans of  New England took the education of children seriously.  They believed that the a lack of education and the inability to read the bible went hand in hand with "the old deluder", aka the devil. In 1642 they passed a law that all children, boys and girls must be educated. For most this was limited to reading and writing, in fact their ultimate goal was not so much that they were great scholars but that they could read the bible.   In 1647 Massachusetts passed a second education law mandating every town with 50 or more families  hire a school teacher and towns with greater than 100 families must have a "grammar school" that taught lessons in Latin and Greek for boys going on to higher education. The cost of education was paid by the town and by parents. For 3 pence a day your kid learned English, instruction in Latin cost more. The town was also responsible for providing a school house. Unlike the southern colonies, girls were also given an education, albeit not the same as boys, but they did learn to read and write.

In 1652 the town of Newbury voted to build a school building, but there must have been some foot dragging as the children were being taught in the town jail in 1676. In 1691 the town voted that the schoolmaster would divide his time between three sections of the town so that all children could have access to education, despite living in a remote area of Newbury. Parents who did not comply with the law were fined, and the could potentially lose their children.

Children were not the pampered spoiled kids of today.  The puritans believed that children came into this world willful and corrupt. It was the fathers job to squash the will of his children and make them conform to the accepted values of the day. This doesn't mean that parents didn't love their children, but kids weren't indulged, if they stepped out of line they were put back in their place pronto. Parents were encouraged by the court to bring in their unruly children for punishment. One puritan custom that was very common was the "sending out" of  children.  Boys and girls were sent to live with other families, sometimes to learn a trade or skill practiced by the new household or sometimes to be closer to the schoolhouse. It was also believed that children learned better manners by living with others.

It is probable that Daniel attended school or he could have been taught at home.  He was able to sign his name on his will, so he could write, at least a little.  Was he "sent out"?  There is no way to know if he was. His adult occupation would be a husbandman/yeoman so if he did learn a trade, he did not seem to practice it. The idea of adolescence is fairly new, it was unheard of in the 1600's. Children began "working" at a very young age, helping with chores in the home by four or five years of age. By their early teens, children were transitioning into adults. Despite their maturity  young adults could not live on their own, they lived either at the home of their parents or some other family until the day they married and established their own home.

marriage and children
Daniel married at about age 30, his wife was Mary Dresser of Rowley, their marriage was not recorded but based on the  birth of their first child in June of 1690, they must have been married by late 1689. He and his wife had at least 13 children but not all survived infancy and childhood. Like his mother and father, he and his wife had to endure the pain of burying a child, multiple times. Their children were:

  1. Daniel b. 26 June 1690, m. 14 Nov 1715 Lydia Leaver of Rowley, died 10 March 1720, age 30.
  2. Unnamed daughter b. 7 May 1691, d. two weeks later on 21 May 1691
  3. Unnamed son b. 7 May 1691, d. two weeks later on 21 May 1691
  4. John b. 12 June 1692, m. 17 May 1732 Dorothy Woodman, d. 27 May 1751, age almost 60
  5. Mary b. 7 Jan 1693/4, m. 26 Jan 1715/16 Rev. James Chute, d. 12 Aug 1760 age 66
  6. Benjamin b. 4 May 1695, m. 24 June 1718 Mary Gage of Bradford, d. 6 Sep 1746 age 52
  7. Hannah b. 20 Jan 1697/98, m. 9 Jan 1718/19 Greshom Frazier, d. 18 Aug 1770 age 73
  8. Lydia b. 20 Jan 1697/98, d. 2 Sep 1727 age 30
  9. Martha b. 27 Nov 1699, m. 9 Jan 1718/19 Ezekiel Jewett, d. 7 Sep 1780 Boxford age 81
10. Jonathan b. 3 or 13 Mar 1700/01, m. unknown Lydia Spofford, d.  28 Sep 1738 age 37
11. Stephen b 22 Aug 1704, d. 18 Sep 1727 age 24 years
12. Sarah b. 30 Dec 1706 unknown but not mentioned in her fathers will so presumed dead by 1738
13. Richard b. 16 Oct 1710, m. 5 May 1731 Mehitable Jewett, d. 12 Jul 1782 age 72

2 children died as newborns
1 died in their 20's
3 died in their 30's
1 died in their 50's
2 died in their 60's
2 died in their 70's
1 died in their 80's
1 unknown 

work and land
Daniel was given the occupational title of husbandman and sometimes yeoman in multiple land deeds. It is clear he worked his land for a living. Beginning in 1698 and continuing into the 1730's, Daniel made multiple land purchases.  Some of these deeds give us a clue as to the  purpose of the land.  His first purchase in 1698 was for 12 acres of salt marsh in the Newbury Neck area where he lived on land inherited from his father. In 1713 he bought more marsh land on the Parker River, adding to his thatch land. Salt marsh hay was used by the colonial settlers as feed for their cattle and as thatch for their roofs. From June to September men would go out into the marsh and cut the hay which was piled onto wooden stakes driven into the ground called staddles. The platforms keep the hay dry during high tides. When the marsh froze in the winter, wagons were used to remove the hay, which could now be transported over the frozen ground. In 1716 he bought 3 acres of upland "commonly called Ye Farm" near the Newbury Neck. Two of his last purchases were for parcels of saltmarsh on Nelson Island in Rowley.

In 1714 he bought a 36 acre parcel of woodlots in Newbury, near Cheney's Mill. This mill was on the Parker River at the falls near what is now Byfield Village, some 12 miles from Newbury. In 1715 his eldest son married and bought a house lot and barn in Rowley. Daniel also bought several small parcels of land on the Merrimac River with rights of commonage in Newbury.  Daniel bought multiple lots of land in Rowley as well as rights to the cow common. These lots were in a tract of land known in the deeds as the 3,000.  I assume that meant that it was 3,000 acres.  The lots were laid out in ranges, identified by letters of the alphabet, which were divided into lots identified by numbers. Daniel left his son Richard seventeen of these lots. I have been trying to pinpoint the location of these lots some of which were described as being along the Penn Brook. The Penn Brook runs north and south and is near today's Georgetown.  Hey if you know more about these lots let me know.

In 1675 Daniel's father served as a mounted trooper in King Philip's War. All the men who served were promised land in exchange for their service.  Unfortunately, this land was given long after most of them were dead. Daniel Sr's land was given to his son Daniel.  Lunenburgh is in Maine, and there is no reason to believe that Daniel ever set foot on this land, but he did leave it to his sons.

Daniel Jr. died in 1720 and his father became the guardian of his son Thomas. Daniel Sr. buried his wife and five or six of his children before dying himself on 18 Feb 1737, age 76.  His son Jonathan died the next September of 1738. Mary Dresser Thurston died on 7 December 1735.  Most of the Thurstons were buried in Newbury.

will and inventory 
Unfortunately there is no inventory of Daniel's estate, but he did have a will. It is clear by the will that he had already given some of his sons land.  His oldest living son John was his executor and he was named last in the will. His Lunenburgh last was split three ways between Benjamin, Jonathan and Richard. The daughters were to be paid in cash.

Benjamin: Lunenburgh land, 2 thatch islands in Great Creek between Newbury and Rowley, 1/2 acre of thatch bank in the corner of my meadow known as Bishops Meadow, and what he has already received

Jonathan: Lunenburgh land, the land he had already deeded to him, which was 10 1/2 lots of land near Hazeltine's Brook, 1/2 of my lot of marsh called the lower lot, 1/2 of my lot of meadow in Rowley on the N. side of Nelsons Island which I bought from Nathaniel Dresser , 1 lot in Rowley near Penn Brook, lot 5, range G, plus a driftway through his lot in the F range.

Richard: Lunenburgh land, 17 lots of land in the 3,000, the other 1/2 marsh called the lower lot and the 1/2 of the meadow bought from Nathaniel Dresser.

Mary Chute: 26 pounds and 1/3 of his household goods

Hannah Frazer: 26 pounds and 12 shillings, plus 1/3 household goods

Martha Jewett:  29 pounds, 1/3 of the household goods

Granddaughter Sarah Thurston: 20 pounds

John:  all lands, goods, housing, chattell that have not already been disposed of, all his debt and his legacies to his daughters were to be paid from this estate.

So, Daniel seems to have left his children, especially his sons, with a pretty decent inheritance. I wish there was an inventory, but it must have gotten lost over the years.  But it seems clear that he was able to build on his own inheritance from his father and not only increase his personal wealth but pass it on to his children.

my thurston ancestry
Daniel Thurston and Ann Pell
Daniel Thurston  -  Mary Dresser
Benjamin Thurston  - Mary Gage
Mary Thurston  -  James Chadwick
Hannah Chadwick  -  Jonathan Blanchard
James Blanchard   -  Phebe Carter
Chloe Banchard  -  Samuel Thornton
John Clark Thornton  - Jennie Clover Rowell
my grandparents
my parents

Newbury Estuarine Management Plan - 2005
Stories From Ipswich
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 
Hackett, David Fisher, "Albion's Seed", Oxford Press, New York, 1989

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