Sunday, July 9, 2017

Nicholas and Sarah (Cox) Norris of Hampton and Exeter, New Hampshire

The English or otherwise origins of Nicholas Norris of Hampton and Exeter New Hampshire are unknown. One descendant claimed that there was a family tradition that he came from Ireland as a boy, but there is nothing to support this claim.[1] He was probably born around  1640 as he was married on 21 January 1664 to Sarah Cox of Hampton. His wife Sarah was born in Hampton, her parents were Moses and Alice Cox. The 1664 recording of the marriage is the first mention of Nicholas in the New Hampshire records. [2] Torrey says the marriage was in 1663. [3]

Nicholas as a tailor by trade. He most like did other work to make ends meet. His first house was between Abraham Perkins Sr. and Isaac Godfrey. It included 3 acres. He must have bought a second house in Hampton as he recorded the sale of it in 1671 after his removal to Exeter. This house was bought from Thomas Webster.

Prior to leaving Hampton, Sarah Cox Norris became a full member of the Hampton church on 5 April 1668. Although everyone went to church, no everyone was willing to go through the confessional process to become full members. Nicholas did not join his wife in the full membership of their church. [4]

 Nicholas was first recorded in Exeter on 30 August 1671. His property was mentioned in a town meeting in which they banned folks from stacking logs on the meeting house hill and then roll them down the hill to the river below. [5] His home must have  been nearby.

He received a land grant of 50 acres in 1681 and another 50 in 1682. In 1705 he was granted 20 more acres. His son Moses received 50. In 1725 Nicholas Norris Sr. received 30 acres. [6]

The New Hampshire towns were on the frontier. Trouble frequently flared between the town inhabitants and the Native Americans. In 1695 the town was tasked with manning its garrison. Each man had to spend approximately one month in defense of the town. Nicholas was no exception, his 'tour of duty' was from 31 August to 28 September 1696. [7] The last Indian raid occurred in 1723.

Sarah Norris, b. 20, 7, 1664, d. Feb 10, 1667
Sarah Norris, b. 10, 12, 1666, d. young
John Norris, b. 10, 5, 1667; no record; he probably d. when young
Moses Morris, b. Aug 14. 1670; m. Ruth Folsom; res. Exeter
Jonathan Norris, b. March 5, 1673; res. Stratham, N.H.
Abigail Norris, b. Nov 29, 1675; alive in 1714
Sarah Norris, b. April 10, 1678; m. Benjamin Hoag
James Norris, b. Nov 16, 1680, d. fate unknown, received a land grant in 1698 that was given to someone else in 1730, in a 1714 land deed, Moses was to give his brother James a share if "he returned." Was he taken by Indians?

Elizabeth Norris, b. Sept 4, 1683; no record

It is not known when Nicholas or Sarah died. We do know that Sarah died first as Nicholas remarried. His second wife was Mary Jones who outlived him. He seems to have outlived at least 5 of his children.

[1] Dow, Joseph, 1807-1889. History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire: From Its Settlement In 1638, to the Autumn of 1892 Vol 2. (Salem, Mass.: Printed by the Salem press publishing and printing co., 1893) 881.

[2] Noyes, Sybil. Genealogical Dictionary of Maine And New Hampshire. (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1972) 513.

[3] Torry, Clarence A. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004.

[4] Noyes, Libbey, Davis, GDMNH, 513.

[5] Bell, Charles Henry, 1823-1893. History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1990.

[6] Bell, Charles Henry, 1823-1893. History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1990.

[7] Bell, Charles Henry, 1823-1893. History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1990.

[8] Nicholas Norris Hampton NH genealogy on RootsWeb

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Moses and Alice Cox of England and Hampton, New Hampshire

Nothing is known of Mose Cox's early life so this post will focus on what is known about his life in New Hampshire. Moses was born about 1594 based on his age at death. His birthplace is unknown as is the year that he immigrated to New England. According to GDMNH he was in Ipswich and possible Watertown, Massachusetts for a brief time prior to arriving in Hampton. [1] His name is found in the notebook of Boston Lawyer Thomas Lechford. A woman named Margaret Stebbins of Waterford said that she bought some suet from Moses in 1639 while he was living in Ipswich. I'm not sure what the context of the case in which this was mentioned. [2] 

Moses, named as a cowkeeper

Moses was granted 7 acres of land for a house lot in 1640, making him one of the early settlers of Hampton.[3] He was not married at the time. His name was recorded by Edward Colcord on  his list of the "First-Comers" to Hampton. He is listed a young unmarried man with a lot. Although, if he were born around 1594 then he was 46, not exactly young. [4] He was given the job of herdsman at a January 1641 town meeting. In 1645 he was granted two shares of the cow common. [5] He was given various other land grants over the years.

civic duty
All New England men had to perform various duties in support of their town. Some did more than others. Moses held the minor post of cow keeper in his early days in Hampton. It was not until 1662, when he was almost seventy years old, did he hold on the position of Prudential Man. One of the men charged with the running of the town for the year. In 1679 he was on a list of men who could vote in the General Assembly. In 1681 he was officially freed from the duties of the train band. This was normally done around the age of 60 or so. Either Moses was an exceptionally fit man for his advanced age or he was not born as early as 1594.[6]

marriage and family
The date and circumstances of Moses' marriage are unknown to us. He probably have a limited pool of potential wives to choose from. Daughters, sisters and widow's of Hampton men were his most likely choice. The date of birth for most of his children are also unknown. We do know that his first wife's name was Alice. In 1649 Alice and Moses sat in the 'third seat' at the meetinghouse, each on their respected sex's side. As seating assignments were a virtual 'pecking order' of the inhabitants, the Cox family was not a top rung family.

The couple had at least five children. John is believed to have been the oldest. He was followed by three sisters and another brother, Moses who is known to have been born on 2 November 1649. [7]

more about alice
By more, I actually less. If you have seen on the web in places like Find A Grave and other genealogy site, that the parents of Alice are Humphrey and Susan Wise (Wythe) don't believe it. These claims are unsourced and there is no basis for them. It is possible that Moses met Alice in Ipswich, but there is no indication of who her parents were. [8]

the wreck of the rivermouth
On the 20th of October 1657 tragedy struck several Hampton Families; the Swains, Philbicks and  Coxes. A small ship left the Hampton harbor bound for Boston. The wreck was recorded in the Hampton records as follows:

The: 20th of the 8 mo 1657
The sad Hand of God upon Eight p[er]sons goeing in a small vessell by Sea from Hampton to boston Who wear all swallowed up i the ocian sone after they ware out of the Harbour the p[er]sons wear by name as Followeth 
Robert Read
Sargent: Will Swaine
Manewell: Hilyard
John: Philbrick
& Ann: Philbrick His wife
Sarah: Philbrick their daught
Alice the wife of moses Cocks:
and John Cocks their sonn:

who ware all Drowned the: 20th of the 8 mo: 1657"[9]

Alice and John drowned in the wreck. John was probably not more than 15 years old. Why they were going to Boston is unknown. On 15 June 1658, less than a year from the death of their spouses, Moses Cox married Prudence Marston Swaine, widow of William Swaine. She was close to forty years old and had eight children. The youngest, Elizabeth, was born after the death of her father. 

Moses and Prudence had one child together, a daughter named Leah, born 21 April 1661. [10]

John d. 1657
Mary b. abt. 1644 m. John Godfrey
Sarah m. Nicholas Norris
Rachael m. Thomas Rollins
Moses b. 2 November 1649, d. before 1682
Leah b. 21 April 1661 m. James Perkins

Moses died on 28 May 1687. If he was born in 1594 then he was ninety three years old at his death, a great age even by today's standards. I have to believe that he was not really this old, but that is just my opinion. At his death his daughters were living. His son Moses, Jr. was not named in the will, written in 1682. His wife Prudence may have been alive, but we do not know her date of death. 


[1] Noyes, Sybil I., Charles Thornton Libby, and Walter Goodwin Davis,Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub., 1972) 167.

[2] Lechford, Thomas, approximately 1590-1644?. Note-book Kept by Thomas Lechford, Esq., Lawyer, In Boston, Massachusetts Bay, From June 27, 1638 to July 29, 1641. Cambridge: John Wilson and son, 1885.

[3] Hampton Towrn Records, Volume 7 page 10

[4] Noyes, Libby, Davis, GDMNH, 55.

[5]Dow, Joseph, History of the Town of Hampton, N.H. from its First Settlement in 1638 to the Autumn of 1892, (Salem, Mass.: Salem Press Publ. & Print, 1893).

[6]New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers, Vol. XXXX

[7] Lane Memorial Library Rootsweb page for Moses Cox

[8] Clifford L. Stott, "The English Ancestry of Humphrey and Susan (Pakeham) Wythe of Ipswich, Massachusetts, The American Genealogist, (Oct. 1993) 116.

[10] Noyes, Libby, Davis, GDMNH, 167.

New Hampshire. Probate Court. Probate Records of the Province of New Hampshire ... 1635-[1771]. Concord, N.H.: Rumford Printing Co., 19071941.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

William Marston of Ormsby St. Margaret, Norfolk, England and Hampton, New Hampshire

The subject of this article is William Marson who emigrated to New England by 1640 when he was recorded as recieveing a land grant. There were actually two men named William Marston, both apparently  from the same part of Norfolk, who left England during the period now known as the Great Migration. The genealogy of these two men have been confused and intertwined, making for a genealogy headache for researchers. I am hoping I can straightened them out for you. Note that these men were from Norfolk and not Yorkshire England.

English origins
A surprising number of Great Migation immigrants hailed from in and around a tiny village on the Norfolk coast called Ormesby St. Margaret. The families included Estows, Moultons, Dow, Page and Marstons. These names are found in a 1610 rental agreement for land on the Manor of Ormesby. [1] This and other reseach from the area also shows us that there were multiple extended families with  those surnames. This makes tracing the immigrants ancestry difficult. Both of the William Marstons who immigrated to New England were from Ormesby and were likely related to each other.

The William Marston, who settled eventually in Hampton, was born about 1590. Noyes, Libbey, Davis say that his father was Henry Marston. [2] Henry was the son of Thomas and Alice Marston. This line has been traced back to a Thomas Marston of Bastwick, Norfolk who was born about 1435. Thomas, in his will asked to be buried in the churchyard of St. Sebastian, which is actually in  Woodbastick on the very edge of the Norfolk Broads. [3] His son Robert Marston was born about 1465 and married a woman named Margaret ____. He died in Bastwick in 1514. His son Thomas was born about 1495, most likely in Bastwick. He married Alice ____ about 1525. At some point this couple moved to Ormesby St. Margaret. Thomas wrote his will there on 17 April 1548, it was proved 29 March 1549. His son John inherited his house and lands but  Thomas left money and a mare for his son Henry. Alice married again, she was known as Mother Allen in her son John's will. She left all her estate to her son Henry when she died around 1587.

Henry married and lived in Ormesby. The name of his wife is unfortuately unknown. His oldest son, Robert Marston, was born about 1575. This Robert had a son Robert, who also immigrated to Hampton, New Hampshire along with his Uncle William. This dispells the idea that Robet and William were brothers. [4]

william the immigant
William was born around 1590, most likely in Ormesby St. Margaret. He was married by about 1615. The name of his first wife is unknown.  That's right her name is unknown. Many, many current ancestries out there give her name as Sarah Goody. This is not correct. The William Marston who lived in Salem married a woman named Sarah ___. [5] According to Torrey, William and Sarah ____ were married by 1653.[6] Torreys' references for our William's marriage are as follows: Pillsbury: Unknown [7], Stone: Unknown [8], Tingley Meyers: Sarah? [9], Blake-Glidden: Unknown [10] Torrey's Register reference does not address the marriage. Marston-Weaver: Unknown [11]. Tellingly, the more current the publication the more likely the wife is said to be unknown. Libby, Noyes and Davis also say unknown.

The William Marston of Salem and his wife Sarah had eight children all recorded in the Salem records, all after 1653. Sidney Perly in his history of Salem confused him with the William in Marston, actually saying that they were the same man, this might be where the confusion comes from. [12]

Hemsby, Norfolk, England
William and his unknown wife had at least five children, all born in England. The baptism of the first two, Thomas and Prudence cannot be found, but the last three, William, Ann and John are believed to have been baptised in the village of Hemsby at St. Mary the Virgin. Their LNAB was spelled Merstone. [13] The last child born in England  was baptized in 1630.

Most printed genealogies seem to agree that William was in Massachusetts by 1636. Like many new immigrants he took his time before settling in one location. He and many of his Ormesby neighbors may have moved as a group several times before settling in Hampton, New Hampshire. He was certainly there by 1640 when he was alloted a house lot and planting ground. Many of these families intermarried, just as they had done in England, forming and reforming family units. It must have provided some measure of comfort in their strange new home to rely on old neighbors from home. I can only imagine what excitement a letter from Ormesby must have caused for a large portion of the population.

Not much is known about William but he must have been well respected. In 1643 the towns of New Hampshire, petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to take them under their wing. William was a signatory of the agreement. In 1649 he was assigned to the first seat in the meetinghouse, not quite the head table but  the best to next. On the woman's side in the first seat was Goody Marston, presumably his wife. This was the only time that Goody Marston was mentioned in any record. Is this where the incorrect surname Goody comes from?

 In 1652 William was elected to serve his community as a selectman. The selectmen were like the city councilmen, they were charged with running the town for the year. In 1652, William would be about 62 years old. His children were grown. Was his wife alive, we don't know.

second family
Like many women of her time, the first Mrs. Maston remains nameless. She is not mentioned in any record other than the seating chart. Around 1662 William married for the second time. This second wife was much younger than her seventy year old husband. She had the very pretty name of Sabina. But what was her surname and who were her parents? Torrey offers up two surnames found in Marston genealogies and lots of question marks. Libby, Noyes, Davis says Hermins Locke, Pillsbury: Unknown; Stone: Unknown; Tingley-Meyers: Page; Marston Gene.: Sabrina Page, d/o Robert and Lucy Page; Blake-Glidden: Sabina Locke. So we have three options: Unknown, Hermins Locke or Page. The problem with each of these possibilites is that no proof is offered for any of them.

Robert Page was one of the most important men in Hampton at that time. He served as a selectman eight times and as deputy to the general court twice.  He too was from Ormesby. The children of Robert Page are pretty well documented. He and Lucy had seven documented children, some born in England and some in New England after they immigrated. All but Susanna, who seems to have died young, married local men/women and had children. If Sabina was a daughter of Robert Page she would have been born after 1640 or so, making her 20 years old or less at the time of her marriage. Why would a twenty year old woman want to marry a seventy year old man?

In his 1679 will, Robert names all of his children and many of his grandchildren, leaving them multiple bequeaths. He even names William Marston, son of William Sr. who married Rebecca Page. There is no Sabina and no Tryphena mentioned in this will. Serioius Page family researchers, like John Brooks Threlfall,  do not include Sabina in the family. [14]

not a good puritan
Not all immigrants to New England were satisfied by the enforced Puritan theology. New ideas were creeping into the around the edges. The Quaker religion started in England around 1650 by George Fox. It quickly spread to New England where it was viewed as heretical. In 1657 William was fined for being in the possession of "a paper and two books, inculcated with Quaker doctrine." [15]

william's will
In 1672 William wrote his will, all of his children were grown and married with the exception of Tryphena who was still a child.[16] Surprisingly, other than five shillings apiece, he left his entire estate to that child. His oldest children ranged in age from their 50's to 42. Tryphena was 9. Maybe he felt he had done enough for his older children and wanted to take care of his small daughter, we don't have an answer for that. Her mother Sabina was named executrix of the estate. The following year, Sabina married again, this time to a man named John Redman.

Some of the Marston genealogies suggest that William Jr. contested the will and somehow ended up with the house and land. I have not been able to find the court records referenced, but I'll keep looking.

1. Thomas b. prob. 1617 Ormesby, m. Mary Estow d/o William Eastow of Hampton.
2. Prudence b. prob. 1622 Ormesby, m. (1) William Swaine 1642, (2) Moses Coxe 16 June 1658
3. William bp. 11 March 1626 Hemesby, m. Rebecca Page d/o Robert 15 Oct. 1652.
4. Anne bp. 6 Dec 1628, d. 7 Dec 1628 Hemesby
5. John bp. 20 June 1630 Hemesby, m. Martha
5. Tryphena b. 28 Dec. 1633 m. Joseph Philbrick.


[1] J. Gardner Bartlett, "Extracts From a Rental of the Manor of Ormesby Co. Norfolk, 1610," The New England Historic and Genealogical Register, (October 1915) Vol. 69, p. 343.

[2]  Sybil I. Noyes, Charles Thornton Libby, and Walter Goodwin Davis, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub., 1972) 462.

[3] Mary Lovering Holeman, Holman, Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury And John Sargent Pillsbury, [Concord, N.H.: Priv. print. at the Rumford press], 1938.  

[4] Holeman, Ancestry of Charles Sinston Pillsbury, 354.

[5] John W. Jordan, Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 2004) 1102.

[6] "Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700," database; New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.) Originally published as: New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.

[7] Holeman, Ancestry of Charles Stinston Pillsbury, 355

[8] Davis, Walter Goodwin,. The ancestry of Sarah Stone : wife of James Patten of Arundel (Kennebunkport) Maine, (Portland, Me.: Southworth Press, 1930)131.

[9] Tingley, Raymon Meyers,. Some ancestral lines : being a record of some of the ancestors of Guilford Solon Tingley and his wife, Martha Pamelia [sic] Meyers.( Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Pub. Co., 1935) 220.

[10] Edith Bartlett Sumner, Ancestry of Edward Wales Blake and Clarissa Matilda Glidden, with ninety allied families, (Ann Arbor: Edwards Bros. 1948) 171.

[11] Eve Weaver O'Connell, Marston-Weaver, A Tribute to My Parents, (Boston: Privately Printed, 1951) 2.

[12] Perley, Sidney. The History of Salem, Massachusetts. Salem, MA: S. Perley, 1924. Print.

[13] search

[14] John Brooks Threlfall, Fifty Great Migration Colonists, (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1992) 216.

[15] Court records of the Province of New Hampshire

[16] "Essex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1638-1881,"Online database, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014. "Will of Henry Marston, Sr. of Hampton," (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

William Pynchon; Massachusetts Puritan and Businessman

William Pynchon, Puritan leader, astute businessman and amateur theologian, was a extremely  interesting man who seems to be somewhat overlooked in the history of the founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Although I am not related to him, I wanted to write about him as I do find him  a fascinating standout from his contemporaries. So, here is what I know about William Pynchon.

english origins
William Pynchon would recognize this street in Writtle.
William Pynchon was born in 1590, possibly on the 26th of December. [1] His parents are known to be John Pynchon and Francis Brett Pynchon. He was most likely born at the family home in Writtle in the county of Essex. Queen Elizabeth I still had 13 years left to her reign. The Protestant church had run the Catholics underground but was unable to reach a consensus of exactly what a Protestant should believe. As an adult in Massachusetts, William Pynchon would be part of the narrative of Protestant discourse.

The Pynchon family had deep roots in Essex.  They had owned farmland in and around the village of Writtle, near the market town of Chelmsford, since the late 1400's. William's ancestry can be traced to his great grand father William  Pynchon (1513-1552). Although the Visitation of Essex in 1612 by Herald Raven seems to indicate that the family can be traced to Nicholas Pynchon of London this is not the case.[2] Nicholas Pynchon in his will, proved in 1533, left a bequest to his "cousin" John Pynchon in Writtle. Clearly there was some type of relationship between the Pynchons of London and the Pynchons of Writtle but exactly what we do not know. Nicholas also left money for a Priest in Writtle to sing for the souls of his mother and father and all his children's souls. It may be that he was originally from Writtle. [3]

Parish Church of Writtle
What we know about William comes from his will which he wrote on 13 July 1551 and was proved 5 September 1552. His birth year is only an estimate but we can be sure that he died in the latter part of 1552. Although William called himself Yeoman, he was clearly a wealthy man. His wife's name was Elizabeth Allen. (He named her brother as Robert Allen in his will). She may or may not be the mother of his children. His eldest son and heir was his son John. He also had sons George, Edward and Henry. [4]

William's will was pretty complicated and it appears that he had made a settlement on his wife to which she agreed to not claim her widows thirds which would be to the detriment of his children. To almost force her hand, he gave houses to her two sisters which they would not get if she tried to claim her third. He also had five daughters; Alice, Margery, Joane, Dennys and Joyce all named in his will. [5]

In a key bequest, William left some land to his granddaughter Elizabeth, the daughter of his son John and his wife Helen. This bequest for was some land called Cookes near Roxwell. (more about this later)

It is possible that William operated an inn in Writtle. He left his wife a house that he said was called "The Swan" along with a garden called "The Saffron Garden."  The name  'The Swan' was and is a popular name for public houses in England.  Along with this house he had substantial holdings which he left to his children, his estate was  large enough that his eldest son John was considered a Gentleman.

john pynchon 
Excellent Book on William Pynchon
John, eldest son of William, wrote his will on 10 November 1573, it was proved on 11 December the same year. He was probably a middle aged man at the time, as he was married with only one child at the time of his father's death, 20 years earlier. He was likely born around 1530 or so making him only in his forties when he died.

Henry Waters suggests that John may have been a bailiff or land agent for New College, Oxford. In his will he left Doctor Mr. White, Warden of New College a horse and called him "a great good master." [5] He held leases on East Hall in Bradwell, a windmill and other properties owned by the New College. In his will he names his sister Dennys and his daughter Elizabeth who received the property known as Cookes from her grandfather. This confirms that his father was William Pynchon and not Nicholas Pynchon of London. John had also moved to Springfield, on the opposite side of Chelmsford from Writtle. Today Springfield is part of Chelmsford.

John named in his will his wife Jane, children William, John, Edward and Elizabeth the daughter named in his father's will. It appears that his first wife Helen died and he remarried. There is some confusion as to the identity of Jane, who was mother of William, John and Edward. According to Waters Jane was the daughter of Sir Richard Empson, a knight and MP, who was on the wrong side of King Henry VIII. Henry had him beheaded at the Tower of London in 1510. Pretty exciting stuff! But, Sir Richard was beheaded in 1510. Jane did not marry John until after the probate of William's will, remember John was married to Helen. She would not have given birth to William until 1553 or 1554 at the earliest. If Sir Richard was her father, the latest she could have been born was 1511. This would put her in her mid forties when she began having children and in her mid fifties when she gave birth to her last child. I don't believe it. Also, there is no source that would back this up. No writing about Sir Richard includes a daughter named Jane.

jane pynchon wilson
John left Jane a very wealthy widow with lots of land and houses. She remained unmarried for several years. She eventually remarried. Her new husband, of whom she must have been very proud, was in her words, " the Honorable Thomas Wilson, One of her Majesties Principal Secretaries."[7] In his own will dated 1582, Thomas said he was a member of Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council and called Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen's Spymaster, his great friend. Pretty exciting stuff, I wonder if she got to meet the Queen. I hope so. Jane left all her land and houses to her eldest son Willliam. William was to pay her second son John £300 out of the estate.

john pynchon jr.
Norman tower, St. Mary's Broomfield
Again, what we know about John Pynchon comes from his will. He died on the fourth of September 1610. [8] John's older brother William had received  the lion's share of their father's estate; land and houses in Writtle and the surrounding countryside. William's wife Rose, in her will, left thousands of pounds to her children. Despite being a second son, John had enough wealth to be considered a gentleman. He made his home in Springfield, which today is a part of Chelmsford. It is on the opposite side of the town from Writtle.

In his will of 1610 John identified his wife as Frances and his children as William, his heir, Peter, and six daughters; Ann, Frances, Jane, Alice, Isabel and Susanne. John died before his son William had reached his majority, which seems to have happen quite often.

John's wife Frances was the daughter of John Brett and his third wife Isabel Brook. She was baptized on 29 July 1570 at Broomfield, Essex. John Brett was a gentleman who lived in Broomfield, possibly he was Lord of the Manor as he owned a dovecote, a privilege reserved for those in that position. Isabel Brook was his third wife. She was from Terling and at the time of her marriage she was a servant of Sir Thomas Mildmay. John died in late 1582. Francis Brett's brother Thomas left her son William several pieces of property in his will. [9]

william the immigrant
William came of age during a tumultuous time in English history. He was born in the dying days of the Tudor Dynasty. Queen Elizabeth was a old woman without a direct male heir. Her cousin, James 6th of Scotland became James I of England. James was a lifelong Calvinist and without getting bogged down in the details, his religious beliefs put him at odds with many of the protestants in England. This would have a great impact on the life of William Pynchon.

William reached his majority the year after his father's death in 1610. He inherited a house, barn and farm buildings, garden and orchard as well as acreage. He also inherited property in Broomfield from his Uncle Thomas Brett.

marriage and children
The exact date, even year, of William's marriage to Ann Andrews, daughter of William Andrews, is unknown. Nor do we know where they were married. William Andrews lived in Twywell in Nottinghamshire, near the town of Northampton. Based on their children's ages, they were most likely married around 1618.

As most fertile couples did, they fired off children in 1 1/2 to 2 year intervals. Anna was born about 1620, Mary was born about 1622, Margaret about 1624 and finally John, who was born around 1625 or 1626. [10] (this birth order is according to his biographer David M. Powers). Robert Charles Anderson's Winthrop Fleet has a slightly different birth order with Anne b. 1618, Mary b. 1620, John b. 1622 and finally Margaret b. 1624. [11]

a good puritan
Chelmsford, Essex was a large market town and legal center. County Essex in the1620's was "Puritan Central." Many of the ministers and puritan leaders  of the Massachusett Bay Colony, including John Winthrop, were from Essex. The Reverend Thomas Hooker was lecturing in Chelmsford by 1626.  He was one of the most influential Puritan Minister, he fled England in 1629 to avoid Archbishop Laud and his ecclesiastical court, the Court of High Commission. He immigrated to Massachuestt in 1633 and was the founder of the Connecticut Colony. It is possible if not probable that his evangelical style of preaching influenced William Pynchon.

It is not known if William attended college, but he was certainly a very intelligent man who was well educated. He served several times as churchwarden for his parish in Springfield, Essex. All Saint's Church was their place of worship. The church warden was not only responsible for the church building, but for the people who attended it. The warden was concerned with law and order, local housing for the poor and unemployment. [12] This work surely honed his administrative skills that he would put to good use in Springfield, Massachusetts.

William was a founding member of the "Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England." He was named in the 1628 charter issued by King Charles I. From May 1629 onward he participated in most of the prepatory meetings leading up to the launch of the expedition. William was recorded as paying £25  for stock in the company; this would guarantee him a share in land and profits, if there were any.  He was also part of a smaller group known as the Roxwell Group. These men pushed hard for action and not just talk. They were fully committed to leaving England and immigrating to New England. They signed an agreement promising to embark for Massachusetts by March 1, 1630. [13] This agreement was known as The Cambridge Agreement can be read here in full at the Winthrop Society webpage.

They didn't quite make the March 1 deadline but by late March the passengers were aboard their ships. The Pynchon family sailed on the Ambrose. They remained anchored off of Cowes until the morning of 8 April; a favorable wind was at their back, the Captain weighed anchor and set his course for Salem, Massachusetts. The passengers spent many weeks on the open sea and arrived in Salem around the 13th of June 1630. [14] One can only imagine their relief at stepping onto dry land once again.

After spending some time recuperating, and regaining their land legs, the new settlers began to spread out looking for optimum locations to set up their new homes. William and his family built their first home in what in now Quincy but was the newly formed town of  Dorchester on the banks of the river Neponset.

On or around 30 August tragedy struck the Pynchon family in the form of death; Ann Pynchon, wife and mother died. William did what most widowers did at that time, he remarried ASAP. His second wife was twice widowed Frances Sanford. She had arrived in Massachusetts with her son, Henry, on 20 March 1630. They were members of the Dorchester Company who sailed on the Mary and John.  Within a few years, Anna Pynchon would married her step brother Henry.

The newly formed family pulled up stakes in Dorchester and settled in Roxbury. William negotiated the sale of his land from the indian Chickataubut, the first of many deals he would make with Native Americans. William played an important role in the new colony. He served on the court of assistants, he was the colony treasurer, he helped establish the first church of Roxbury, and he was in charge of munitions and armaments. All while trying to grow food for his family to eat.

While in Roxbury, William began importing goods to resell to his fellow immigrants. He had a storeroom filled with pots and pans, fabrics and even toys for children. [15] Business was good. Relations with the government were not.  William  had a problem with taxes, he didn't like paying them. This would lead to friction with the colony leaders.

Not only did William import goods, he was an exporter as well. His most profitable export was beaver skins. On 15 July 1636 William signed a deed with the local indians for the rights to the land that would become Springfield, Massachusetts. At that time it was under the jurisdiction of Connecticut. The colony of Plymouth had a head start in the fur trade and had tied up all the land up into Maine. The traders in Massachusett had to look to the west to find their beavers. Springfield proved a profitable location for trading with Indian hunters. It was located on the banks of the Connecticut River which gave them access to Boston by ship rather than overland.

Pynchon was very diffent from his fellow immigrants in his treatment of the native population. He recoginized that the land was theirs. He did not allow natives to be held as slaves but rather dealt with them as fellow businessmen. Men of all trades were sought to swell the population of Springfield. Coopers, brickmakers, blacksmiths, all were welcome. All significant part of the population was from Wales. The townspeople were not necessarily the best Puritans and some where probably not particualarly religious. Over all, William Pynchon held sway. And so it went for almost 20 years. Then he wrote a book.

the meritorious price
On 16 October 1650 a book arrived in the Colony from London. It had a lenghty title and was most likely boring as hell, but it raised quite the controversy. The author was none other than William Pynchon. Although he was not trained as a theologian he certainly had immersed himself in the subject. His book had over 33 sources including a few catholic writers.

His book made four claims but the one that most upset the religious establishment in Massachusetts was his claim that Jesus did not suffer at the hand of God. Humans caused him suffering but God did not. He also claimed that Jesus did not go to Hell upon his death. These comment may possible raise a few eyebrows today, but the response in 1650 was overwhelming condemnation for his book.

The public executioner for Boston was instructed to publicly burn the book. Pynchon was called to Boston to respond before the General Court on 17 April 1651, he faced accusations of heresy. The court required him to work with several prominent ministers of his own choosing to 'correct his thinking'. On 9 May 1651 a letter from him was read to the General Court. He stated that he had changed him mind on one point but was vague about the details. The Court was not satisfied and required him to continue to work on his positions, meaning conform to our way of thinking. He was removed from all magisterial duties pending to outcome of his reschooling. His stepson Henry Smith was made magistrate of Springfield in his stead. William was ordered to report to the court on 14 October 1651. He failed to show. [15]

return to england
After receiving his summons to appear before the General Court William transferred land he had bought from the Indians to several Springfield men including his son and son in law. They were instructed to distribute the land as they saw fit. Shortly before his scheduled court appearance at the October 1651 court, he transferred all his land and business interests to his son John. It is clear that he knew things would not go well for him and he was unyielding in his beliefs. William chose to return to England where his theological beliefs would be tolerated.

England at that time was governed by the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Many wealthy men had left New England to enjoy their Puritan "time in the sun". In fact, there was a reverse migration as families returned England.

Surprisingly, at least to me, William did not return to his ancestral home of Springfield or even to Writtle. Instead, William acquired land in Wraysbury, just to the south of Windsor Castle on the river Thames. He purchased a house called Wyrardisbury House which included the house, outbuildings, dovecote, garden and orchards. the house stood at the south end of Wraybury across the river from Runymede, the site where King John I was forced to sign the Magna Carta.

In October of 1652 Henry Smith, returned to England. Two years later, Ann Pynchon Smith returned with her children. Margaret Pynchon Davis died in childbirth in 1653. John Pynchon, of course, stayed in Springfield, Massachusetts.

meritorious returns
After his return to England, William had his book reprinted. He continued writing up until his death. His books continued to be controversial but he was no longer in danger of being dragged into court or being forced to witness them being burnt.

John Pynchon of Springfield, Massachusetts visited his father and step mother while on business in England. This must have been a happy reunion but a sad farewell. Although John would return to England, he would never see his father or step mother again. William's wife, Francis Sanford Pynchon died on 10 October 1657, five years after their return to England. William's daughter Mary Pynchon Holyoke died in Massachusetts that same October. William had his portrait painted around this time, he seems rather stern and somber.

William, aged 72, wrote his will dated 4 October 1662, it was proved two months later in December. He had lived long enough to witness the end of the Puritan experiment and the return of King Charles II in 1660. I wonder what he thought about that.


[1] Robert Charles Anderson, The Winthrop Fleet, (Boston: New England Historic and Genealogical Society, 2012) 541.

[2] Walter C. Metcalf, editor, The Visitation of Essex, (London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1878) 266. The 1612 Visitation of Essex by Herald Raven, The Pynchon Family.

[3] Henry F. Waters, Genealogical Gleanings in England, (Boston: New England Historic and Genelogicl Society, 1901)845-67.

[4] Waters, Genealogical Gleanings, 848.

[5] Waters, Genealogical Gleanings. 848.

[6] Henry F. Waters, "Genelaogical Gleanings in England", The New England Historic and Genealogical Register. Vol. 48 (April 1894) 241-257.

[7] Waters, Genealogical Gleanings, 852.

[8] Anderson, The Winthrop Fleet, 543.

[8] David M. Powers, Damnable Heresy, William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned (and Burned ) in Boston, (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2015).

[9] Leslie Mahler, "The Family Origin of Frances Brett, Mother of William Pynchon of Roxbury and Springfield, Massachusetts," The American Genealogist, Vol. 76 (July 2001) 211-216; digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 17 January 2017).

[10] David M. Powers, Damnable Heresy, William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned (and Burned ) in Boston, (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2015).

[11] Anderson, The Winthrop Fleet, 543-4.

[12] David M. Powers, Damnable Heresy, 21.

[13] David M. Powers, Damnable Heresy. 14.

[14] John Winthrop, "His Shipboard Journal," The Winthrop Society ( : accessed 18 January2017).

[15] David M. Powers, Damnable Heresy.

Have a great day!