Jonathan Stott, 1793-1863

Jonathan Stott, 1793-1863

Born at Failsworth in Lancashire, as a boy Jonathan Stott learned the weaving trade in his father’s silk mill. But he chose to follow the military example of his older brother Joseph, who enlisted at 17. (Joseph was killed only two years later, probably in India.) Jonathan joined the Sixth Foot Regiment, now known as the First Warwickshire Regiment of Foot. Formed in 1674, it’s one of the oldest in the British Army.

After fighting in Spain and France, his regiment was ordered to Canada to serve in the Niagara Campaign of the War of 1812. They landed in Quebec in June of 1814. By August, they were fighting the Siege of Fort Erie, the longest engagement of that campaign. For six weeks, the British battered the fort held by the Americans, suffering heavy casualties as well as illness and exposure in their rough encampment. On September 14, 1814, Jonathan Stott was captured by the Americans.[...] read more

Thomas Baxter, a somewhat unpleasant person

“A Piratical Vessel destroying a Merchant Ship,” from The Pirate’s Own Book, by Charles Ellms, 2004

Mercenary, pirate, double-crosser, jailbird, bigamist, wife-abandoner. “Well, at least he didn’t kill anybody,” says one descendant.

Meet Thomas Baxter, born between 1626 and 1628, either in Shropshire or Norfolk. We don’t know how he got here but he may have come with his father George as part of the Winthrop fleet to Massachusetts in 1630. We don’t know his mother’s name for sure, but it might have been Mary Adams. The Baxters moved to New Amsterdam with a few other English families in 1635, and in 1641 were given a grant of farmland on the site of present-day Bellevue Hospital, on the East River. Thomas probably grew up on that farm. George worked for the Dutch West India Company, was secretary and translator for both governors Kieft and Stuyvesant, and also did business with the bloodthirsty Captain John Underhill (a Vail ancestor), but those stories are for another day.[...] read more

The first American Colt

John Colt, ca. 1630-ca. 1713

I kind of hate to write this boring post and burst any family bubbles. The truth is, we know very little about John Colt, the first immigrant to come here with that family name. And much of what we thought we knew turns out to have been spun in the 19th century to please Colt descendants. We don’t know his birth or death date, the names of his parents, or when and how he got here. We don’t know where he came from, or if he has any connection whatsoever to Colts Hall in Cavendish, Sudbury. Turns out he didn’t come here in 1633 on the Griffin as a ward of the famous Rev. Thomas Hooker, and he probably didn’t get here in 1638 on the Susan and Ellen as some have claimed, either. His first genuine sighting in the records is in 1656, when he was fined for playing cards in Hartford.[...] read more

The Oranjeboom expedition of 1625

Antique Dutch Delft ca. 1625-1650

In 1625, a small family from a town near Utrecht – Wolffaert Gerritsz Van Kouwenhoven, his wife Neeltgen Jacobsdochter, and their children Gerrit, Pieter, and Jacob – set out on a midwinter crossing from Amsterdam. They were part of a six-vessel expedition, organized by the Amsterdam Chamber, carrying hundreds of colonists and supplies to New Amsterdam. It was the largest colonizing effort yet undertaken by the Dutch. The six ships were called, in English, the Orange Tree, Cow, Black Horse, Sheep, Mackerel, and Rider. In addition to people the Oranjeboom carried most of the expedition’s farming tools, seeds, and live plants. The Koe and the Swaerte Paert carried hundreds of cows, horses, sheep, and hogs. The Schaep and Mackereel carried equipment and passengers, and the Ruijter held people and livestock.[...] read more

The man who owned Baltimore

The Story of Cole’s Harbor

Thomas Cole (1603-1679) was probably a passenger on the Transport, which sailed from London to Virginia in 1635. His age would have been about 32, which means that his wife Priscilla and their children Sarah, Rebecca, and Mary most likely traveled with him. Cole was the second son and third child of the Rev. Humphrey Cole, the Vicar of Tillingham in Essex. The Reverend’s oldest son, William, had already emigrated to Virginia in 1618, and would later move to Maryland.

Cole and his family settled first in Accomack County, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. By 1649 they had moved to Maryland, probably Baltimore County, and by 1656 they were in Anne Arundel County. By January 1657, Thomas, his brother William, and William’s son “William Coale” were all acknowledged Quakers, and the younger William was on his way to becoming a Quaker leader. The Reverend Humphrey had died in 1624, so we don’t know how he would have reacted to all this free thinking.[...] read more

Abraham Isaacks, d. 1743

When Abraham Isaacks arrived in New York from Holland in 1698, the total Jewish population in the colonies numbered two to three hundred. He may have been as young as 5 years old, in which case he was probably in the company of his parents, whose names are not known to us.

Like many of colonial New York’s Jews, Isaacks became a merchant. He was also a landowner and was actively involved in New York political life – both unusual traits for Jews of the time, even for prosperous ones like Isaacks.[...] read more

The man who bought Nantucket

Richard Swain (1600-1682)  and his family emigrated to New England in 1635, taking three different ships as a precaution against loss. Richard sailed on the Truelove; his wife Elizabeth (Basselle) and three young children on the Planter; and their two older sons in care of friends on the Rebecca. The family first settled in Rowley, Massachusetts, then followed the charismatic Rev. Stephen Bachiler (a Vail ancestor) to New Hampshire in 1638, where they founded the town of Hampton.

Swain was a leading citizen of Hampton but left twenty years later after a series of difficult events. In 1657 his wife Elizabeth died, and that same year his son William was lost in a tragedy that affected the whole town. The Ghost Ship, newly built and on its maiden voyage to Boston, went down just outside of port and lost everyone aboard. Eight residents of Hampton died. Swain married a neighbor, widowed by the same event, and took in her five children. The following year he was fined and disenfranchised for harboring Quakers. By 1660 he had turned his property over to his daughters and moved with his two remaining sons, his new wife, and stepchildren to Massachusetts, where he and his son John were two of the ten original purchasers of the island of Nantucket from Thomas Mayhew. The purchase price was thirty pounds silver and two beaver hats.[...] read more

Josephs, Wilson, Pearson & Stott immigrants by year

I just added a new page to the history department and am reproducing it here.

Here’s a PDF chart showing every ancestor of our father’s family I can find who came from elsewhere. It shows their dates of arrival but not the ships they came in on; that information can be found here. I separated the immigrants into four lines based on the families of our paternal great-grandparents: Josephs, Wilson, Pearson, and Stott. Altogether I’ve found  228 Josephs forebears who chose to emigrate to this country, and 95% of them got here in the 1600s. Moreover, 85% of them were part of the Great Migration and were here by the 1640s.[...] read more

Banned in Boston! William Pynchon

Iconoclast William Pynchon

William Pynchon (1590-1662), founder of Roxbury and Springfield, lay theologian, canny trader, friend to Indians, was for a time one of the wealthiest and most important men in Massachusetts. He also wrote the New World’s first banned book, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, incensing the Puritans so greatly that they gathered every copy they could and burned them on Boston Common. They missed four. Scandalously, he argued against predestination and in favor of obedience to God as the path to salvation. Then, rather than recant or face ruin, he quietly transferred all his assets to his son and sailed back to England, where he continued to needle the Puritans by writing four more books.[...] read more

Of Quakers & the Devil: John Warren

17th Century Settlements in the New England Colonies, map by American School

John Warren (1585-1667) was born in Nayland, Suffolk, England, and came to Salem in 1630 as part of the Winthrop fleet, traveling on either the Arabella or the Lyon. With him were his wife, Margaret Bayly, and their four children, ages 1 to 8. The family went first to Charlestown and then settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. There Warren served several terms as selectman, a position of high regard, and was appointed to lay out all highways and see that they were repaired.

But he sympathized with the Quakers and found himself at increasing odds with the Puritans. By the 1650s he was in continual trouble with the authorities as can be seen from the records:[...] read more

Rev. Peter Bulkeley  

Rev. Peter Bulkeley, “noted even among Puritans for the superlative stiffness of his Puritanism”

The Rev. Peter Bulkeley (1583–1659) was an influential early Puritan preacher who left England to find greater religious freedom in the American colony of Massachusetts.  He was a founder of Concord, sat in judgment at the trial of Anne Hutchinson, and was named by his descendant Ralph Waldo Emerson in a not very flattering poem about the founders of Concord, Hamatreya.

Born to wealth in Odell, Bedfordshire, Bulkeley was a fellow at St. John’s College in Cambridge before succeeding his father, Edward, as rector at St. Odell, from 1620 to 1635. He also picked up his father’s nonconformist beliefs and got in increasing trouble with Anglican authorities. Finally, when he refused to wear a surplice or use the Sign of the Cross during a visit by the Archbishop, he was kicked out of the church.[...] read more