Wednesday, August 10, 2016


My 9x great grandfather John Wiswall moved from Roxbury to Boston in 1660 where he becsme
the Ruling Elder of the First Church of Boston. From what I've read a "Ruling Elder" ranked above
a Deacon but below a Minister in church hierarchy, and as such John Wiswall's name appears in many letters sent to and from the Church. There's quite a bit of them online which should keep me busy when I have time to read them all. But document concerning real estate was the first to catch my attention recently. It concerns a piece of land across the Mystic River from Boston in Chelsea, Ma.

Sometime in 1663 John Wiswall became part owner of a farm at Rumney Marsh, which was what Chelsea was called at that time. Eleven years later,  he passed the land on to his son John Jr. which led to some lawsuits with the co-owners of the farm. I' ll explain why I've put some of the text
in boldface.:

 In 1674 Elder John Wiswall, one of the grantees of Edward Lane in 1663, conveyed to his son John Wiswall, a man about thirty-five years of age, his half of the Keayne farms at Rumney Marsh.18 At the April term of the Suffolk County Court in 1678 John Wiswall, Jr., brought suit against Elizabeth Cooke, widow of Richard Cooke, for a division of the farms, but the verdict was for the defendant.10 December 27, 1678, John Wiswall, Jr., conveyed title to one-fourth of the large farm, exclusive of buildings, for £250 to John Dowlittle, and in 1680 he conveyed to Elisha Cooke his half share in the small farm.20 At the December term of the Middlesex County Court in 1678, John Floyd, as assignee of John Wiswall, Jr., sought to collect £37 lOsh. from Cyprian Stevens and Henry Willard for one year's rent, in 1676, for half of a "farme Comonly called Cooke & Wisswells farme in Rumney Marsh," and for twelve and one half loads of hay. The writ was served upon Cyprian Stevens at Rumney Marsh. Simon Willard, aged 29, and Daniel Willard, aged 20, made oath that John Wiswell, Jr., had improved his part of the farm " commonly called Captn Keans farm" in 1676, and sold some of the stock. In the end John Floyd was nonsuited, as the farm did not lie in Middlesex County, and neither of the defendants lived there.21 Presumably Cyprian Stevens and Henry Willard rented Cooke's half of the farm in 1676, as the preceding February was the date of the Indian massacre at Lancaster, when the settlers withdrew, and did not return until 1679. Among these were Cyprian Stevens and Major Simon Willard and his sons. Major Willard died at Charlestown in April. Henry Willard, son of Major Simon, was born at Concord, June 4, 1655, and married Mary Lakin of Groton, July 18, 1674. He returned later to Lancaster. Simon and Daniel Willard, the witnesses in the case, were sons of Major Simon Willard. Cyprian Stevens, born about 1650, fourth and youngest son of Col. Thomas Stevens of Devonshire, England (later of London), was the son-in-law of Major Simon Willard. In a list of the children "born in Lancaster Families during Exile after the Massacre" are Simon Stevens, August 13, 1677, of "Cyprian and Mary, in Boston"; also Elizabeth, in 1681, and Joseph, in 1682/3. In 1682, Stevens was clerk of the writs at Lancaster, where he spent his later life.22 In 1680 the great Keayne farm was described as in the occupation of John Wiswall, Jr., Cyprian Stevens, and John Dowlittle; the little farm was leased to Thomas Brentnall

Elder John Wiswall died in 1687, and now his son John Wiswall Jr was now known as John Wiswall
Senior as he had a son also named John. To differentiate himself from his father and son, the second
John Wiswall placed his birthdate after his name.

Apparently Wiswall remained in Rumney Marsh after possession was given to Nicholas Paige in December, 1686, as his name appears on the tax lists of 1687 and 1688. A petition was presented at the April term of the Middlesex County Court in 1691 by "John Wiswall, Senr, 27:2: 39." 24 He wrote that John Wiswall, Jr., was arrested at the motion of Robert Muzzey on suspicion of stealing from him, that the petitioner gave bond for his son's appearance in court. But "my Said Son," he continued, "is departed & gon out of this Collony without yor petitioners knowledg or Consent." He asked to be freed from his bond in consideration for the " heartbreaking Sorrow & Impoverishing expences he hath bin at & is now vnder by means of my Said Sonns Enormities — And my Endeavoring to Save him from publick Shame." 25 John Wiswall's name did not appear in the Rumney Marsh list for 1692; in 1691 it was in the list for precinct number eight in Boston. According to the Rumney Marsh list for 1687 he was taxed for thirty acres of arable land and meadow, and one hundred twenty acres of pasture, twenty-two head of cattle, eight horses, thirty sheep, six swine, and housing of more than the average value.-pp666-667

A Documentary History of Chelsea: Including the Boston Precincts of Winnisimmet, Rumney Marsh, and Pullen Point, 1624-1824, Volume 1   Massachusetts Historical Society, 1908 - Chelsea (Mass.)

Now, as to the boldfaced names and text: Major Simon Willard was my 8x great grandfather
and his son Henry Willard my 7x great grandfather on the West side of my Dad's family tree. I've
blogged about the Willards and the retreat from Lancaster to the Boston in the past, but other than
Simon Willard died in Charlestown I knew nothing else about their "exile". Now, while researching
the Barker side of Dad's family I've discovered that Henry was living on a farm across the river in

What a small world colonial New England was back then!

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