Friday, August 16, 2019


My 8x great grandfather Thomas Pierce Jr. came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a teenager with his parents. He became one of the first citizens of what is now  Woburn Massachysets and with his wife raised a large family.

Here's what Ellery Bickford Crane wrote about him:

(II) Thomas Pierce, Jr., son of Thomas Pierce (1), was born in England in 1608; married, May 6, 1635, Elizabeth Cole, who died March 5, 1688. He died November 6, 1683. They resided in Charlestown in the part now Woburn. He is called sergeant in the records, indicating military prominence. He was the progenitor of President Franklin Pierce, viz.: Franklin (VII), Benjamin (VI), Benjamin (V), Stephen (IV), Stephen (III), Thomas (II), Thomas (I). Sergeant Thomas Pierce was admitted to the Charlestown Church February 21, 1634. He was an inhabitant of Woburn as early as 1643. He was selectman in 1660, and served on the committee to divide the common lands. He was one of the "Right Proprietors" elected March 28, 1667, and also of the committee of the general court appointed 1668 to divide lands, etc. The children: Abigail, born August 17, 1639; John, March 7, 1643, married, July 5, 1663, Deborah Converse; Thomas, June 21, 1645, married, 1680, Rachel Bacon; Elizabeth, December 25, 1646, married, November 9, 1666, Thomas Whittemore, and died March 10, 1670; Joseph, September 22, 1646, died February 27, 1649; Stephen, July 16, 1651, married, November 18, 1676, Tabitha Parker; Samuel, February 20, 1654, died October 27. 1655; Samuel, April 7, 1656, see forward; William. March 20, 1658, married, April 8, 1690, Abigail Sommers, nee Warren; James, May 7, I659, married Elizabeth Kendall; Abigail, Novem20, 1660, married February 18, 1684, George Reed, Jr.; Benjamin, married Mary Reed.-p449

 Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County,   Massachusetts: With a History of Worcester Society of Antiquity, Volume 1  Lewis Publishing Company, New York, N.Y.1907

So apparently I'm a distant cousin of President Franklin Pierce!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Thomas Pierce/Peirce was my 9x great grandfather and another of my colonial immigrant ancestors. I've found his probate file at and while his will is  fairly easy to read, the inventory was written on both sides of another sheet of paper and the ink leaked through, so it's difficult to make out the items of his estate.

Ellery Bickford Crane wrote this brief biographical sketch about Thomas:

Thomas Pierce came from England in 1633 or 1634 with his wife Elizabeth and settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts. His wife Elizabeth was admitted to the church January 10, 1634, and he was admitted February 21, 1634-35. He was admitted a freeman May 6, 1635. He was one of the twentyone commissioners appointed September 27, 1642, "to see that salt peter heaps were made by the farmers of the colony." He removed to Woburn and was a proprietor there in 1643 and was elected to town offices. His wife Elizabeth was born in England, 1595-96. She stated'her age as seventy-one 1n 1667. He died October 7, 1666. His will was dated November 7, 1665, aged about eighty-two years. He bequeathed to wIfe Elizabeth, grandchildren Mary Bridge and Elizabeth Jeffs now dwelling with him; to all grandchildren; to Harvard College. The widow deposed to the inventory March 22, 1666-67, aged seventy-one years. The children: John, mariner, admitted to church at Charlestown, 1652; Samuel,married Mary ;Thomas, Jr., see forward; Robert, married, February 18, 1657, Sarah Eyre;Mary, married Peter Jeffs and had Elizabeth; Elizabeth, married Randall and Nichols; Persis, married William Bridge and had child Mary; married (second) John Harrison; she was admitted to the church at Charlestown November 30, 1643; Abigail, born June 17, 1639.-p449

Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts: With a History of Worcester Society of Antiquity, Volume 1  Lewis Publishing Company, New York, N.Y.1907

The reference to a salt peter commission reflects the importance to the colonists of making their own gunpowder because of the conflicts with Indians and the French to the north,

Sunday, August 11, 2019


My 5x great Meriah (Peirce/Pierce) Houghton shared  Houghton, Prescott, and Sawyer ancestry with her husband Elisha Houghton. She was descended from immigrant ancestor Thomas Peirce, but she also had ancestors from some of my other family lines that I've touched on already: Ballard, Cole, Converse, Holt, Long, and Moore. Here's a relationship chart for Thomas and Meriah.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019


One of the biggest problems Plimouth Plantation faced in its early years was a crippling debt it owed to investors bad suppliers back in England. fortunately,this was the period when beaverskin garments were in vogue so the Plantation turned to the fur trade to improve its finances. This involved setting up a  post on the Kennebec River to trade for furs with the local Native Americans. But this new venture by Plymouth was challenged by a newer, younger settlement in Maine, the Piscataqua Plantation, and blood would be shed over it. My ancestor John Howland and fellow Pilgrim Father John Alden were involved in the incident.

I found the following account in a magazine article,  "The Pilgrim Fathers on the Kennebec" by Emma Huntington Nason  online in an Googlebook edition of New England Magazine, vol.30 March 1904.:

One of the first agents in command of the Plymouth trading-post was John Howland. Among all the notable men of the colony there was no one who bore a fairer record for bravery, efficiency and general usefulness than this sturdy youth from Essex County; and with his "military turn" and adventurous spirit Howland was well fitted for the administration of the business of the colony in this important location. He was, moreover, one of the company responsible for the public debt, and therefore especially interested in the success of the enterprise on the Kennebeck. We also find John Howland and John Alden frequently associated in the affairs of Plymouth ; and in May of the year 1634, while Howland was in command at Koussinoc, John Alden came from Plymouth to bring supplies to the trading-post. The spring trade was just then opening with the Indians. One by one the great canoes glided down from the head waters of the Kennebec laden with the hunters' spoils, and a very profitable season was anticipated. It was at this time, at the height of prosperity of the Plymouth company, that the tragic Hocking affair occurred.

It seems that the Piscataqua Plantation had become very jealous of the success of the Pilgrim traders who held complete and absolute jurisdiction over the territory in the vicinity of Koussinoc for fifteen miles up and down the river, thus controlling all the trade which came from Moosehead Lake; and having determined to secure a portion of this trade, Piscataqua sent John Hocking to intercept the Indian canoes as they came down from the lakes.

Hocking boldly sailed up the Kennebec and anchored above the Plymouth post. Howland at first went out in his barque and remonstrated with Hocking for thus infringing on the Plymouth rights, but receiving only abusive threats in reply, he ordered Hocking to drop below the Plymouth limits. Hocking refused, and Howland sent three men in a canoe to cut Hocking's cables. The old Plymouth records state that these men were "John Irish, Thomas Rennoles and Thomas Savory." They cut one of Hocking's cables and then, as their canoe drifted down the stream, Howland ordered Moses Talbot to get into the canoe and cut the other rope. Talbot accordingly went "very reddyly," and brought the canoe back within range of Hocking's vessel. Hocking, standing on deck, carbine and pistol in hand, first presented his piece at Thomas Savory; but the canoe swung around with the tide, and Hocking put his carbine almost to Moses Talbot's head. Then Howland, springing upon the rail of his barque, shouted to Hocking not to shoot the men who were only obeying orders, but to take him for his mark, saying that he surely "stood very fayre." But Howland's bravery was in vain for Hocking would not hear, but immediately shot Talbot in the head. Whereupon, "a friend of Talbot's, who loved him well," seized a musket and returned the fire; and Hocking "was presently strook dead being shott neare the same place in the head where he had murderously shot Moyses."

John Alden, although at the trading-post at the time this unfortunate affair took place, had no connection with it. He soon returned to Plymouth, and being in Boston a few weeks later, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Massachusetts magistrates to answer for Hocking's death. The Plymouth people were very angry at this unwarrantable interference in their affairs, and the indomitable Myles Standish at once started for Boston and effected Alden's release. Righteous Boston, however, insisted upon an investigation of the matter, and requested all the plantations, especially Piscataqua, to send delegates to the hearing. But after all their efforts none of the plantations invited, not even Piscataqua where Hocking belonged, manifested sufficient interest to send a representative. Winslow and Bradford appeared in behalf of Plymouth, and Winthrop and Dudley represented Massachusetts. Two or three ministers were also present, and after mature deliberation it was decided that the Plymouth men acted in selfdefense and that Hocking alone had been to blame. The sad story of this early tragedy on the Kennebec is relieved only by Howland's dash of bravery, and the touching loyalty of Talbot's friend "who loved him well"; but it is of especial interest in this connection because it proves that John Howland and John Alden were both at the Kennebec trading-post in 1634


Friday, August 02, 2019


After my recent posts about my 9x great grandfather Thomas Dexter I thought I'd post a descent chart from Thomas down to my Dad. Much of it is people from Barnstable County on Cape Cod

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Thomas Lewis Jr.'s father in law was my 9x great grandfather William Lewis, another of the founding fathers of Lancaster, Ma. William Richard Cutter has the following description:

William Lewis, the immigrant ancestor, born in England, embarked for New England, June 22, 1632, and made his home at Roxbury. Massachusetts. He was an early member of Rev. John Eliot’s church, and was admitted a freeman May 18, 1642. His name appears in the Roxbury land records as the owner of a house. barn and five acres of land abutting on land of William Heath on the south, heirs of John Graves, on the west, on a highway to the north and eastward. He was also owner of thirty-five acres bounded by the lands of Peleg Heath. north; the heirs of William Heath, east; Arthur Gary, south, and Hugh Prichard, west. In May, 1653, he sold his house lot to Stephen Hopkins and removed to Lancaster, Massachusetts, with his family. He and his son John signed the town covenant there March 13, 1653-54. In the entries of the first inhabitants of Lancaster, William Lewis is rated for two hundred and eighty-five pounds, the eighth estate in point of value. His son John’s estate was placed at eighteen pounds ten shillings. His lands are described in H. S. Nourse’s “Early Records of Lancaster,” page 254; also the lands of his son John. William died December 3, 1671, leaving a widow Amy. His will, dated November 21, 1671, bequeathed to wife Amy; sons Isaac and John; daughters Lydia, Mary and Hannah. He was a weaver by trade, and in 1671 secured land in Boston, and was preparing to build when he died. He was a friend and associate of Governor Bellingham. He married Amy Wells. Children: 1. John, born November 1, 1635; mentioned below. 2. Christopher, born 1636; received by deed from his father, April 19, 1662, the eastern half of the homestead in Lancaster. 3. Lydia, born December 25, 1640; married, January 13, 1670-71, Mordecai McLeod, of Lancaster; was killed with husband and two children by Indians in Monco’s raid, August 22, 1705. 4. Josiah, born July 28, 1641. 5. Isaac, baptized April 14. 1644. 6. Mary, baptized August 2, 1646: married Josiah White. of Lancaster: parents of Captain John White, the Indian fighter. 7. Hannah, baptized March 18. 1648-49

Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Volume 1  Lewis historical Publishing Company,  New York, New York,1908

Monday, July 29, 2019


Image result for Nahant town seal

Now it was my ancestor Thomas Dexter's turn to press his claim as owner of Nahant and refute the town of Salem's arguments:

Again, from the History of Lynn:

And it is fair to give Mr. Dexter's own statement of his case, on the appeal. It was evidently drawn up by one skilled in legal proceedings:

1. The Plaintiff pleadeth his right therein and thereto by purchase of the Indians, above 26 years now past, who were then the lawful owners thereof, as by the testimony off Jno. Legg, Wm. Witter, George Sagamore, Sagamore of Aguwame. 2. The Pit. pleadeth his possession yroff by fencing and other improvement, as by the testimony of Wm. Witter and John Legg, Capt. Traske and Mrs. Whiteing. 3. The Plaintiff humbly comendeth to the consideration of the Honoured Court, (4) That the purchase was by no law then prohibited or made voyd, but hath since, by act of the General Court) Octo. 19, 1652, written lawes, ben confirmed as being according to God's word; . . . .
also divers examples that might be instanced of sundry persons y* do enjoy those lands, which, in the infancy of these plantacons, they came by their possessions in like manner. (2.) That as yet no act or instrument made or signed by the Plaintiff hath appeared to manifest any alienacon thereof to the defendants. (3.) That they are parties which testify against the Plaintiff, and that for and in their owne behalfe, and many of them such as have in a disorderly manner ingaged themselves in a special manner against the Plaintiff and his right; as may appear by the testimony of Ri. Woodey; their combinacon of assaulting his person, &c, (4.) That if there be no remedy but what they will swea" must passe as truth, (although the Plaintiff conceives it to be very false,) yet nevertheless the Plaintiff conceiveth himself to be wronged in that he had no part found for him, whenas, by yr owne oath and confession, as he was an inhabitant of Lin, so he had a share with them, the which as yet they have not sworn, as he conceiveth, that he either gave it them or any other, and therefore seeing he sued but for his interest therein, whether more or less, he marvelleth y* such a verdict should be^brought against him, and humbly entreateth relief therefrom by this Honored Court.
24 (6) 57. [24 Aug. 1657.] Thomas Dexter.]

Mr. Dexter was afterward granted liberty to tap the pitch pine trees on Nahant, as he had done before, for the purpose of making tar.-p243

HISTORY OF LYNN, Essex County Massachusetts Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscot, and Nahant, Volume 1 John L.Shorey pub. Boston, Ma. 1865

Needless to say, Thomas was not pleased by the verdict in favor of  Salem. He and his heirs would continue to claim that the area that now is the town of Nahant belonged to Thomas, bringing the case back to court several times. The decision was never overturned.

But the story survived over the years, which is why, nearly 400 years later, my ancestor Thomas Dexter is depicted on the Nahant town seal.