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John Pope (1622 - 1686) Expanded Biography

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Location: Dorchester, Suffolk, Massachusetts Bay Colonymap
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John Pope 1622-1686

The bulk of these notes come from the book "A History of the Dorchester Pope Family" by Charles Henry Pope in 1888. All information here either comes from a Deeds book, the Dorchester Town Records book or from the First Church of Dorchester's Vital Records book unless the notes say otherwise. Some information in this book has been proven to be incorrect, such as the two first John Popes being father and son.


Origins of the Pope Family

When one hears the name "Pope" one naturally thinks of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. This word means "father." However, in ancient Roman the word meant "The priest who kills the victim." This is probably closer to the original meaning of our ancestors' last name.

There was a hamlet named Popeham listed in Hampshire just north of Winchester in the 1986 Domesday book. this literally means "a collection of farmers with the last name of Pope."

The first person we find with the last name Pope is Thomas Pope as a witness to a deed in St. Mildred, Oxford in 1287. There was also a Ralph Pope who put his seal on a deed of land in Bentley, Suffolk in 1316. There is also a John Pope and his wife Margaret with their son John deeding a homestead in Freston, Suffolk in 1367. After this, several Pope families show up in Suffolk, Oxford, Northamptonshire, Kent, Sussex, London, Dorset, Somersetshire, Bristol, Devonshire; basically most of the southern coast of England and the counties just north of them. And there are plenty of Williams, Johns, Thomases and even Ralphs among them. The Oxford family seems to have died out; the Bristol group doesn't look much like ours either. The London families look the most likely to be our John's ancestors, but it's impossible to tell for certain.

John Pope Senior

The first John Pope (or Poape) in Dorchester became a freeman on Sept 3 1634 with 53 other men of Dorchester. This is the earliest record we have of him. He may have been living in the area as early as 1631, but that is only conjecture. It seems a wall was built around Dorchester in 1634, one of the gates being in front of John Pope's house. In 1635 he was allotted 20 acres to farm. In 1636 most of the inhabitants of Dorchester moved to Windsor, Connecticut to form a colony there. John Pope remained behind, becoming one of the 7 pillars of the church there as well as one of the selectmen. In 1639 he received 2 acres to make up for land that was taken from him.

In 1645 there is a document in which he is called John Pope Senior. This does not mean he had a son named John. It means that another John Pope who was younger than he was moved into Dorchester. We don't know how or even if the two John Popes were related, but we do know that in 1643 John Pope Jr. and his wife Alice baptized a baby named Thomas in Dorchester. John Sr. was actually not that old since he and his wife Jane baptized a baby, Nathan, in July 1941, who died the same month. John Pope Senior died Feb 26 1646. Thus the two John Popes did live in the same place for at least 3 years.

But how do we know they weren't father and son? First, John Pope Jr. isn't mentioned in the wills of John Pope in 1636 or Jane Pope in 1662. They list their daughter Experience with her husband Edward Blake, and John lists his servants, his brother Thomas and his brother-in-law Joshua, and also Stephen Hoppen. His will also lets us know he was a weaver by trade, as well as a farmer (everyone farmed back then). If son or even a nephew or cousin, John Pope Jr. would surely be mentioned in at least one will, even if they found they didn't get along or were disagreeable to each other. Secondly, John and Jane had a son named John baptized on June 30 1635. This was certainly not our John, and it would seem strange to have two sons named John. Thirdly, there was a John Pope who came as an indentured servant to Dorchester in 1637. This provides a completely different reason for our John Pope to show up in Dorchester by 1642.

In 1657, the Dorchester birth, marriage and death book was destroyed when Thomas Millet's house burned down. Only a copy of one small part of baptisms and marriages survived. This left us 3 pieces of information from before 1657, but probably destroyed a lot of other information that would have cleared up any relationship between the two Johns.

John Pope

A John Pope came as an indentured servant to Nicholas Butler, his wife Joyce and their 3 children and 4 other servants from Ashford / Eastwell, Kent on the ship Hercules (captain Witherley) in 1637. The Butler family settled in Dorchester, and it was probably in 1651 moved on to Martha's Vineyard leaving the Dorchester estate in the hands of the oldest Butler son, John.

On March 25 1639 John Pope was approved to buy a 12 acre lot in Dedham as he agreed to orders and said he'd come to live there. This might have been our John Pope. Obviously he didn't settle there. No Pope family members appear in Dedham at this time. This would indicate he had finished his time of indentured servanthood by now.

The first mention of John and Alice in Dorchester was the birth of Thomas on Oct 27 1643. They may have had Margaret together next, but we have no indication of her mother anywhere. In 1651 and 1652 the Rates (a way of taking care of poor people) was taken on Alice's "laks children" and cloths. Also in 1651 John Pope had 8 acres in the "Divisions in the Cow walke" and the holders of lots. Alice would have died soon after this, but that record didn't survive.

John married 2 Margaret. Children: John (March 5 1658), Susanna, William, Mary, Ebenezer, Thankful, Ralph, Jane (May 23 1677), Joseph (Oct 17 - 24 1679).

Life Events

John Pope doesn't seem to have cared for church much. On Dec 12 1665 the constable was to collect from John Pope and Thomas Wilkinson the Rate of the Ministery (money the church regularly collected from families). John was behind 3 years. John also never became a freeman.

John's land was on Squantum's Neck, and on March 20 1665 he requested that a highway going through it be removed as long as he could have the land between Goodman Leeds' meadow and the highway.

There was a law that anyone entertaining someone from out of town for more than a week needed to get a license for it from the selectmen or else pay a 5 shilling fine, with 3 shillings for every week after that. On Oct 13 1669 John Pope was called to get the license or pay the penalty for his daughter (most likely Margaret, working in Boston) staying with him.

In 1674 another strict law, that of attending Catechism (a church teachings class), came down on him warning him to bring his children to be catechized. Six weeks later it was repeated, and he was to come with them. On Feb 12 1675 he finally appeared before the Select men to give a report, and he promised "to be more dillegent that way to attaine instruction for them."

On March 10 1680 John Pope was granted "libertie to git 1400 Clobords out of the Common Swamps belonging unto Dorchester." He had obviously asked permission to get clear-logs to split into clove-boards. Timber was no longer very available on private lands, and this was enough to build a sizeable house.

Death and Inventory

" Mrs. Margaret Pope Relict Widdow of John Pope late of Dorchester Decsd (deceased) William Sumner, and Preserved Capen of Dorchester " gave bonds Nov. 11 1686, for her performance of the duties of administratrix of the estate of her late husband. "Margaret Pope Administratrix personally appearing made Oath .that the within ac (account) contains a just & true Inventory of the estate [of which] her late husband J"° Pope Dyed Seized & is yet come to her hands & that when more appears she will cause it to be added. Boston, II Novemb' 1686. Jurat coram preside Attest" Daniel Allin, Cler."

" November the 3 1686 Inventore of the e/tat of John Pope Senior defeffed October 19 1686.Taken by us whos names are under written. Three fether beds on rug, 2 pounds fower blankets on sheet & three bedsteds, 7 pounds On musket on sword & belt, 1 pound 4 shillings on table on form & chest, 15 shillings on tabell cloth & three napkins, 3 shillings 6 pence on great chest old cupboard on mixing trough, 1 pound 9 shillings to spinning whells three chaiers, 11 shillings on churn to payls & on tub milkinge, 8 shillings fower pewter platers three glass bottles, 10 shillings 6 pence on warming pan on chamber pote with other t'ming waer, 6 shillings to iron pots on trowell to andierns fier shovell and tongs on payer of belos, 1 pound 8 shillings on brasse Ketall earthen drinking cups, dishes and spouns & trenchers to jars, 8 shillings in miln Corn, 7 pounds in ry and barly, 1 pound in wheat and oats, 2 pounds on Cart and whels plow irons other takling, 3 pounds on panell and on ladell, 1 pound to Cows and fower yong Cattell, 8 pounds on hors to maers and on Colt, 7 pounds in swin, 4 pounds land in tilladg 43 acres, 129 pounds on hous and barn with fower acers land Joyning to the hous, 50 pounds sixteen acers of pastuer land, 32 pounds on cannen with other things 2, 2 pounds the sum totall, 260 pounds depts from the estate with several charges the sum totall, 14 pounds 13 shillings 3 pence Thomas Pears Henry Leadbetter Roger Billeng."

Somehow the business of settling the estate did not prosper to the satisfaction of all. After thirteen years new appraisers were appointed and went over the estate, and the Probate Court issued a detailed order by means of which all points were covered well, and all parties satisfied, it would appear.

THE INVENTORY OF 1699: " Wee whose names are hereunto subscribed, being nominated and appointed by the Hon William Stoughton Esq : Jugg of Probate for and in the County of Suffolke To apprise the housing & Lands of John Pope of Dorchester Deceased Intestate accordingly we have mett this 18 of feb 1699/1700 & have Apprised as followeth. House & Barne, 50 pounds Six Acres of Land lying about the house, 24 pounds Twenty acres of Land Lying on the North side of the Paralell Line, 60 pounds Twelve Acres of Land Bounded with Daniel Preston's Land on the north and south, 40 pounds Twelve Acres of Land lying near to a place called the Chappell (an abrupt pile of rocks; eels caught near this rock were called Chappell Eels), 36 pounds fourteen acres of Pasture Land on the south side of the paralell line, 28 pounds The whole 238 pounds Henry Leadbeatter Samuel Topliff Saml Robinson." endorsement. "Boston Feb 29 1699

A document was also issued in 1699 that gave more details than many wills do. It couldn't be divided "among all the children of said deceased without great prejudice to or spoiling of the whole." It was apprized at 238 pounds. His eldest son Thomas (deceased) had already received his portion of the estate. The following received an equal portion of the intestate: son William Pope; son Ralph Pope; Margaret Pierce only child of his daughter Margaret Pierce; Susanna Cox wife of John Cox; Mary Cox widow; Thankful Woodward wife of Smigh Woodward; Jane Munney wife of John Munney. His son John Pope had also died with no male heirs; his son William Pope sold his interest in his father's estate, and went "beyond sea," and hadn't been heard of for several years. Therefore all the houses and lands, barn, 6 acres of land there, 20 acres on the north side of the parallel line, 12 acres by Daniel Preston, 12 acres by the Chappell, and 14 acres of pasture land on the south side of the parallel line, went to his 4th son Ralph. Ralph would then give 19 pounds 16 shillings 8 pence to each: the heirs of his brother John, to William or his representative, to his niece Margaret Pierce, and to his sisters Susanna, Mary, Thankful and Jane. All this within 2 years. This was two thirds of the inheritance. The rest went to Margaret.


  • A history of the Dorchester Pope family, 1634-1888 : with sketches of other Popes in England and America, and notes upon several intermarrying families by Pope, Charles Henry, 1841-1918 as found at [1]
  • History of the town of Dorchester, Massachusetts by Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society (Dorchester, Boston, Mass.); Clapp, Ebenezer, 1809-1881 as found at [2]
  • Records relating to the early history of Boston .. by Boston (Mass.). Registry Dept; Appleton, William S. (William Sumner), 1840-1903; McGlenen, Edward W. (Edward Webster); Watkins, Walter Kendall, 1855-1934; Whitmore, William Henry, 1836-1900 as found at [3]
  • Records of the First Church at Dorchester, in New England, 1636-1734 by First Church (Dorchester, Boston, Mass.) as found at [4]

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