The Early Mains of the Northeastern United States

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The Early Mains of the Northeastern United States

When I started my research into family genealogy, I had never heard of the Main family. Then one day, I went for a trip with my cousin Jack to Rensselaer County, NY, to investigate the old Scriven family farm. On the way, he told me his suspicions that my great grandfather Fred Scriven may have been fathered by a man named Hiland Main. Ancestry’s Autosomal test had already given me a match with someone who had Hiland Main’s grandson in his tree. (See Scrivens DNA Results, The Mains) Last year, when I took the Y-DNA test with Family Tree, virtually every “match” was with someone named Main. No Scrivens. And although DNA tests by themselves don’t prove anything for certain, the supporting historical records were such that my Main heritage was indisputable. (See “How I discovered the Mains were my ancestors.” [1]])

So, who were these Mains? With the Scrivens, I was able to reach back into English history and find that they probably originated in a little town in Yorkshire around the time William of Normandy had conquered England in 1066. (See The Village of Scriven and the Slingsbys) With the Mains, however, things got a little fuzzy once I got back into the Colonial 1600’s. For DNA purposes, I’ve listed my “earliest known ancestor” as Ezekiel Main (1641 - 1714) where many other Mains have listed his reputed father, John Mayne (abt. 1615 - 1694). Though John looks like he may very well have been the first of that surname to settle in New England, some like Mac Main (administrator of the Main Project at FTDNA) point out that "DNA proof that this John Mayne is the father of Ezekiel Main has NOT been determined. The Main/Maine/Mayne project makes sense back to Ezekiel, born 1641, but no further back.” (See “The Mains” [2]])

Origin of the name

The surname Main appears with a number of variations, including Mane, Main, Maine, and Mayne. It is said to have English, Scottish, Dutch-Flemish, French, Scandinavian, or German roots. [3] Family Tree lists England and Germany by far the most likely ancestral origins for my Main family based on DNA matches. France, because of the province by the same name (i.e., Maine), is also mentioned occasionally as a place of origin, but France hardly comes up in Family Tree’s analysis of my Y-DNA—nowhere near as often as Ireland, for instance. The surname is said to come from the Roman (Latin) word 'magnus' meaning “strength,” appearing when other surnames first did in the 12th century. Recorded early in England were Robert Main, 1204, in Yorkshire, Adam de Meine of Somerset, England in 1205, William Asmayns of Lincolnshire in 1255, and Richard le Mayne of Sussex in 1327. In Scotland the spelling was Mane originally, then becoming Main or Mains in the 17th century. “It is said that in the year 1895 there were over thirty men called John Mains in the town of Nairn,” Scotland alone! [4]

Charlemagne and John Mayne

One speculative story of the name’s origin has to do with the famous Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. Phillip Maine posted the following on forum in 2009: “Look up the picture of him on the net. He looks exactly like my son Phillip Maine. His name is Charles Magne. The last name means “Hero or great.” You may have heard of him. Magne was the original spelling for our name. His daddy is called Pippin III. It is said that the son was 6'4" tall, but his dad, Pippin III the short, was 5'7" tall, and he inherited his height from his grandmother who was 5'2" tall. Sound familiar? Our culture put Charles’ name together. Charles Magne becomes Charle Magne became Charlemagne.” [5] Charlemagne is one of those iconic figures back in the mists of time who crops up in a lot of family genealogies. He had many legitimate and illegitimate children with four wives and at least five concubines, so many that some have joked how, if you were of European descent, it would be unusual if you were not a descendant of Charlemagne.

A possible lineage for immigrant John Mayne

If the first Main (Mayne) immigrant to America was John Mayne, the following lineage might be his:

“In the early sixteenth century, Richard Mayne was living in Hertfordshire, England. He married a Miss Bradshaw and had [children] by her: Henry, William, Richard, Elizabeth, and Alice. “Of these, Henry was the father by his wife Alice of James, Symon, John, Susanna, and Anna; William had [children] Bridget, Jane, and Elizabeth; Symon married Caluberie Lovelace before 1611 and was the father [of] her of two children, Simon and Caluberie; and John, who made his home at Eldon, Warwickshire, married twice. By his first wife, Blanch Coles, he had two children, John and Blanch; and by his second wife, Anne Lovelace, he had a son named Joseph, who was born in 1612. “Thomas Mayne, who was living at Rowlston, Holderness, Yorkshire, in the early sixteenth century, was the father of a son named Christopher, who married Elizabeth Daniell. [They had] five children, William, Marmaduke, Thomas, Margery, and Elizabeth Mayne. “Family historians assert that the first of the family in America was John Maine (also recorded as Main, Mayn, and Mayne), who came from York, England, to America about 1629, but the direct ancestry of the American lines of the family is [unsupported by] evidence. This immigrant John settled in York, Maine. His son, Ezekiel Main, was born there in 1641 and settled first at Scituate, Massachusetts, [then] moved in 1669 to Stonington, Connecticut.” (The foregoing was condensed from Mac Main’s notes from the Family and Story of Main/Maine/Mayne [6])

Galipeau's story of John Mayne

Julie Pease-Galipeau posted a detailed summary of John Mayne on the forum. She wrote: “First, the State of Maine was NOT named after the Mayne/Mains/Maines families. I'd have been thrilled to find that it had myself, since my mother is a Maines and a direct descendant of John, but alas, it is NOT true. I'm a Mainer, born and bred, lived here all my life. I got more history of the State of Maine in school than I wanted at the time (glad for it now, though). Second, when John Mayne first settled in Westcustogo (now North Yarmouth) on Casco Bay, the area he settled became known as Mayne's Point. Fine and dandy, and it was known in this area as Mayne's Point right up to the mid 1800's, maybe even later 1800's. It is now Prince's Point.” [7]

Julie continues, “John was born in 1614, according to later depositions. In 1676, August: The book Ancient North Yarmouth and Yarmouth, Maine, 1636-1936, by William Hutchinson Rowe, written in 1937, . . . notes, ‘…John Mains, who settled here with his wife Elizabeth, his son Thomas, and two married daughters, Sarah and Rachel. This family of adults must have been a welcome addition to the little settlement but at the outbreak of the war, they suffered most severely, his son and the two sons-in-law losing their lives, and the remainder of the family barely escaping, leaving behind the smoking ruins of their home.’ By “12 April 1678, Articles of peace were entered into between Indians and government of Massachusetts. When the war first began, most of the settlers left the area, some going to Jewell Island and then further south to York and Boston. I have no information at this point as to where John Mayne ended up, but since all "on-line" records show him dying in Boston, maybe he spent some time there. A “26 June 1682 deposition made by John Coussons and . . . places John Mayne in North Yarmouth in 1652. I've also seen many references assuming that John was poor, and he may very well have been, with just enough financial resources to buy this land. It is assumed that he lost everything in the first Indian War in 1675, and perhaps the family never really recovered thereafter.” After John died, his descendants tried to reclaim land that was his before a second Indian attack destroyed the town of North Yarmouth. They were awarded lot 23 in May of 1727.

Julie Pease-Galipeau closes by writing that on “23 August 1734: . . . levies were placed on lots. . .. Lot 23, John Main's heirs, were to pay their levy.” But I have not yet been able to determine the status of Lot 23 . . .. It may be possible that the family lost the [land] grant for failing to pay the taxes and levies. . . . As for my direct line, from Josiah Mains, they settled in York and do not appear to ever have returned to the North Yarmouth area.” [8]

The state name coming from John Mayne: another opinion

Another Main descendant, Yvonne Donate, gave support for the name of the state coming from John Mayne. She wrote to me in an email, “I have seen many a post by many a genealogist on different websites all have concluded the state name for Maine comes from Maine’s Point (now called Prince Point) although no history books acknowledge John Mayne as a founding father of [the state of] Maine. Most say they don’t know where the name came from. It is common sense John had something to do with it, although he was not the first settler of the land. He bought the land while it was still part of New York, and he named it Maine’s point. . .. “There was an attack by Natives during King Phillip’s war (King Phillip was a Native Chief who spoke English, hence his English name). During this war the Natives. . . attacked at Maine’s point. Two of [John’s] sons-in-law and one of his sons were killed. And I believe this is how Ezekiel lost an eye. . . . Their house burned down, their farm fields too; it was then the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts. I’m sure his daughters and his wife probably didn’t want to stay in Maine’s Point after such horrific family tragedies, and I am guessing his contribution to building Maine was lost in this move.

"I feel confident that if he had rebuilt, and stayed on the island, there would be no question as to where the state’s name came from. Because he left, his contributions aren’t recognized. . .. William Penn gets credit for Pennsylvania, so I don’t know why a few people don’t acknowledge John Mayne and Maine’s Point for Maine. And so many genealogist are beginning to acknowledge John as a founding father of Maine. And I believe it too.”

Yvonne Donate (email, 5/28/2018)

English Origins

Hatherleigh, Devon, England

John Mayne’s origins in England have been debated, so much so that some Main ancestors insist that his parents there can’t be known for sure. But there are two candidates that often show up on family trees on One is Alexander Mayne (1546-1617) of Hatherleigh, Devon, England. The other is Richard Mayne (1594-1644), also born in Hatherleigh, but dying in Exeter. Since John’s DOB is usually listed as 1614, John is sometimes listed as a brother of Richard where Alexander is given as his father. The problem with Alexander is that, if his DOB is correct, he would have been 68 or so when he fathered John. On the other hand, Richard would have been about 20 when John was born. So, if anything, Alexander was John’s grandfather. And, aside from geography, we can’t even be sure of that. There is one document that mentions both John and Richard together ("A GENEALOGICAL AND HERALDIC HISTORY OF THE COMMONERS OF GREAT BRITAIN" BY JOHN BURKE) p. 506 [9], but John’s DOB there is 1623, not 1614, so this John, Richard’s son, might not be the immigrant who settled on Casco Bay. (In fact, we see a listing for that John dying in 1680 in England.)

Another page (505) from the same Burke source ties some names together and provides better connections. It is labeled "Mayne, of Teffont Ewyas" at the top of the page [10] It first lists John Mayne (1512-1565) who left three sons and a daughter: Walter (1542-1576); Cuthbert (1548-) who was hung, drawn, and quartered as part of the religious persecution of Catholics; Alexander (1549-1617) of Hatherleigh, and Alicia (1550-1616) . Alexander had two sons and a daughter: Richard (1694- ), Jasper (1604-1672), and Elizabeth (1599-1620). Richard (married Elizabeth Quash in 1618 at St. Mary's in Taunton) died in Exeter in 1650 and had two sons, Zachary and John, his heir. But this latter John is probably not the immigrant of Mayne's Point, Maine, as was pointed out above. (See John Mayne [11])

Ezekiel Main

Ezekiel Main, more likely than not the son of John Mayne, is important because he was one of the first to relocate to Stonington, Connecticut. Ezekiel Main was born in 1641 in York, Maine and died 19 Jun 1714 in Stonington. Ezekiel (Mayn/ Main /Mayne) was born in what was then called Maine's Point which his Father, John Mayne, owned. In 1668, Plymouth Colony Records told how Ezekiel Mayne of Scituate, MA was not allowed into the Military Company of Scituate because “he hath but one eye, it is difficult and in some respect dangerous for him to be in arms and training as formerly." [Brown, Cyrus H. 1909 Genealogical record of Nathaniel Babcock, Simeon Main, Issac Miner, Ezekiel Main. The Everett Press, Inc. Boston.] He moved to Stonington, CT on February 2, 1668/9. “When a census of the inhabitants of that town was taken, Ezekiel Maine is enumerated as one of the forty three heads of families. A number of people from Scituate settled at Stonington about this time.” There, he received two grants of land in what is now North Stonington. (--from the biography of Ezekiel Main (Main-249)

Ezekiel Main's cemetery, Stonington, CT.

Stonington, Connecticut

Ezekiel Main moved to Stonington as one of its founders. “The first settlers of North Stonington were Ezekiel Main and Jeremiah Burch in 1667, who established settlements in the areas which became the village of North Stonington and Clark's Falls, respectively. Main was formerly of Massachusetts; he had served in King Philip's War and received a land grant in return for his military service. . .. Other pioneers soon followed; families arrived during the 1670s and 1680s who formed the backbone of the town.

More than a century after Ezekiel, “Another leading businessman . . . was Stephen A. Main (1805–86) who . . . established himself as a local businessman and mill owner before moving to New York City to work in various commercial enterprises. After the Civil War, Main returned to North Stonington and bought one of Dudley Wheeler's stores in Milltown; Main's home today houses the North Stonington Historical Society.

“Almost as soon as the town established itself as a commercial center larger, even, than [the neighboring town of] Westerly, however, it was quickly bypassed by the effects of the Industrial Revolution, which favored larger towns astride similarly larger rivers to erect huge mills. North Stonington's population plummeted from the late 1830s as people left to work in Westerly and Norwich. [An earlier version of this exodus may have been why the Mains and others left for Rensselaer County.] . . . Adventuresome townspeople had been attempting this before the Revolution—an early attempt to settle the then-wild Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania in the 1760s ended in disaster—but in the 1790s, small groups began leaving to help settle new towns in upstate New York and, later, Ohio.”

From “History of North Stonington,” Wikipedia [12]

Migration to Rensselaer, New York

So, the Mains were probably one of those “small groups that began leaving” Stonington in the 1790’s. But why people moved from the southern coast of Rhode Island and Connecticut at first seems a mystery. On the other hand, if you look at the situation for colonists in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, it makes more sense. Many of these citizen soldiers were impoverished after mustering out of the Continental Army. They were not able to pay the banks or other businessmen who held liens on their property. The only mechanism to “pay” these first patriots for their service was bounty lands. (Some say New York State enticed men from Connecticut to join the ranks of their militia by promising them "bounty land" for their service. But that was likely for land that was further west than the Albany / Troy area. Berlin, NY, local historial Sharon Klein wrote, "I can tell you without reservation that there were NO bounty lands in Rensselaer County. Those lands were farther west, and some people from Berlin took advantage of them leaving their land here to those coming later because of the advertisements of the Patroon urging folks to come here." (from her email, 11/26/2018)

Meanwhile, the Van Rensselaer family sent out agents to these coastal towns to advertise “rental” properties in Rensselaer and other counties that they owned. The enticement was sweetened by an agreement to waive property rents for the first years of the agreement. Meanwhile, the coastal immigrants cleared the land, built their log cabins, and planted their first crops. It was only later, when the bottom fell out of crop prices, that the Van Rensselaers raised the rents and insisted on collecting overdue payments. This lead to a “Renters’ Rebellion” after which many of these transplanted farmers became owners of their property. (For a more detailed discussion of the Van Rensselaer leases, see the biography of William Scriven.)

Albany Post Road (in red)

The trip from Stonington, CT to Rensselaer Co., NY, probably was made in two legs. The first was on The Boston Post Road or King's Highway which ran along the coast. The second was from New York City north along the Hudson River shore, eventually to Albany, NY, before settling east of there in Rensselaer County, NY. Both the Boston Post and Albany Post Roads were widened and improved during wars with the Dutch in the 1600’s and then again for the French and Indian Wars in the 1700’s, according to an NEHGS article. They were just used for mail deliveries at first, then for troop movements. During the Revolutionary War, the roads were even fortified. Regular mail and stagecoach service were instituted after the war.

The Boston Post Road, or "The King’s Highway," was built along the coast to connect Boston with New York City. The so-called "Lower" Road cut south, roughly following the path of today's U.S. 1. “By 1750, weather permitting, wagons and regularly scheduled stagecoaches traversed a continuous road from Boston, Massachusetts, to Charleston, South Carolina, a trip of about 1,300 miles.”

The last half of the trip was probably made on the Albany Post Road, which ran from New York City north, up the east side of the Hudson River to the fur trading outpost, (and second-largest city in New York State) Albany, formerly called Beverwijck by the Dutch. It followed the east side of the Hudson River where Indian tribes had been hired to carry the mail between the two towns. This road was later called The King’s Road. Much of the road north follows what is NYS Rt. 9 today. A document in Family Search notes that the Hudson River was navigable for commerce and passengers, even north of Albany, so “Settlers who came via New York City along the Albany Post Road may have arrived by sea, or by the King's Highway. Arrivals by sea were most likely from northern Europe and the British Isles. Settlers arriving via the King's Highway were most likely from New England.” [3] I would say they made that assessment based on the amount of personal possessions the migrants were bringing with them. That is to say, the Stonington group probably came to Rensselaer in a family "wagon train."

Rev. James Main (1743 - 1841)

Grandson of Rev. Main, James Main 3

Rev. James Main (1743 - 1841) was probably the first in his family to make the trip north from Stonington. He is listed in an application of a descendant for The Sons of the American Revolution as having fought in the Albany Militia with Land Bounty Rights. [13] He settled in Rensselaer, New York, after the war. The 1790 United States Federal Census for Stephentown, NY shows this was the first place where James and his family lived. He was in Petersburgh for the 1800 US Census. After that, he settled in Berlin, NY. The 1840 US Census for Berlin has James checked off as being over 100 years old!

During this period, James acquired hundreds of acres in Petersburg and Berlin. He built a tavern in 1781 on the SW Corner of "Three Corners" (Hilltop Rd and Old State Highway 22), before there was a Berlin, or the Hoosac Turnpike. He reportedly owned the Nine Kitchens Hotel on the old Goodell Farm that succeeded the Tavern on the Hoosick Rd. James and others also organized and bought $25 memberships in the Eastern Turnpike to Troy in 1799-1803). James was an enterprising businessman.

James is my sixth great grandfather. He had many children and outlived both his sons, Gilbert (d. 1813) and James Jr. (d. 1840), living until he was 98. One of these sons, Gilbert, continued my lineage down to Hiland Main, my second great grandfather.



The Weekly Genealogist (NEHGS), sent via e-mail (The Weekly Genealogist, Vol. 17, No. 11, Whole #678, March 12, 2014)

Town of Petersburgh History [16]

Early American Roads and Trails [17]

Brown, Cyrus H. 1909 Genealogical record of Nathaniel Babcock, Simeon Main, Issac Miner, Ezekiel Main. The Everett Press, Inc. Boston.

Julie Pease-Galipeau, John Mayne, [18]

Yvonne Donate email, nov. 2018.

“History of North Stonington,” Wikipedia [19]

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