||Editha (Stebbins) Holyoke migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).|
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Editha Stebbins was a founding mother of Hartford, Connecticut in New England, as shown in her life, documented below.
Edith, also known as Editha, was born about 1613 at Woodham Mortimer, Essex, England. (Or possibly she was born at Woodham Ferrers, where Robert Day, her future husband, was born. The two villages are less than eight miles apart.) Her father, William Stebbins, was of Black Notley, a small village in Essex County, about fifteen miles north of Woodham Mortimer. 
William Stebbins died May 28, 1625, when Editha was about twelve years old. Perhaps her brother Edward, eighteen years her elder, took care of her then. Edward Stebbins migrated from Essex, England to Cambridge, Massachusetts Bay Colony, about 1633. It is likely he brought his sister, who was about twenty years old, with him.
In 1636 Edward Stebbins joined the 163 men and women who followed the charismatic Puritan minister, Rev. Thomas Hooker, over a hundred miles through the wilderness to found Hartford, Connecticut. It is possible that Edward's sister Editha was still single, and accompanied him and his family. (However, we have found no proof one way or the other - whether Robert and Editha married in Newtown before the migration, or in Hartford after they were established there.)
"The fledgling colony along the Connecticut River had issues with the authority by which it was to be governed because it was outside of the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's charter. Therefore, Thomas Hooker wrote the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, a document investing the authority to govern with the people, instead of with a higher power. Hooker stated May 31, 1638:"
"The foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people."
Editha Stebbins and her husband Robert Day, a widower, established their home in 1636, at Hartford, Connecticut.   They built their home in the village three blocks from the banks of the Connecticut River. Robert became a Deacon in the The First Church of Christ in Hartford, known as Center Church. Editha bore Robert four children between 1636 and about 1643: Thomas, John, Sarah and Mary. Robert Day died in 1648.
Editha, a widow then with four children under the age of twelve, married Deacon John Maynard, of Hartford. There were no children from that marriage, and John died about 1658, leaving his estate to Editha and her children.
By then, Editha had lived in Hartford since its inception, a total of twenty-two years. It was where her children were born; it was where she had buried two husbands.
In 1658, Editha married "Elizur Holyoke, grandfather of Pres. Holyoke of Harvard college. [He] lived in Springfield, Mass., where Editha removed with part of her family..." Her youngest son John may have stayed in Hartford with his uncle Edward, in order to work the land he inherited from John Maynard. (There is little doubt that Elizur married Editha as soon as practical after the death of John Maynard. Elizur's wife died in 1657, and left him with six children, the youngest of which was under two years.)
Was it hard for Editha to leave the place she had lived for half of her life, and leave all her neighbors and friends? But this was not merely moving to a town twenty-seven miles away. This was upheaval of her household. Her eldest daughter, Sarah, married Nathaniel Gunn of Hartford in 1658. Accompanied by her son Thomas and her daughter Mary, Editha moved to Springfield with her husband Elizur. The next year, on October 27, 1659, Thomas married Sarah Cooper of Springfield. The day after that, Mary married Samuel Ely of Springfield.
In barely a year, Editha went from having all four of her children in her home, to none of them living with her, as they each claimed their future and moved on. The resilience which carried her from England to America, and through the wilderness to found a city, carried her through the sudden change in her life also. She didn't have much time in which to miss her children: Elizur's six children at the time he married Editha were: John - 16 years; Hannah - 14 years; Samuel - 11 years; Edward, 9 years; Elizur - 7 years; and the baby, Mary - only two years old. Feeding, clothing and nurturing six children kept Editha busy enough. 
Editha's brother Edward died August 9, 1668 at Hartford. In his will he left "to the 4 children of my dear sister Holyoke" 40 shillings apiece. (There were twenty shillings to a pound. So Editha's four children received from their uncle Edward's estate, two pounds apiece. In England in 2005, that would be worth the same as 153.54 British pounds.) For twenty-two years Editha and her children lived in the same small village of Hartford as her brother Edward, first with Robert, six houses away, then with John, four houses away. One supposes Edward's nieces and nephews grew up playing with the youngest of his seven children, and were often in his home.
Editha lived in Springfield with Elizur for eighteen years. In that time her second family grew into adults: Hannah married Capt. Samuel Talcott November 7, 1661; Elizur married Mary Eliot January 2, 1678. Springfield was past the beginning years of struggle and deprivation that Editha had experienced at Hartford's founding. It was well established and prospering in the years since Editha's arrival in 1658.
Puritans, and also the Dutch, eager for more land, had for years been exchanging guns, liquor and blankets for deeds to Indian lands - in spite of laws forbidding firearms to Indians. Eventually, a Wampanoag leader, Metacom, foresaw the end of Indian sovereignty and led a coalition of tribes against the white men. In 1675, the formerly peaceful Indians went on the warpath. Small bands of warriors attacked travelers. Beginning in June and through the summer, larger forces attacked the towns of Rehoboth, Swanszey, Brookfield, Deerfield, Northfield and more. Fear spread throughout the towns of the Connecticut River Valley. 
In Springfield, the brick house of William Pynchon, and two other stoutly built homes, were designated as fortified houses where people would shelter if there was an attack. On October 4th, forty-five of the strongest men in the Springfield militia left to aid the nearby town of Hadley, as per their mutual defense agreement. Meanwhile, a plan of the Indians to attack at Springfield was discovered, and the inhabitants warned. Editha's home was not one of the fortified houses. It is likely Editha and Elizur went to Major John Pynchon's house next door - it was not only the closest, also he was Elizur's brother-in-law from his first marriage. Elizur would not have been with the militia: he was nearly sixty years old. 
Hundreds of Indian warriors attacked Springfield the next day, looting and burning homes and barns. The remaining townspeople, mainly women, children, and older men, watched through loopholes as Indians carried off their food, which they had harvested and stored for winter. When their husbands and fathers returned that afternoon, the Indians were gone, and their homes were flaming ruins. Thirty-two of the town's forty-five houses burned down, with twenty-five barns, the saw mill, and the corn mill. Four people were killed, and several wounded, who were not in the safe houses when the attack came. 
Facing winter with their food gone, and only thirteen houses left intact, the citizens of the town favored abandoning their estates. Major John Pynchon wrote to Governor Leverett for help and advice. Massachusetts and Connecticut gathered their united militia forces and began thrusting out the warring tribes, aided by some tribes who still wanted peace with their Puritan neighbors. We are told that all except one of the houses north of Pynchon's burned. Holyoke's house was just south of Pynchon, so was their house still standing? Probably. But the shock and distress and loss in the town would be felt by all. It was uncomfortable for everyone, but those with houses left standing opened their homes to those who were burned out. Three-fourths of the town were living with the one-fourth that still had shelter that winter. 
Elizur died a few months later, on February 6, 1676. They had been married for nearly twenty years. Editha was a widow for a third time. Meanwhile, Elizur's son Samuel, a Captain in the militia, took part in several campaigns against the warring Indian tribes, in what has become known as "King Philip's War". We do not know if he was wounded, but he died a young man of 29 on October 31st that year.
A year after Samuel's death, tragic news again came to Editha: her daughter Sarah and Sarah's son Joseph were killed by Indians. They died at Hatfield, Sept. 17, 1677. Editha was a faithful Puritan, and her faith was likely a comfort to her, along with her family and friends, as they gathered to mourn with her for Elizur, then Samuel, and then Sarah and Joseph.
Editha lived eleven additional years a widow. She died at Springfield, Massachusetts, October 24, 1688, about 75 years of age. She had been sister to Deacon Edward Stebbins, aunt to his children, wife to Deacon Robert Day, wife to Deacon John Maynard, and wife to Elizur Holyoke. She was mother of four children by Robert Day, and when they were grown she raised another family of six children with Elizur. She knew sorrow and deprivation and want, fear and grief. She also knew the joy of many grandchildren, the pleasure of growing old surrounded by her friends and family, and the satisfaction of building a town out of wilderness.
She helped found a city: Hartford. There is every reason to believe that if women were listed on the Founders of Hartford monument, Editha Stebbins' name would be included.
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On 16 May 2015 at 20:42 GMT Robert Arms Jr. wrote:
On 7 Dec 2014 at 15:32 GMT Paula J wrote:
Editha is 18 degrees from SJ Baty, 21 degrees from Orville Redenbacher and 14 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.