||John Whitcomb migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).|
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The parents of the Great Migration immigrant John Whitcomb were correctly identified in 1997 by Robin Bush as Thomas and Joanna (Pope) Whitcomb. Previously, many researchers believed that a 1634 visitation pedigree of the Whitcombs of Bread Street, London (View it!) published in The Visitation of London, 1633, 1634, and 1635 named the immigrant as John, the second son of John Whitcomb and Ann Harper, even though it has been known since 1914 that the immigrant's home was Taunton, Somerset, not London.
Some have believed that James Whitcomb was a son of John and Frances (Coggan) Whitcomb. This was first refuted in Frederick W. Wead, "James Whetcombe of Boston" and confirmed by Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration: 1634–1635, "James Whitcomb of Boston was not a son of John Whitcomb, nor were the two men known to be related in any way [NEHGR 112:160; Stevens-Miller 87]."
Some have also believed that Margaret (?) Lewis, the wife of John Lewis, was a daughter of John and Frances (Coggan) Whitcomb. Nothing in the literature supports this. Information supporting or refuting this relationship is sought.
From Charlotte Whitcomb, The Whitcomb Family in America, (Minneapolis, MN: the author, 1904).
(p. 25) JOHN WHITCOMB (or Whetcombe as the name was spelled) is believed to have been the first of the Whitcomb family to settle permanently in America. He was long supposed to be the son of Symon Whetcombe who was one of the original patentees of the old Massachusetts Colony as one of the six Englishmen of gentle birth to whom was made the famous Grant of Land, under charter by the king. But the publication of the will of Symon's father, John of Sherboume (Dorset, England), shows this belief to have been erroneous.
According to this will** which was proved in 1598, Symon was at that date under twenty-one years of age, and as John, our progenitor is allowed to have been born about 1588, it is obvious that Symon could not have been his father. [**This will which is reprinted from "Genealogical Gleanings In England." by Henry F. Waters, may be found on p. 18.]
(p. 28).....The English Whitcombs were of the Established Church. Several of them had been church dignitaries as is narrated in the Chapter on English Whitcombs, but during the transitional epoch following the evolution of the Pilgrims—that period of unrest when spiritual awakening and religious fervor were at flood tide, certain members of the family became Puritans. According to the late Samuel Whitcomb, Jr., Dr. John Whitcomb the Oxonian was one; Symon was certainly one and John, our progenitor was one.
Not all the Puritans were non-conformists, many of them were contented to remain in England and others came to New England not as Separatists but with the hope of bettering their fortunes. What part religion had in impelling John's emigration must be left to conjecture but it doubtless had its influence.
Though Symon the avowed and zealous Puritan never came to America, John appeared in Dorchester as early as 1633. He may have come earlier ; perhaps he was one of the voyagers with the good Winthrop on the ship Arbella in 1630. It would be interesting to find complete lists of passengers in boats destined for Dorchester in 1630-1633, but if such lists exist they are not yet found. [Note that "John Whettcombe" and family were on the passenger list for the ship "Hopewell", which sailed from Weymouth, England on 6 May 1635, bound for Massachusetts.]
John became a church member in 1635; this and the birth of his youngest son Josiah, which occurred in 1638, are the only events of his family life recorded during the years he spent in Dorchester. Later evidence shows him to have been well-to-do for the times, a man of intelligence and enterprise much given to buying and selling land. His hand writing was strong and full of individuality and it is obvious that he was a man of academical education.
(p. 29) In 1640 he removed to Scituate where he owned land, one piece being a farm of 108 acres near the mouth of the North river on the Marshfield side, and after 1646 when he became one of the Conihasset* Partners he owned the lands which through that transaction became his share. During his residence in Scituate he was made constable, then one of the most remunerative as well as one of the most important offices in the gift of the townsmen. To act as sheriff he must have been a freeman in Scituate, but the only mention of his being such is in the Records of Plymouth Colony where the entry is, under date June 3, 1652. "Freeman admitted to this court and sworn, "John Whetcombe and John Willis." Marvin says, "Any man could become a freeman—he had only to be a Christian." Again, The Memorial History of Boston (Vol. I.) says, "Church members and church members only, exercised the franchise." Therefore as he became a church member in 1635 he may have been a voter and have taken part in town affairs from that date.
[*Concerning the Conihasset Grant there was in Scituate Township much discussion between Hingham and Scituate and Plymouth Colony regarding boundaries, from 1642 to 1682. Within the original bounds of Scituate township was included a large tract of land which the Colony Court had granted to four gentlemen, usually called "Merchant adventurers of London," called "Conihasset Grant." This was purchased of the other three by one of the four original owners. Mr. Hatherly, before 1846. and In that year he divided it into 30 shares (reserving one-fourth part of the whole) and sold it for 180 pounds to a certain Company since called the "Conihasset Partners." "Many of this Company were such as had already located themselves upon these lands, and were twenty-seven in all, including James Cudworth, John Whetcomb, and Rodolphus Ellmes —"These partners appointed their clerks, surveyors, committees and agents and conducted their affairs with all the efficiency of a corporate town." Later, upon Hatherly and the Conihasset partners petitioning the Courts that the territory allowed was "too straight" for their growing needs and discussion arising as to the bounds of this tract, in 1656 the Court granted Mr. Hatherly a tract three miles square on the Westerly side of Scituate, as indemnity for his "entanglements with the people of Scituate" and to "satisfy the Conihasset Partners." This he divided into 40 shares of which the Conihasset Partners had 27. (Gleaned from Dean's Hist, of Scituate; pp. 5 and 6.)]
In 1644, he sold his farm on North River to one Thomas Hicks and another disposal of land in Scituate was in 1654 when he conveyed half his share in the Conihasset lands to John Williams, Jr., giving the other half to his son Robert. During this year, 1654, he (p. 30) removed to Lancaster where two years before, when the town was platted, he had invested some money. Not all his children accompanied him to Lancaster. His daughter Catherine was settled in Scituate where in 1644 she had been married to Rodolphus Ellmes, a young man who had come over from England in 1635 on the Planter when he was but fifteen years old ; Robert, who had received his patrimony, also remained in Scituate and James, whose boyhood and youth seem to have passed without observation, is not mentioned until later when he is discovered a merchant in Boston and a man of affairs.
John Whitcomb and his son John, Jr., have been named as among the founders of the town of Lancaster. John's signature appears as "one of the pioneer settlers in the Nashaway Plantation which afterward became Lancaster" according to Mr. Nourse's Early Records, and, though he was not among those who actually took up a residence in 1652, he was among those who had a right by the conditions of the covenant to come later. He was also one of the signers to the petition for a township,—"We being now about twentie familyes, etc." —[Nourse's Early Records, p. 37.]
The first inhabitants of Lancaster were apportioned land according to their "estate," that is, "so much land to every £100 of estate and accordingly for a greater or less estate." In these divisions John Whitcomb's estate is large in proportion to the rest, in fact among the largest. From the old entries reprinted in "The Early Records" the following quaint descriptions are copied.
"The lands of John Whetcombe senor. "home Lott. his house Lott Given and Granted by the town Ly'eth on the west side (of the) Neck being twentie acors bounded (South) by the Lott of Robert Brick and north by the Lott of his son John Whetcomb buting East upon the Lotts that Ly upon the east side the neck and buting west upon his entervail a high way Runing Cross it to quasaponikin entervail.
"Entervail Lott. And his entervail Lott part of it on the east side the North* River thare being by Estimation about fifteen acors (p.31) and a half bounded west by the North River and east by his upland Lott buting South upon the Lott of Robert Brick that was Granted him by the town and buting North upon the entervail Lott of his son John Whitcomb nine acor; of entervail at quasiponikin between his son John Whitcomb and him either of them having an Equall portion that is four acors and half but it was not divided between them when it was Laid out the whole being bounded southardly by a high way that Goes between the medow Lott of Steven Gates and westardly by the North River and south west by a Lott of Richard Linton this four acors and half makes up the other fifteen and half his full Lott of twenty acors according to the town Grant but acording to Liberty Granted by a town order the fifteen acres and half exactly meashured it was found to be but fourteen acres and half and so it is an acre wanting which is Laid out together with his second division of entervail."
John's house lot is numbered "33" on the accompanying map and his son John was assigned a lot of equal size next to it marked "34." These lots extended across the street eastward meeting the other range of lots upon the Neck. The present Postoffice and Bank build-in Lancaster are upon old Whitcomb land.
The family next, on No. 35, was named Gates and in the Gates Genealogy, recently published, the frank admission is made that Mr. Gates was of an impetuous temper and quarreled with his neighbors, the Whitcombs, thus confirming the following which is by Mr. Nourse in the Early Records : "The Gates blood seems to have been of decidedly tropical nature Stephen Gates quarreled with his neighbors, the Whitcombs, was deprived of his constable's staff and moved away from Lancaster after less than three years residence."
This was the man who brought action against John Whitcomb, then seventy years old, on a complaint that his swine had been killed by John's sons. The following note of hand, and petition are very human documents and full of interest:
(p.32) NOTE OF HAND. 'John Whettcombe for and in consideration of three swine killed and spoiled by his three sonnes, doth hereby promise to pay unto Steven Gates the sunie of forty-five shill. in wheate within a week after michael tyde next 1658 to be payed at his house in Sudbury the sd Steven allowing for th:e carriage of the wheate tenn shill 6d. Date Apr. 2. 1658. John Whetcombe."
John later petitioned to be released from paying the note in the following document: "To the honored County Court at Charlestown. The humble Petison of Jno. Whetcome humbly sheweth that whereas yor Petitioner hath set his hand to a note to pay fortie and five shillings to Steven Gates of Sudbury. It was by reason of age and weakness I did not consider of it that I had no right to pay anything to him before he did duly make it apeare that I had damnified him. He did complaine before the deputie Govr his worpp that I or my sonnes had killed and spoiled three of his swine in the woods. And made as if we stole them & with many threats which did amaze yor petitioner so that I could not declare my case which is such as I have nowgotten to be drawne vpp fairly in wrighting by which it may appeare to this honord Court that I had not wronged Steven Gates nor was indebted to him anything for which I should agree to paye him anything. Wherefore yor petitioner being aged and weak, and mean in estate hath wronged himselfe and family in loss of so much, besides by this means of giueing satisfaction there is an imputation of theft cast vppon mee and the family of yor petitioner (toyr great Greef being inosent in that respect) and we are much defamed in our names and creditt, and therefore do humbly request this honord Court, that our case may be considered and my bill may be suspended untill the next County Court, and that then the case may be fully heard on both sides and determined according to euidenc and equtie and yor petitionr (p33) shalbe redy and willing freely to yeald unto what is right and shale thankfully remain Yor worrpp humble servant John Whetcomb." (Middlesex Court Records.)
According to the Middlesex Court Records John had decided the case against himself by giving his note; this note, John being a Christian and a law abiding citizen, doubtless "payd in good wheate after michael tyde," and later events prove that "Peace hath her victories," for during the two or three succeeding generations several marriages occurred between the sons of the turbulent Stephen and the daughters of the self-respecting John.
The products of John's tillage in Lancaster up to 1662 were corn, tobacco and flax with roots and garden herbs and vegetables. The farm probably yielded maple sugar also and the inventory shows that there was an orchard. Log houses were the rule in the time of John and a description of one would probably give the features of all. They were usually of one story and an attic. Small openings in the log walls served as windows; these were protected at night by shutters made of hewn planks; sometimes glass was simulated by the use of skins scraped to semi-transparency or by the skins of bladders. Later the luxury of small panes of greenish glass was introduced. Doors were made of hewn plank battened together and the latch-string was universal. A huge chimney in the middle of the house provided a fireplace which serv'ed the purposes of heating and cookery and in Lancaster each family ground its own corn until to the general rejoicing, a miller with his wheel and millstones arrived.
There was no idle class; whatever had been a man's condition in England here he worked with his hands. If he had a trade so much the better; if he had not he tried to have, for necessity compelled him to be resourceful and inventive. The miller, the smith, the shoemaker were in demand and every man was in some degree an agriculturist....
(p34) After some thirty years of this primitive life in the Colony, eight of it spent in Lancaster, the aged Puritan John Whetcombe, met "the inevitable hour," September 24, 1662, and died aged about seventy-four years. He was laid with other forefathers of the hamlet in "the old burying ground," but today no fragment of even a battered stone marks his resting place.
He was married in England to Frances -, family name unknown, and in England his older children were born. He had certainly five sons, perhaps six, and three daughters. There are no records of births, but in wills and other documents the children's names have been found. He died intestate and the widow and children mutually agreed upon a division of the property which was approved by the court. Frances made her will May 12, 1671, and died at Lancaster May 17, 1671. She named her youngest daughter, Mary, as executrix.
.....(p. 38)At the time of John's decease his children... were all living in the towns of Lancaster and Scituate. They married and had children in those towns where, indeed, their descendants remained in some cases for several generations. Catherine left a numerous posterity who settled in Scituate and vicinity and Robert's descendants lived on his estate for several generations.
But in Lancaster the family met change and disaster. John was accidentally drowned leaving no sons; Job removed to Connecticut; Jonathan died and his widow was killed by Indians during one of their merciless raids upon the town; members of the next generation adventured into other settlements or new plantations, and in the fifth generation the Whitcombs had scattered widely from both Scituate and Lancaster and were found in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Canada.
(p.35) "An Inventory of the Lands goods and Chatels of John Whitcomb (deceased) of Lancaster as the wase prised by Thomas Wilder and Jacob Farrer boath of them of the same towne as the wase prized Accordinge to theire best estimation the 2th of October, 1662.
Cambr. 7 (8) 1662 John Whetcomb appearing in Court is granted power of administration on the estate of his father deced. & tooke his oath to the Inventory above written that it is the truth & yt if any more appeare He will timely & truly (?) the Same and The Court ordered that ye sd estate be divided according to ye agreemt of ye partyes consrned, the wich agreemt was Exhibited in Court and attested by Major Willard to be ye art (?) & is on file with ye Records of this Court. THO DANFORTH R.
The following is a copy of the document setting forth the partition of the estate of John-1 among his heirs. It was approved by the court and placed on file among the Middlesex court records. (C. W.)
(p.36) These may be to intreat this honoured court to take into consideration that whereas John Wetcomb late of this Towne of Lancaster in the Countie of Midlsex, who deceased without making a loyal will that if they see it fitt and convenient they would be pleased to confirme this agrement and covenant which the widow and soe many of the children of the deceased as therin is concerned doe mutualy and vneanimeisly consent unto, which is here by this present writing now after declared.
First, we all mutualy agre that Francis Wetcomb widow and late wife of the deceased and our mother shall have the now dwellinge house and one halfe of the orchard that now is and that is to be of that which is nerest to the said dwellinge house and soe much breakup upland ground as will make up that in her part of the orchard two Aikers of the nerest breakup land therunto, and also two Aikers of broakup Intervale land lying betwixt the said dwellinge house and the riuer also one third part of that we cale the pasture and also one third part of the medow and likewise a third part in all doworage belonging to the estate of her deceased husband soe as it be not of the second divition and moreouer we agre if she please she shall her firewood out of the two house lots which wase her husbands soe long as it is there to be had and these to have and to hould to her or to her Assigns for and during the time of her natural life we also doe agre that she shall have all the Cattel (Exceptinge two hogs thre pigs and one Cow) which was her husbands we likewise agre she shall have all the housold stuff exceptinge what heereafterin this writinge is expressed in particulars giuen and to whom we also agre she shall have all the flax, and also one halfe of the Corne that this yeare wase growing on the old land and thirtie pounds waight of tobacco made up in roule and made merchantable and she to pay one half of all dets which ought to be charged upon her late deceased husbands estate we also mutualy agre that John Wetcomb and Jonathan Wetcomb two of the said deceased John Wetcomb's sonnes shall haue the house lot which is next unto good man Brooks lot and also ninetene Aikers of Intervale next adjoyinge thereto (excepting soe much therof as we haue agreed as doth apeare and herein above is expressed to be our mothers for the time of her natural life) and the same to haue and to hould from the time of the confirmation of this writinge and to them their heirs or Assigns and for ever and after the decease of our mother the part excepted in like maner we also agre that the said John and Jonathan shall haue the residue of the tobacco and the hogs & pigs Above excepted and also each of them one pewter platter and John one silver spoone, and Jonathan one Cow and also the Said John and Jonathan shall haue the cart wheles, and plow and what tacklinge or furniture there is belonginge to them or to the horses and also two hows and two axes we also mutualy agre that (p. 37) Job Wetcomb and Josiah Wetcomb the two youngest Sonnes of the Said deceased John Wetcomb shall have the vpland or house lot which formerly wase their brothers Johns lott it beinge twentie Aikers and also twentie one Acers of Intervall lott and part of it adjoyinge to the before mentioned Intervall lott and part of it lyinge at quassaponakin and part of it where it shall fall to bee layed out the same to have and to hould to them their heirs or assigns for ever we also mutualy agre that the portion of medow alotted our mother for terme of her life Shall after her decease be equaly divided to us foure here named brothers and for all other medow or medows second divitions with all after divitions or dowers with dowerage and all other rights and privileges belonging to the Estate of the said deceased John Wetcomb we mutualy doe agre to diuide them also equaly amongst us foure above named brothers the same to have & to hould to them their heirs or assigns & for ever.
Also we mutualy agre that Abigail Wetcomb daughter to the deceased John Wetcomb Shall haue one cow out of her fathers estate furthermore we the Above Said Francis Wetcomb, John Wetcomb and Jonathan Wetcomb mutualy agree that when Mary Wetcomb daughter of the Said deceased John Whetcomb is Sixtene years of age we will giue to her one Cow Also it is further mutualy by us agreed that the above said John and Jonathan Shall pay the other halfe of the dets which ought to bee charged upon the Estate of the Said deceased John Wetcomb and for beter confirmation of this agreement amongst us we each signe it by Settinge here vnto our hands this Second of October 1662 in the presence of wittnes
Entered and recorded the 7th of Octb 1662 In the Register of Wills & Inventory lib. 2, page 220.127.116.11, by Thomas Danforth Recorder.
The following are the important publications about the genealogy of this family in chronological order (i.e. the most reliable material is at the end).
William Frederic Whitcomb, Memorial of the Whitcomb and Pierce Families (View at Ancestry.com — a subscription web site), (Boston, Mass.: the author, 1888), begins the genealogical description of this family and proposes Symon Whitcomb as John Whitcomb's father.
Charlotte Whitcomb, The Whitcomb Family in America: A Biographical Genealogy with a Chapter on Our English Forbears "by the Name of Whetcombe" (Minneapolis, Minn: the author, 1904). Download free at https://archive.org/details/whitcombfamilyin00whit. Contains many errors and omissions, nevertheless, it is transcribed below.
Elizabeth French and J. Gardner Bartlett, "Genealogical Research in England" (View at AmericanAncestors.org — a subscription web site)], New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 68 (1914): 63–64, first identifies Taunton, Somerset, as the English home of this family and the Coggans as his wife's family.
Mary Lovering Holman, The Scott Genealogy (View at Ancestry.com — a subscription web site), (Boston, Mass.: the author for Harriet Grace Scott, 1919), 2:254.
Mary Lovering Holman, Helen Pendleton Winston Pillsbury and Winifred Lovering Holman, "Number 10: The Whitcomb Line" (View at HeritageQuest.com — a subscription web site), Ancestry of Colonel John Harrington Stevens and His Wife Frances Helen Miller, (Concord, N.H.: privately printed at the Rumford Press, 1948–1953), 1:86–93.
Frederick W. Wead, "James Whetcombe of Boston" (View at AmericanAncestors.com — a subscription web site), New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 112 (1958): 160, shows that John and Frances (Coggan) Whitcomb were not the parents of James Whitcomb of Boston.
Burton W. Spear, Search for the Passengers of the Mary & John, 1630, 27 vols., (Toledo, Ohio: the author, 1985–1992), 26:61–73, first identifies Thomas and Joanna (Pope) Whitcomb as the correct parents of John Whitcomb. (Not available online?)
Robert Charles Anderson, "John Whitcomb" View at AmericanAncestors.org — a subscription web site), The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634–1635, (Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999–2011), 7:326–331, is the current authority for this family.
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