Runaway Times Three

Relatives go missing for numerous reasons. My Aunt Marjorie June ran away twice in 1943 at age 13 and then simply vanished. No one in my family ever said exactly when she left home for the last time, although it was likely before 1945, and no one ever admitted having had contact with her following her departure.

Two local newspaper articles related her earlier adventures while there were never any reports when she finally left home for good.

The Portsmouth Herald reported June 16, 1943:

Thirteen-year-old Marjorie Merrifield left for her East Barrington, N.H., home yesterday, her week’s adventure in New York ended.

The girl was accompanied by her father, Charles Merrifield, who brought feminine clothing to replace the blue denim overalls, red lumberjacket, and boy’s shoes she was wearing when she was found in Times Square a week ago. The girl was taken to the Children’s Aid Society shelter, where for several days she gave officials one identity for herself after another. She finally gave them her true identity Tuesday night.

The family actually lived in Nottingham at the time. East Barrington was the rural mailing address.

How Marjorie made her way to New York City was unreported. It is possible that she hitchhiked or may have taken a bus or train. Finding her way to the Big Apple all on her own unaided, however, seems unlikely.

About a month later, the Portsmouth Herald reported July 17, 1943, that young Marjorie had taken to the roads again, this time traveling to Boston:

Miss Marjorie Merryfield, 13, of Nottingham, has decided to stay home for good. After her many thrilling adventures in Boston and New York she has decided that home isn’t so bad after all—that is, until possibly she gets the urge to hit the road again.

Safely home after her second runaway trip in three months, Marjorie had very little to say today about her many thrilling experiences. Her family reported that Marjorie was the victim of too many movies, but that now she is home again, she is being “safely taken care of.”

When she was picked up on Times square, New York city, July 7, she lead police on a wild chase by giving several fictitious names and addresses. It wasn’t until a week later that she gave authorities her correct name and address, and was brought back home by her father.

Last May, Marjorie decided to see Boston. Clad in boys overalls, she roamed about the city and attended the circus. When police finally caught up with her, she was identified and returned home.

She is one of five children of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Merryfield. The family has lived in Nottingham for about a year.

Obviously news traveled at a slower pace in those days and the reports of Marjorie’s shenanigans took time to make their way into the local press.

Boston was not unfamiliar territory to Marjorie. Her grandparents, Everett and Emma, lived in Roxbury and operated the Ashmont Taxi in Dorchester. She had visited both locations with her parents.

There are, of course, as found in all families, hushed rumors and tidbits and inklings. It was said that Marjorie June did not want to be a girl and preferred dressing like a boy, even going so far as to bind down her breasts. Allegedly, she chose the name John Hilliard for herself. She also reportedly headed for the Midwest, where her younger sister Shirley Faye moved to years later.

Sadly, both Marjorie and her alter-ego John have not been located over all these decades of searching for her. With a bit of luck she might show up in the 1950 federal census — when the release begins in April 2022.

Posted in Merryfield

Flying to London in 1692

Known by the English as a flyboat, the French as a flute, and the Spanish as a felibote, the fluyt, a “16th-19th century flat-bottomed Dutch vessel with a very high and ornate stern with broad buttocks, and with one or two masts either square-rigged on both or with a spritsail on the mainmast. They were of about 600 tons, and mainly used for local coastal traffic“–as well as in inland waterways and on the high seas.

The fluyt was ideal for Dutch shipbuilding efforts. It required less lumber than other ships, therefore it was less costly to build. It could also be made from pre-fabricated parts. It operated on winches and tackles instead of traditional rigging. It required a much smaller crew. And it had that all-important factor in the era of privateering, it had speed.


The fluyt helped the Dutch benefit in trade: timber from Norway, grain from Poland, and furs from Russia. In fact, construction of the fluyt enabled the Dutch to “dominate Europe’s shipbuilding industry.”

Sea captains and merchants observed first hand the advantages the fluyt offered to cross-Atlantic trade.

Quotes from the New Hampshire Provincial Papers offer some details. One such local captain, Captain John Holmes, on August 12, 1692, was commander of the flyboat America, recently arrived in Portsmouth Harbor from London. The New Hampshire Custom House reported:

Capt. John Holmes, Comr. of the fly-boate, the America—entreth from London, with these goods following, viz. 2 barrels of wrought pewter, 2 bbls. of wrought brass, 4 bbls. of wrought iron, three boxes and six bbls. of grocery, 2 truncks of haberdashery, 6 bayles of stuffs, blancketts & ruggs, 3 trunckes wearing apparell, 2 pictures and 2 saddles, 2 bayles linnen-cloth, 45 quoils of rigging, 223 barrs of wrought iron, qt 5 tunns and a halfe, 1 truncke of haberdashery, 1 truncke of haberdashery wrought silke, serges & hatts, 6 boxes wrought iron, 1 packe of stuffs, 4 bundles, 2 trunckes of haberdashery and stockings, 2 parcells of wrought iron, and one box of wrought pewter. [PPNH 2:82]

Captain Holmes was only in port two months, long enough for the cargo to be unloaded, Customs to inventory his goods, and perhaps for him to spend a few busy weeks ashore with his family, before departing for London.

On-board was a typical cargo bound for the Old World:

London. Oct 10, 1692: Capt. John Holmes, Comr. of the fly-boat the America, of London, of 30 tunns burthen or thereabouts, mounted wth four guns, navigated wth 20 men, Forraine built, made free, cleareth for London, having on board 18 Masts, 98 bow-sprits, 13 yards, 11.400 ft. of Oares, 2900 boults, 25.000 of staves, 84 pounds of beaver, 130 skins of small furs, 46 spars, 10 pieces of Ash, 2bbls. of Cramberrys. [PPNH 2:80]

The return cargo included ship masts and hand-hewn timber items for shipbuilding as well as wooden oars, wooden bolts, barrel staves–and beaver and other small furs and barrels of cranberries.

Note that the merchant ship America was “Forraine” (foreign built), had cleared Customs for departure, and navigated with a small crew of only twenty men. It was also prepared for a light engagement at sea with possible pirates. This was the Golden Age of piracy.

Also of note is the fact that there is no mention of passengers. The fly-boat was constructed purely to carry cargo and there was no room for passenger accommodations.

Posted in Holmes, Immigrant Ancestor | Tagged , , , , ,

Challenge: Tozier-Smith

Richard Tozier and Judith Smith are my 10th great-grandparents. Very little has been written about them and there are very few clues to follow. This is a challenge of major proportions–with a most pleasing and informative outcome, I might add.

Richard Tozier came to New England, most likely from Devonshire, sometime prior to July 3, 1656, when he and Judith Smith were married in Boston, Massachusetts, by Richard Bellingham, the Deputy Governor. The couple had settled in Kittery, Maine, by 1659.

Indian attacks, instigated by King Philip, which began in June 1675 at the Plymouth Colony continued northward along the frontier. There were many raids. Richard, although he had what was considered one of the strongest garrisons in an area of scattered settlement, was killed October 16, 1675, in an attack carried out by an estimated one hundred Indians.

There are numerous versions of this event. Some say that his son Thomas was killed, others that Thomas was carried off and returned. What we never find out, however, is where his wife, Judith, and her children Simon, Martha, and John were at the time of the attack or what followed.

Richard was said to have been 60 in 1669, so he would have been nearly 70 when he was killed. His widow, Judith, died prior to 1683, when her son Richard was appointed administrator of her estate. As with most second generations, we do learn what happened to most of them. A little more than three years later, Martha Tozier married Nathan Lord. It is from the Lord family history we learn that Thomas Tozier returned from captivity. Martha and Nathan Lord lived on the Tozier family site.

This is about all we know about Richard Tozier (found as “Toser” and “Tozer” in English records) or Judith Smith.


If he is the immigrant ancestor, Richard Toser represented the third generation of Tosers in Uffculme, Devonshire. His parents were Thomas and Mary (Cole) Toser. Richard was one of seven children. His grandparents were Robart and Alice (Welche) Toser. Both his grandparents and his parents named one of their children Robart, with exactly that spelling. Other than this, and the fact that Uffculme is a village, parish, and sub-district in the Tiverton district of Devon, nothing more is known of this family. And, there is no guarantee that this is Richard’s family. However, Tozier-Toser-Tozer is such a rare name, generally found in Devon, that it is probable that it is.


The pursuit of someone with the surname Smith would appear an impossible one. The surnames Smith and Jones abound. After days of poking about two key clues emerged.

First: An obscure historical quarterly reported that Richard Tozer originally came from Devonshire and Judith Smith was the “daughter of a London merchant who had also moved to Boston.”

Clarification came from a history of Newton families in colonial America: Judith Smith was the daughter of Thomas Smith and granddaughter of Simon Smith, “Citizen and Fishmonger of London, Eng.”

The phrase “Citizen and Fishmonger” is common to Boyd’s Inhabitants of London & family units. (See below.) A 1637 entry for Thomas Smith of Saint Olave Hart Street, London, shows his parents as Simon Smith and Martha Oldfield, all of the same address. Martha is listed as the daughter of Roger Oldfield and Thomasin Moore.

Thomas was born March 14, 1615, at Saint Olave Hart Street. His wife’s name is Judith. No surname is given and nothing more is found about her. There are three more Smith children: Thomas, Martha, and Thamsin. All of the Smith children were baptized at the Saint Olave Hart Street church.

Simon Smith, Judith Tozier’s grandfather, was born and died in London. He and Martha Oldfield were married about 1610 in London. Their children were also baptized at Saint Olave Hart Street: Thomasin, Thomas, Martha, John, Simon, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Mary.

Simon Smith’s will was written when he was 82 years old. He and his wife Martha had lived together for 55 years. Simon was a merchant with rent properties including a wharf and buildings leased to the Royal Navy.

Curiously, instead of referring to Judith Tozier as his granddaughter, in his will, Simon Smith calls her his “cousin”, the daughter of his son Thomas Smith, “now in New England.”


The family name is found in records as Owfield. A search for it brings up more information than using Oldfield.

Simon Smith married very well into both a merchant and politically-prominent family. In 1608, his father-in-law Roger Owfield famously left in the neighborhood of fifteen-thousand pounds in bequests and charitable gifts in his will.

Roger was born in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, the son of John Owfield of the same. Roger was one of four known children, the others being John, William, and Dorothy. Roger’s brother John had two daughters. Elizabeth married George Cowper and Katherine married Sir George Fleetwood.

George Fleetwood, son of Charles Fleetwood, Esq., was born at Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. George Fleetwood was one of Cromwell’s lords, one of 59 who signed King Charles death warrant.

John, son of John, was a civic leader during the early years of the English Revolution and was considered an important figure. He was a Common Councilman in 1643 and elected Alderman in 1649.

Roger had at least eleven children. His son, Sir Samuel Owfield, who served as MP of Gatton, Surrey, was one of Cromwell’s lords.

Adventurers in the Massachusetts Bay Company

Judith (Smith) Tozier’s New World connections begin to come clear via her family’s connections with the Massachusetts Bay Company.

. Her uncle Joseph Owfield subscribed to the Impropriations Fund.

. Her aunt Rebecca (Owfield) Gearing was married to John Gearing, one of the Feoffees for Impropriations. John Gearing was also a member of the Dorchester Company, 1624-1626, the failed attempt to establish a permanent fishing and farming colony at Cape Ann.

. Her aunt Mary (Owfield) Janson married as his second wife, John Janson, brother to Sir Brian Janson, knight of London. John Janson was appointed an assistant to the Company.

. Her aunt Sarah (Owfield) Glover was married to Rev. Joseph (Jose) Glover, who died at sea in 1638 on his way to New England. Their daughters married sons of Governor John Winthrop: Elizabeth married Adam Winthrop and Sarah married Deane Winthrop.

All four were siblings to Judith’s grandmother, Martha (Owfield) Smith.

Free Trade

Roger Owfield made what might be called a small fortune with his participation in trading companies, including the Barbary Company, also known as the Morocco Company, a trading company established in 1585 by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Membership permitted exclusive trade for twelve years. In 1592 it merged with the Levant Company.

Thomas Stuart Willan writes:

There was, however, among the members of the Barbary Company a group of considerable merchants whose main trade, though not their sole trade, was with Morocco. The most outstanding of these was probably Roger Owfield. Owfield was importing madder from Middelburg and linen from Stade in 1588; twelve years later he was a member of the Levant and the East India Companies, but most of his free trade seems to have been with Morocco. He was exporting canvas to Morocco in 1583 and woolen cloth the following year; in both cases some of his trade was done in partnership with others. … In the nineties Owfield combined his Moroccan trade with privateering, as did other merchants. He was still exporting to Morocco in 1606, two years before his death. … More than a third of the members of the Barbary Company can be classified as big merchants because of their considerable trade with Morocco itself or because of their extensive trading activities elsewhere. … Among those medium sized merchants was Robert Washborne who married Roger Owfield’s sister Dorothy. In 1584 Washborne was exporting cloth to Morocco in partnership with Owfield, and later the two men may have been associated together in privateering. … in 1590 Robert Washborne and company were exporting sugar from London to Bordeaux. Washborne’s re-export trade was not confined to sugar; in 1598-9 he was re-exporting continental linen and canvas to Morocco. … Of the biggest importers in 1587-8, Roger Owfield and Anne Walkeden, the former rarely and the latter never seems to have belonged to any partnership.

Now we have a picture from whence Judith (Smith) Tozier came, who her family was, what her background was. It was a far cry from the savage frontier of Kittery, Maine.


. Boyd treasure trove of London info here. If you subscribe to, it is part of the database.

. Massachusetts Bay Company Adventurers (Chapter 16, here) and Winthrop Society here.

. The Impropriations Fund was for the maintenance of Puritan preachers in England. Subscriptions to the Fund were intended to indicate interest in the Puritan movement.

. Tudor Foreign Trade: Thomas Stuart Willan, Studies in Elizabethan Foreign Trade (Manchester University Press, 1959) available online.

Posted in Great Migration, Immigrant Ancestor, Oldfield, Owfield, Smith, Tozier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Decimated by Plague, Died of Heartache

It goes without saying for most experienced family historians that the search for family connections leads one along strange and unexpected paths. For example, an explanation for how John Tuttle of Ringstead in Northamptonshire made his way to Saint Albans in Hertfordshire, and met and married the widow Joan (Anterbus) Lawrence is a mystery.

There is, however, a greater untold love story involving Joan Anterbus (which spelling is how the family’s name appears in Saint Albans parish records).

Joan Anterbus was born to parents Walter Anterbus and his second wife, Joana Arnolde, who married February 8, 1586/7, in Saint Albans Abbey.

Joana was baptized April 28, 1571, as Joana Arnald or Arnolde. She was one of seven children born between 1562 and 1573/4.

Unfortunately, we have no details about what follows. The Saint Albans Abbey parish records as transcribed provide none. What we can surmise is that the wife of John Arnolde, the mother of these children, was probably named Joan, as was her mother and one of her daughters.

The family, as were dozens of others in Saint Albans, were victims of the plague that ravished London and nearby villages for five years, 1578-1583. (See below.)

The first Arnolde burial was Joane, on June 14, 1578. A mere two weeks later, two of her daughters were buried: Elizabeth Arnolde on July 1 and a second Elizabeth on August 29. This may or may not have been a double entry. The Elizabeth Arnold, daughter of John and Joan, was baptized November 29, 1562. She would have been about sixteen.

John Arnolde, most likely the son of John and Joan, was baptized February 6, 1573/4. He would have been about four or five when he was buried November 28, 1578.

Martha Arnolde, baptized, May 22, 1569, and Rebecca Arnolde, baptized August 10, 1572, would have been twelve and nine respectively when they were buried July 28 and July 29, 1581.

Only three young girls survived the plague in the Arnolde household: Anne, baptized July 18, 1565; Sara, baptized September 7, 1567; and Joana, who was to become the wife of Walter Anterbus in February 1586/7. Perhaps the older girls were healthier than their younger siblings or maybe they developed a degree of immunity while taking care of their family.

To this sad tale we have to add the death of their father, “Mr. John Arnolde”, who was buried November 10, 1582/3. There is no doubt that he may well have died of a broken heart.

The 1578-1783 Black Plague in England

In May 1577 there were two burials in Saint Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire; in June, there were another two, and in July there were five, two of which came from the Rogers family. These could have been related to natural causes–however, they were not. It was the beginning of the black plague finding its way from London streets to the countryside, most likely brought by merchants and other travelers.

A few months later, in September 1577, the first death in the Goulstone family came with that of Thomas alias Fuller. The following June there was another family member, Grisill Goulston. In July 1578 there was a serious uptick in burials for the Goulston family: Elizabeth, Penelope, and Jane Goulston were all buried on July 1st; a second Thomas was buried on the 2nd and Francis on the 3rd. This brought the total to seven, an unusual number for a single family compared to prior years.

This activity heralded a new plague era for Saint Albans in particular and England in general. Parish clerks became uncomfortably aware of the five-year plague period of 1578-1583. (See Charles Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain available online.)

[In 1578 London] … the statistics that the deaths from all causes had risen to more than three hundred in a week before Michaelmas—a small mortality compared with that of 1563, or of any other London epidemic of the first degree. From other letters, relating to plague at St Albans, Ware and other places near London, it may be concluded that the citizens had escaped from London to their usual country resorts in plague-time. On August 30 there were said to be sixty cases of plague at St Albans, and on October 13 Ware is said to have been ‘of late’ infected. Plague-deaths are entered also in the Hertford parish registers in 1577 and 1578 …

Saint Albans, by the way, is a mere twenty-five miles north of London. Weekly figures in London, beginning in January of that year, stayed in the double digits until August, when deaths related to the plague epidemic reached 162 in a single week, peaking at over 230 for three weeks, before dropping back below 200. In 1578 there were more than 3500 deaths attributed to the plague. In 1579 there were less than 700; 128 in 1580; 987 in 42 weeks of 1581; and just shy of 3000 in 1582.

While the increase in deaths are noted in the Saint Albans parish registers, they are not identified as plague deaths, only as burials. There is no way to differentiate.

Saint Albans experienced a parallel increase in plague-related deaths to that of London. A January 29, 1578 letter reported that deaths in London had increased from seven to thirty-seven deaths in a brief span of three weeks.

In May 1577, the number of burials at Saint Albans had risen to eight; in June, there were 27; July, 45; August, 68; September, 62; October, 44; November, 27; December, 14. By January 1578-9, the number of burials began to drop off significantly, with only four that month, three in February, and one in March. There was a small increase in April, with eight burials. The numbers dropped off again in July, with only one burial, but there were four each month in July 1579 and May 1580.

This was apparently a premature lull before the next uptick in burials in July 1581, with eighteen, and in August, with another thirteen. Another brief drop-off in burials ended in March 1582, with six; April with eleven; and October, nine. The monthly burial rate for 1583 through 1588 averaged one to four, with the only larger number being in July 1583, when there were six.

Posted in Anterbus, Arnold, Great Migration, Immigrant Ancestor, Lawrence, Tuttle | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

TUSLE: Downing

This is the first of what will doubtless be many articles tying up some loose ends, a.k.a. TUSLE.

First of all, the Dennis Downing who brought his family to New England in 1650, and settled in that part of Kittery, Maine, that became Eliot, was not the son of Calybut Downyng of County Norfolk, England.

Dennis Downing was most likely born in the same part of London where he worked as a “nailer” (blacksmith), married, and had at least four children.

The marriage of Dennis Downing and the widow, Anne Daines, took place November 17, 1634, at St Dunstan, Stepney Parish, London. The marriage record is listed under London, Docklands and East End Marriages. The residence of record for both Dennis and Anne is given as “Spittlefields” in London.

Spitalfields takes its name from the hospital and priory, St. Mary’s Spittel that was founded in 1197. Lying in the heart of the East End, it is an area known for its spirit and strong sense of community. It was in a field next to the priory where the now famous market first started in the thirteenth century. … Spitalfields had been relatively rural until the Great Fire of London. By 1666, traders had begun operating beyond the city gates – on the site where today’s market stands. The landmark Truman’s Brewery opened in 1669 and in 1682 King Charles II granted John Balch a Royal Charter giving him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square.

The birth of Dennis and Anne’s first son, John, was also celebrated October 8, 1635, at St Dunstan’s. The address for the parents, however, is given as “Blackwall.”

Blackwall is an area in the East End of London on the north bank of the Thames. In the 17th century, Blackwall was the main departure point for English colonization to New England and the West Indies. It was the center of shipbuilding and ship repair. It makes sense that Dennis Downing, a blacksmith, would make his living there.

The births/christenings of their second, third, and fourth sons, Edmund (November 12, 1637), Joshua (March 22, 1643), and Edward (August 22, 1639), were at St. Alphage/Alphege in Greenwich in Kent. Edward died there a week later (August 30, 1639), as an infant.

Greenwich is an area in south east London and formed part of Kent until 1889 when the county of London was formed.

It appears that only Dennis, Anne, and two of their sons–John and Joshua–crossed the Atlantic for a new life in New England. Nothing more is known about Edmund.

Dennis Downing was the forefather of the Downing family in New England.

Sadly, on July 4, 1697, Dennis Downing, Major Charles Frost, and Mrs. Phoebe (Littlefield) Heard were killed by Indians on an otherwise peaceful Sabbath afternoon.

A group of family and friends were returning from church at the Meeting House in the Parish of Unity (now South Berwick), Maine, when they were ambushed at a spot on the roadside forever known as Ambush Rock.

It is related that the night after the funeral and burial of Downing, Frost, and Mrs. Heard, the Indians opened the grave of Major Frost, carried the body to the top of Frost’s Hill, and suspended it on a stake, piercing the body. The body was buried again, the tale goes, and weighted down (and guarded) to prevent a repeat.

Posted in Downing, Frost, Great Migration, Heard, Immigrant Ancestor, Littlefield, TUSLE | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Colonial Shipbuilding and the Coasting Trade

“I suppose you go great voyages,” said the Water Rat with growing interest. “Months and months out of sight of land, and provisions running short, and allowanced as to water, and your mind communing with the mighty ocean, and all that sort of thing?”

“By no means,” said the Sea Rat frankly. “Such a life you describe would not suit me at all. I’m in the coasting trade, and rarely out of sight of land. It’s the jolly times on shore that appeal to me, as much as any seafaring. O, those southern seaports! The smell of them, the riding-lights at night, the glamour!”—from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

This romantic vision of life at sea within sight of land was unlike the coasting trade of our ancestors.

Travel in the 1630s and 1640s to far-distant Boston, for example, for settlers of the Great Migration residing in Maine or New Hampshire, was irregular and infrequent.[1] Pathways consisted of a network of ancient Indian trails. The highways such as the Boston Post Road to New York City (now U.S. Route 1), which followed these paths, were decades in the future. What our ancestors all did have available was coastal waterways–rivers leading directly to the Atlantic Ocean.

Apparently prescient, prior to 1641, Edmund Littlefield built his sawmill at the Webhannet Falls in Wells, Maine. Timber was plentiful and a means of processing it for profit was at hand. Rivers like the Webhannet, Mousam, and Kennebunk on the Maine coast provided the means of navigation to move the felled timber to sawmills near the coast, ready for local and distant shipbuilding. When shipbuilding began at the Webhannet or Mousam rivers is unknown. The early mills, like the houses of the settlers, were destroyed during the European-Indian wars or were [3]

swept away by recurrent freshets. They were rebuilt, and additional mills were built on Kennebunk’s major waterways, for the harvesting of local timber was an important economic enterprise during the early years of settlement. Small costing vessels came up the Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers for lumber processed at these mills.

During the Indian wars, until around 1714, “no vessels could have been built.”[4]

Shipbuilding in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire

In 1640, in Salem, Massachusetts, Hugh Peters built The Trial, a ship of 300 tons. This was followed by another ship of 160 tons built in Boston in 1642.

However, the Massachusetts Colony was poor and money was scarce. Shipwrights, like a lot of other business men, were “paid in ‘truck’.” Regardless, the shipbuilding business flourished. By 1676, the Massachusetts Colony had “30 vessels of from 100 to 250 tons, 200 of from 50 to 100 tons, 200 of from 30 to 50 tons, and 300 smaller vessels. Of the smaller class, the ‘ketch’ with two masts carrying lanteen sails, did a coasting trade and even ventured on foreign voyages. Vessels could be built and sold at a profit of £4 per ton, and they found a ready market in the West Indies and in Holland.” [The Dial (January 1891):281]

New England, and New Englanders, became ship-building giants. New York, with its Hudson River, could not compete:

[New England] enjoyed the great advantage of a steady demand for the fisheries and the coasting trade, and its ship-yards had something to do nearly all the time. If the men were not hewing out the timbers and putting together the materials for a new sloop, ketch, or bark, they were kept busy repairing an old vessel; and as wages are lower and labor more skillful where work is steady, the New England yards could build better and cheaper ships than those in other provinces. [U.S. Census Office 1884]

In fact, the New England shipbuilders were so successful that, in 1724, shipbuilders on the Thames “complained to the King that their trade was injured on account of the New England competition, and that their workmen were migrating.” [The Dial (January 1891):281]

From 1698 to 1714, a registry of merchant sailing vessels was kept. An assortment of sloops (10-50 tons), pinks (about 15 tons), ketches (about 24 tons), brigantines (20 to 60 tons), and ships (60 to 160 tons) were built at Salem, Beverly, Lynn, and Newbury in Massachusetts; Portsmouth, Piscataqua, and Hampton in New Hampshire; and Kittery, Pemaquid, York, and Berwick in Maine.

In 1728, Pelatiah Littlefield built a sloop for Robert Barrett, as well as one named the Triton for himself and John Low. The Triton was engaged in the coasting trade to Boston and Virginia. The following year, Joseph Hill and John Batson built a “coaster” named the Wells’ Trial of 55 tons. It was sold at Louisburg (Nova Scotia) in 1735. Francis Littlefield owned the sloop Defiance in 1733; it was presumably built at Wells. In 1737, James Littlefield, John Webber, and John Winn purchased a York schooner, the Prosperous, which was employed in the coasting business.[5]

In 1746, York had twenty vessels and five fishermen. In 1752, Kittery had 944 tons and York 1680; Wells had only sixty. In 1757, Pelatiah Littlefield owned the sloop Maryland, of 70 tons.

“There was no foreign trade. Some of the vessels made voyages to Canso [Nova Scotia] and up the St. Lawrence. They carried cattle to Montreal. The voyages up to Canso were perhaps the most profitable.”[6]


James S. Leamon writes in Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine (1995:135-6):

For Mainers, the single most all-embracing impact of the Revolution was the destruction of their coasting and overseas trade. From Kittery to Machias, seaborne commerce was the lifeblood of the economy. Without trade, the commercial-agricultural towns of York County faced stagnation; communities in Cumberland and especially Lincoln counties faced far worse, for even in the best of times they depended on imported food. By the time war broke out, nonimportation agreements and embargoes had already destroyed Maine’s normal rhythm of trade. The port of Boston reopened in March 1776 with the evacuation of the British, but by that time British cruisers made even the coasting trade precarious. Throughout the war some vessels succeeded in reaching France, Spain, the Netherlands, and their island possessions in the West Indies. But as early as the fall of 1775, York reported it had lost half of its oceangoing vessels, and Falmouth lost thirteen merchant vessels all at once when the British burned the town in October of that year. At the end of the war, Falmouth merchants owned only three-quarters of one ship, half a brig, and several small coasters and fishing boats. Spokesman for Frenchman’s Bay complained that in the fall of 1777 all of their coasting vessels had been taken by the enemy. Even small boats scuttling along the bays and inlets were liable to seizure as the settlers at Pleasant River sadly related.

Boston’s commerce also suffered.[7] Between 1771 and 1773, “parliamentary legislation forbade the colonists direct contact with the orient, or with Northern Europe outside Great Britain; and permitted only a limited trade with Southern Europe and Ireland.”

“Free trade”, meaning unrestricted trade, was allowed with the “west coast of Africa and West Indies, British and foreign, subject only to certain customs duties and regulation.” There were no constraints at all regarding trade between the colonies from Labrador all the way to Florida, except for a “few export duties”.

“Wool yarns, woolens, hats and felts may not be exported at all, even coastwise.” The English colonists were also “forbidden to trade with Spanish and Portugese America” according to their own laws.

After the war, shipbuilding and the coasting trade again flourished.

Posted in Great Migration, Immigrant Ancestor, Littlefield | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The Cilley pursuit has been, in a word, silly. It has been filled with twists and knots, rumors of two, three, four or maybe six immigrant brothers, poor spelling, poor logic, horrible penmanship, meanwhile being short on facts and reliable documentation. Take your pick.

Cilley family histories are fraught with all of these. There are no definitive answers. What there are, blessedly, are sufficient clues to piece together something coherent.

Richard Cilley, the immigrant ancestor, is also known as Richard Sealey, Richard Seeley, and Richard Sealy. His parentage is unknown although there is speculation that he was the son of John, about which nothing more is known, not even his origin. Richard is also said to have been the son of Andrew Sealey of Stoke-in-Teignhead, Devonshire, who allegedly had no less than six sons who came to New England: Thomas, John, Richard, George, Robert, and William.

However, the search in UK records for Richard’s name and a birth year of about 1620 has proven fruitless.

Richard Sealy appears in 1653 as a magistrate at the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. It is suggested he was there as early as 1651; in Saco, Maine in 1666; in Salem, Massachusetts in 1675; and living in Boston in 1679. It is also claimed that he was one of “four brothers in Maine.”

Here is where the helpfulness runs out and conflicting information begins.

It is impossible to pinpoint when Richard was at the Isles of Shoals. To a certain degree, Richard’s first residence at the Isle of Shoals was during a time of very-little-to-very-poor, at best, record keeping. Early 20th-century chroniclers have done us no favors by attempting to logically construct a lineage for Richard and his brothers.

The same source that reports that Richard Sealy was a magistrate at the Isles of Shoals in 1653 also attributes the children of Richard’s son Benoni to Richard himself.

There are bright spots. In April 2001, a Cilley family researcher, Richard Cilley, posed the following helpful entry on a now inactive forum:

Several anecdotal letters and oral representations indicate that later generations believed when my first ancestor in this country, Thomas Ceeley, came over to New Hampshire permanently to escape the Roundheads in the English Civil War in the early 1640s, he believed that the name derive[d] from the Scilly Islands off Land’s End west of his home in Teignmouth, Devon. He and his brothers had been over to America fishing regularly since the late 1620’s, smoking and curing fish, and bringing back the catch to the west of England to sell. It became politically expedient to remain in America at the Isles of Shoals off New Hampshire rather than risk being hung for a Royalist at home.

It makes perfect sense that Richard Cilley was one of these itinerant fishermen brothers who frequented the Isles of Shoals. It also renders it believable that his parents never came to New England. Attempts to link him to Capt. Robert Cilley of Boston fail.

In his monumental Genealogical History of the First Settlers of New England [Vol. 4:50], James Savage doesn’t mention a Richard Cilley, Seeley or Sealy. He does, however, report: “William, Isle of Shoals, perhaps br. of John of the same, was of gr. jury 1656, d. at Saco, 1672.”

Savage also reports that William’s daughter, Emma, married John Ruel; and that, in 1668, his daughter Dorcas married James Gibbins, Jr.

This is obviously based on the “Sealy” brothers of the Isles of Shoals’ story. A brief family history about them by Walter Goodwin Davis was published in the NEHGR. Goodwin reports here that it was Richard Sealy’s children who were Emma and Dorcas, with the new addition of a son John.

The Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire [p 617] reports:

Thomas (Sealy), Kennebec, wit. a Parker-Webber deed with Edmund Pattishall 26 Dec. 1664. O. A. to King 8 Sept. 1665. … He may have been the youngest br. of the Shoals Sealys, who was bap. at Stoke-in-Teignhead 28 July 1638 and was liv. in 1664. The Kennebec man was a refugee at Braintree, where he sued Richard Thayer in 1678 and took O. A. 21 Apr. 1679.

First of all, the piece of information that Thomas was probably born earlier and baptized in 1638 when he was about to set sail for the Isles of Shoals indicates he was covering his bases with the Almighty.

This account also makes no mention of a wife or children. It also appears to be a possible source for the claim that Richard Cilley was living in Boston in 1679—except that the claim is made here that it was Thomas Cilley who was taking refuge there in the 1660s and residing there in 1679.

A furtherance of the claim that Richard was one of several brothers—Thomas, George, Richard, and William—comes from a biographical publication on Massachusetts and Maine families (searchable at co-authored by Walter Goodwin Davis, one of the authors of the Genealogical Dictionary. Regarding the “Blaisdell, of Salisbury” family Davis claims:

Martha Blaisdel’s second husband was probably a member of the sea-faring family of Sealy from Stoke-in-Teignhead, co. Devon, of whom three brothers, George, Richard and William, were active at the Isles of Shoals in the seventeenth century. By a process of elimination it seems probable that he was Thomas Sealy, possibly the fourth brother baptized at Stoke-in-Teignhead on July 28, 1638. This Thomas was in the Kennebec region in the 1660’s and when King Philip’s war broke out [in 1676] he took refuge in Braintree, a likely place for him to have met the young widow Bowden of Boston. The last record of him found is in 1679 when he took the Oath of Allegiance on April 21.

Here Davis links Martha Blaisdell with Thomas Cilley—which suggests that this claim passed from Davis to the Seeley Society. (More on this below.)

Another source provides a little clarity: “There were several immigrants of the name, most of them fishermen living in same locality. Richard Cilley, or Sealy, born about 1620-5 in England probably, was Magistrate at the Isle of Shoals in 1653. He removed to Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. Richard died sometime before 1686, as in that year his widow married, as second wife, John Clough, born 1615-20. She outlived him, and died after 1692.”

The same source claims that the known children of Richard and Martha were: A son born about 1650, and Elizabeth, born about 1660, who married about 1683, John Davis of Amesbury, and died before 1702. Her parents deeded land to them in 1684.

The daughter Elizabeth was progeny from Martha’s first marriage with Richard Bowden/Boaden. (More to come.)

This is also not credible if you accept that Martha Blaisdell, born about 1642, could have been the mother of a son born to Richard in 1650.

The Seeley Genealogical Society also attributes the wife and three children of Richard Cilley to his brother Thomas.

There are several things wrong with their report, as there is no support for the claim that Thomas married Martha Blaisdell or that he had any children with her.

Once again we get a patchwork of names and dates.

Further confusion was added by John Scales in his memorial to Gen. Joseph Cilley. Scales manages to turn the Cilley/Seely family history into a pretzel by conflating the Robert Seeley who came to New England in 1630 with the Winthrop Fleet, and settled first at Watertown and owned land in Connecticut, with the fishermen of the Seely, Seeley, Cilley name who were at the Isles of Shoals. This Robert Seeley did not have three sons named John, William, and Richard who came with him from England. The descendants of Robert Seeley involved with the Seeley Society have disproved these claims.

Wives and Children: The timeline for the births of the children claimed to have been born to this Richard Cilley makes no sense at all. Absent actual birth records, we are left to sort through various reports.

Richard is alleged to have had a daughter known as Elizabeth Bowden Cilley, who was born about 1658 in the Isles of Shoals who married about 1666 in Amesbury, Massachusetts, a John Davis. This would make her 8 at the time of marriage. This is a matter of incorrect dates.

Early marriage records show a John Davis who married in 1683 in Amesbury, an Elizabeth “Boaden” or Cilley. This indicates that Elizabeth was Richard’s stepdaughter and that the Cilley added to the entry was to identify the family from which she actually came, or, alternatively, that she was a widow and her maiden name was either Boaden or Cilley.

Also, the inclusion of “Bowden” with her name elsewhere in the records—Elizabeth Bowden Cilley—indicates that Martha was first married to Richard Bowden and had Elizabeth by him and she was subsequently known by her stepfather’s surname.

As mentioned above, Richard and Martha’s daughter, Martha, born about 1666, was the Martha Cilley who married John Clough. Additionally, the compilers of the history of Andover in Merrimack County, New Hampshire, agree that it was Martha, daughter of Richard, who married John Clough on January 15, 1686/7.

Richard and Martha’s son, Capt. Thomas Cilley, was born about two years later, in 1668. He died in 1718 in Nottingham, New Hampshire, and married July 2, 1697, in Hampton, New Hampshire, Ann Stanyon.

Richard and Martha’s third child was Benoni Cilley, born about 1680, in Salisbury, Massachusetts. He married twice: first August 28, 1703, in Salisbury, to Eleanor Getchell, and second, October 9, 1739, also in Salisbury, to Rachel Tappan.

It is quite possible that Martha Blaisdell was not Richard’s first or only wife. Early New England marriage records are missing the name of the wife for a Richard “Seeley” or “Sealy” born in 1621 with a suggested year of marriage of 1642 either at the Isles of Shoals or Hampton, New Hampshire.

Another entry, for “Sealy/Cilley?” shows a Richard and Martha ____ with a possible marriage year of 1650 in the Isles of Shoals, Hampton or Salisbury. It is possible that Richard’s first wife was also a Martha. This entry also suggests that Richard’s widow married second, about 1667, John Clough.

Clearly, this is a lot of guesswork based on poor quality original documents or lots of speculation.

It is fairly certain, however, that Martha Blaisdell was born about 1642 and died April 1, 1707, in Salisbury. She married first, about 1660, most likely in Boston, Richard Bowden (also found Boaden, Boden). They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Sarah. Elizabeth married about 1683 in Amesbury John Davis, son of Ensign John Davis and Jane Peasley. Sarah married November 7, 1693, in Amesbury, Benjamin Towle, son of Philip Towle and Isabella Austin (who was accused of witchcraft in 1680).

Like Richard Cilley, Richard Bowden is found in the Isles of Shoals sometime around 1650. It is believed that although he earned his living in the fishing industry, he kept his family in Boston. Richard died sometime around 1665 by causes unknown.

Martha married second Richard Cilley. There is no marriage record; it is assumed they were married in the Isles of Shoals. They had three children: Martha, Thomas, and Benoni. Richard died sometime prior to January 1679/80, when Martha married third, John Clough, in Hampton.

Posted in Beedle, Blaisdell, Boaden, Bowden, Cilley, Clough, Davis, Great Migration, Immigrant Ancestor, Seeley, Sealey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,