Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beeks line: John Smith, 1614-1710 Immigrant.pastor and mill wright

Any family historian groans when his or her path leads to a John Smith.  We have several in our lines, but this John Smith is only moderately challenging.  By that, I mean we do know a few things about him, and they are only slightly confusing.  Naturally, there is much more we'd like to know. 

This particular John Smith was born in 1614 in Brinspitell,(Dorset or possibly Dorchester, England,) according to his own deposition in a court case.  His parents were Thomas and Joan Doan Smith, and it's not known whether he had siblings.

He appears to have come to Plymouth colony as early as 1630. which would have been at a young age indeed.  He may have been one of the first settlers of Barnstable, which was founded on Cape Cod in 1638, under the leadership of Thomas Hull.  We know he was made freeman there in 1640, indicating that he was of age, of good moral character, and owned property.  Rev. John Lathrop was pastor there in October of 1640, when John was admitted to the church.  A  few years later, on June 13, 1643, John Smith married Susanna Hinckley, sister of the future governor of Plymouth Colony, Thomas Hinckley.

In his manhood, we was a member of the militia,and a deputy to the General Court in 1656-1657.  He was part of a negotiating team with the native Americans in 1653 and again in 1657.  In 1659 we was "allowed" with Isaac Robinson to talk to Quakers and possibly even go to their services, in order to determine what was in their hearts.  They recommended that the anti-Quaker laws be repealed, but their recommendations were ignored.  He occasionally preached in Barnstable and was pastor of a Separatist church in 1661-1662, until the church was closed. He may have upset the authorities or he may have been upset by the authorities, because he left Barnstable about this time. Some believe that he first went to Long Island, NY, although I find that the John Smiths there are confusing and there may be some room to question that conclusion. 

It is clear, however, that John and Susannah and family left the Puritan colony and they did settle in New Jersey, whether or not they were first on Long Island.  He received land at Piscataway in 1666 but settled at Woodbridge, N.J. and was quite active there.  He assisted in building the church and supporting the minister, was constable in 1669, was member of the New Jersey Assembly town clerk, and moderator, and eventually, justice.  During this time, his occupation is given as mill wright.  We don't know where he learned that trade, or whether he had been pursuing it in Barnstable or even in Long Island. 

By 1675, the town of Sandwich, Massachusetts was looking for a pastor and called him to fill the spot.  Most pastors were from England and had a college education so I'm a little confused about this, but he was apparently ordained in Sandwich and served the church there until 1688, when his pastorate ended at his own request, at the age of 74.  He may have been feeling the effects of his age, or other infirmities may have set in. 

John and Susannah had 13 children, Samuel, Sarah, Ebenezer (died as an infant), Mary, Dorcas, John (lived two days), Shubael, John, Benjamin, Ichabod, Elizabeth, Thomas and Joseph, born from 1644 to 1667.  I find conflicting death dates for Susannah, of 1667 and 1675.  I hope she lived until 1675, to see her family grow up and to make sure her youngest children would remember her.  John died in 1710, at the age of 96 years, probably in the home of one of his children. 

I'd love to know more about his religious beliefs and what led him to pastor a church when he was already past the age of 60 years old, and the circumstances of his ordination.  I'd love to know what books he had in his library.  I'd love to learn where he learned the skills to be a mill wright, and where he learned the diplomacy to deal with the native Americans.  He was another fascinating man.

The line of descent is:

John Smith-Susannah Hinckley
Samuel Smith-Elizabeth Pierce
Shubael Smith-Prudence Fitzrandolph
Mary Smith-Jonathan Dunham
Samuel Dunham-Hannah Ruble
Jacob Dunham-Catherine Goodnight
Samuel Dunham-Eliza Reese
Margaret Catherine Dunham-Harvey Aldridge
Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Mary Margaret Beeks-Cleveland Harshbarger
Their descendents