Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Beeks line: Percival Towle abt 1620-1691, Immigrant and Quaker

What an amazing morning this has been. When I decided to write about Percival Towle for today's blog, all I "knew" about him was that he was one of the proprietors of the original 100 shares of West New Jersey, and that he lived in London and was a baker, before he came to New Jersey.  I have learned so much in just the last hour that my head is literally spinning.  Google is my friend!

I still have a lot of questions about him, of course (including who named him, but that's beside the point), but now I know there is a person behind those few facts in the first paragraph, and I'm excited to go learn more.  In the meantime, here's what I've learned.

His parents may have been Francis Towle and Elizabeth Cooke.  I haven't found the documentation for that yet, so take it with a grain of salt.  He was born about 1620, presumably christened in a church somewhere, and at some point, married Thomasin Scattergood (again, I haven't seen documentation.)  Also there is no document to point to his conversion to a member of the Society of Friends (Quaker) but there is evidence that he was one by 1663, when "A few days after (March 22, 1663), Percival Towle a baker of Ratcliff was also committed to Newgate for not pulling off his hat as he passed by the Lord Mayor and Richard Brown in the Street."  This came from "A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers, Volume 1", first published in the late 1600's.  We don't know how long he stayed at Newgate Prison, or what his circumstances were there.  Money bought better treatment, but we don't know if he had money at that point or whether he would have used it for that purpose, if he'd had it. 

I've found various dates for his arrival in the New World, but it seems to have been sometime in or .  shortly after January 1, 1677.  He and five other men (Richard Mew, Peter Hayles, Thomas Martin, Nicholas Bell and Richard Clayton, all from the London area) purchased a "full propriety" in West New Jersey.  Percival was the only one to actually come to West Jersey to live; the others were likely Quakers who were trying to help other Quaker settlers by making a land purchase.  According to a 1951 volume of "The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography," Percival was active on grand and petty juries, was an overseer of the highways, a member of the Council of Proprietors, and died a wealthy man.  His plantation, Sutton's Lodge, was one of the largest in the Province, containing about 1300 acres. The "Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey" lists him as a member of the assembly from 1683-1685.  For a baker, he was doing pretty well for himself.

We know that he had and Thomasin had at least two children, Alice and Susannah.  There is also an "Annie" which some people have taken as a nickname for "Susannah" and others have listed as a separate daughter.  If there were more children who perhaps died early, we don't know of them. The children were born in England in about 1643-1645, and joined their parents in West Jersey.

The area that they lived in was in Burlington, N.J.  The bakehouse that Towle owned was on the Delaware River and went "back to the next street."  I haven't found a precise location for "Sutton's Lodge" yet, but it was most likely on the Delaware River or one of its tribuaries also. 

We are fortunate to have an abstract of the wills of both Percival and Thomasin.  Percivals was was dated October 26,1691 and proved December 12,1691.  He left much of his estate to his wife, with the stipulation that after her death his house, bakehouse and lands on Burlington Island and in town bounds were to be sold for the benefit of the Quarterly Meeting of Friends in Burlington Co., and left the plantation called Sutton's Lodge to his brothers and their children,800 acres "not yet taken up" were to go to several people who appear to be in-laws and possibly other relations, and there were separate legacies to four others and the Ratcliffe Meeting in England. 

The appraisal of his estate totaled 740 pounds, 14 shillings, and 10 pence.  His cash and silverware was valued at almost twice that of his 800 acres.  His house in Burlington, where his wife would live, was valued at 120 pounds so it must have been quite a home. 

When Tomasin died, (will dated September 28,1695 and proved December 7, 1695, she left a number of bequests to friends and relations in London and in West Jersey, as well as to the Devonshire Meeting of Friends in London.  Her estate was valued at 465 pounds, 5 shillings, 6 pence, all personal (no real estate).  She was quite wealthy for her time, too. 

Here is a picture of a hard working man who loved his God and would not take off his hat to anyone.  He came to West Jersey in middle age and not only made a home for himself here, but he prospered among his Quaker friends.  It's a story I'm glad to learn, and I'm sure there is still more to be found of this man and his family. 

The line of descent is:

Percival Towle-Thomasin Scattergood
Alice Towle-John Thomas Wilsford 
Mary Wilsford-James Moon
Simon Moon-Louretha Humphrey
Jacob Moon-Jane Rees
Thomas Moon-Jean Gray
Margaret Ellen Moon-Owen T Rees
Eliza Reese-Samuel Goodnight Dunham
Margaret Catherine Dunham-Harvey Aldridge
Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Mary Margaret Beeks-Cleveland Harshbarger
Their descendents