As I write these sketches, I sometimes struggle to form an emotional connection to an ancestor, usually because I can't find a "hook" to draw me into the story. With this man, I have tears running down my face. Why? He left instructions for each of his grandchildren to be given a Bible as soon as they could read the same, "and my will is that within every Bible bequeathed as aforesaid my executors cause to be written fairly & legibly the last verse of the eleventh of Ecclesiastes & the first verse of the twelfth chapter." He had a message to impart to his descendants, which he would likely be happy to extend to us.
Samuel Smith was born (or baptized) October 6, 1602, at Hadleigh, Ipswich, Suffolk, England. The church there is St Mary's, and is still an active Anglican church. Much of the church, which has been restored, is very similar to what Samuel's parents, Samuel Smith and Barbary Mumforde, would have seen at the christening ceremony. (Barbary would likely not have been there, as babies were usually christened right away.) To put this in a little bit of context, Queen Elizabeth I was still alive at this time, so we are talking about people ruled by the Tudors. Sometimes it's hard to remember that the lives of our immigrant ancestors overlapped the last of the Tudors.
Samuel married Elizabeth, possibly Smith but not as is so often reported, Chileab, in St. Mary's, Suffolk, England on October 6, 1624. We don't know who her parents were, but she appears to have been born at Whatfield, which was about two miles from Hadleigh, so our couple likely knew each other for some time before their marriage. They had four children before they emigrated together to New England in 1634 on the Elizabeth of Ipswich. They left April 30, 1634 and went to Watertown in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. There Samuel was made a freeman on September 3,1634, almost as soon as they arrived in Watertown, and shortly thereafter he moved the family to Wethersfield, in what would become Connecticut.
Life there was not dull. Two more children were added to the Smith family, but in addition, there was the Pequot war, in 1637. On April 23,1637, six men and three women were killed in an attack, and two girls were taken captive. This was a small town at the time, so the loss of 9 adults and possibly two children would have hit the survivors quite hard, one would think. A few years later, Wethersfield went through at least three witchcraft trials. Three of the colony were executed and one was banished. I'm not sure which would frighten me more, Indians, or supposed witchcraft. These were in addition to the usual trials of weather, wild animals, and possible crop failure, so life wasn't easy for our Smith family.
Samuel's occupations are listed as fellmonger (dealer in hides or skins), glover (maker or seller of gloves and other leather goods), and innkeeper, but we don't know how the occupations overlapped or when he left one occupation for another. We do know he had enough free time to serve as the Deputy to Connecticut general Court regularly from November 14,1637 to May 16, 1656. He also served on various military committees and Connecticut petit juries. He appears to have been part of the court that sat on the witchcraft trials of John and Joan Carrington, in 1651, that sentenced them to death. (If he didn't sit on any of the witchcraft trials, he certainly would have known about them and followed them closely.)
A church fight may have been the motive for moving to what became Hadley, Massachusetts in 1660 or 1661. Samuel was again selected as a deputy to the Massachusetts Bay General Court from 1661 to 1673. During much of this time, we was also a magsitrate for Hampshire. He was empowered to solemnize marriages and take depositions in Hadley in June of 1677 and was the commissioner to "end small causes" for most of the time period from 1661 to March 1680. He had been an "ancient serjeant to the trained band in Wetherslfield" and was appointed lieutenant of the train band at Northampton, which position he filled until 1678. At that time, he requested a discharge as he was "very aged & weak, and not being so well able to discharge military trust as heretofore" and his request was granted. He would have been 76 years old at this time.
Samuel's will was dated June 23, 1680, and proved March 29,1681. He left land to his sons Philip and Chileab, and to the son of his son John, but left just five shillings to his namesake son Samuel. Son Samuel had married briefly, abandoned his wife, become a womanizer, went to Virginia and ended up in Carolina, undoubtedly to the total dismay of his parents. The five shillings bequest may have been to prevent a challenge to the will, but it may have been more than he wished to give. Elizabeth lived five more years, dying in 1686.
Oh, the verses that Samuel wanted inscribed on the Bibles for his grandchildren? "Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart and put away evil from thy flesh; for childhood and youth are vanity. remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." (Quoted from the King James Version). The grandchildren would have cause to remember Uncle Samuel, and to consider the words their grandfather had left them, and to make their own choices in life.
The line of descent is:
Mary Smith-John Graves
Sarah Graves-Edward Stebbins
Sarah Stebbins-John Root
Sarah Root-Thomas Noble
Stephen Noble-Ruth Church
Ruth Noble-Martin Root
Ruth Root-Samuel Falley
Clarissa Falley-John Havens Starr
Harriet Starr-John Wilson Knott
Edith Knott-Edward Allen
Richard Allen-Gladys Holbrook