Friday, July 7, 2017

Holbrook line: Alexander Balcom 1615-1711

Answers!  We need answers! Who was Alexander Balcom?  Where did he come from?  Did he go first to Massachusetts, or did he go straight to Portsmouth?  Who were his parents?  Did he have a first wife named Sarah (or any other name)?  What religions was he?  was he in Rhode Island due to his religious beliefs? 

It's hard to write about a man who leaves us with so many questions, yet we do know a little about him.  He is believed to have been bornsin Batcombe, Sussex, (or possibly Somerset) England, although as far as I can tell there are no records available to support this.  I've seen dates as early as 1615 and as late as 1650 suggested for a birth date.  I've also seen it suggested that his father was William.  I will leave that out there as a suggestion only, because I can't verify it.  Surely there are answers some where, though! 

We really don't know anything at all about Alexander for the first 50 or so years of his life.  By 1664, he was living at Portsmouth, then considered part of Providence Plantation but yet a separate town.  It was located on Aquidneck Island, famous for being the first home in exile of Anne Hutchinson.  It was founded by religious dissidents from Massachusetts, but I don't know if that was still a characteristic of the town 25 years later,, when it seems that our Alexander arrived.  He married Jane Holbrook, daughter of William and Elizabeth Pitts Holbrook.  The Holbrook family emigrated from Glastonbury, Somerset, England so that might support a Somerset rather than a Sussex Balcombe setting.  However, the Holbrooks stayed in Scituate, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, so Jane was leaving her family to come to Rhode Island. 

She may have been quite young when she came to Rhode Island with Alexander, and it's possible that she was a stepmother to at least a couple of the children attributed to the couple. I've found nothing further on her, except that she died about 1696, which even that is possibly incorrect because she was named as an executor in Alexander's will of 1711. 

We do know a little more about Alexander.  His occupation is given as mason, a skilled trade that was probably in demand as newer, more substantial homes were built on the island.  He also had cooper tools in his 1711 estate inventory, so he may have had more than one trade.  Interestingly, although his inventory was pretty meager, with a value of only a little over 35 pounds it did include books, pewterware and brassware.  It appears that the lands that he owned were already disposed of, at least some of them to his sons. 

I've been reading some of the early town records and it's fascinating to see how the town set itself up, how they settled disputes, how often they had to tax people for various needs, how they took care of their poor, how they made sure every house had access to fresh water, and how they prepared for possible military action as the native Americans threatened them.  Alexander Balcom may or may not have been part of the decision making (I haven't yet found that he was made a free man), but he was certainly affected by these decisions.  The island itself was beautiful and our ancestor may have had a good life indeed. It's one more of the many things we may never know for sure about him. 

The line of descent is:

Alexander Balcom-Jane Holbrook
Sarah Balcom-Timothy Sheldon
Martha Sheldon-Thomas Mathewson
Deborah Mathewson-Joseph Winsor
Lillis Winsor-Nathan Paine
Deborah Paine-Enos Eddy
Joseph B Eddy-Susan Lamphire
Susan Eddy-Hiram Stanard
Louis Stanard-Mary Alice Hetrick
Etta Stanard-Loren Holbrook
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen

Note the Holbrook at the top and borrom of this list.  We are probably our own cousins through this line, somehow.  

Fun fact:  Mamie Doud Eisenhower was Alexander and Jane's seventh great granddaughter.  In my generation, we are their ninth great grandchildren.  That makes us very distant cousins-eighth cousins, twice removed, I think!