Puritans, Pilgrims and Quakers

I have speculated, with good reason, that my great-great-grandfather, Edmund J. Gifford, was the son of Hicks and Nancy (Jones) Gifford. If I am correct, then I descend from both Quakers and Pilgrims through Hick’s ancestors. Hicks’ g-g-g-grandfather, William Gifford, was a Quaker and the first Gifford to land in America. Most American Giffords are descended from him. 

Although the descendants of the Pilgrims married Quakers eventually, they didn’t always get along, to put it mildly. Both the Puritans and the Pilgrims persecuted the Quakers, from whom I get my antiauthoritarian sympathies. They all sailed from England in the early 1600s to found the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies, some of them on the Mayflower. There, because they were the only Europeans around, they intermarried, and to populate the colonies with more Europeans, they had large families. Therefore, if you are descended from one of these families, you are probably descended from several. 

The Mayflower had only about 100 passengers and half of them died in the first year. Not wanting to intermarry with the natives, the Plymouth settlers had to marry each other, even as they moved out of Plymouth into Dartmouth to the west. Then their descendants married the descendants of other early families. So anyone with one Mayflower ancestor probably has two or three. I am descended from three Mayflower families, the Whites, Warrens and Cookes. These are all ancestors of Hannah White, who was a great grandmother of Hicks Gifford

Pilgrims, Puritans and Quakers

Pilgrims, Puritans and Quakers are all Protestant faiths that began in England in reaction to the excesses of the Church of England, which itself arose out of Henry XIII’s desire for divorces which were denied by the Vatican. Protestantism itself began with Martin Luther’s initial challenge to the authority of the Roman Catholic Papacy and his successor John Calvin. The Calvinism then splintered into the Puritans and the Pilgrims. The Puritans accepted ecclesiastic authority of the Protestant Church of England but desired to “purify” it from within of its Catholic trappings and corruption. The Pilgrims, on the other hand, sought to create an entirely separate Christian Church as an alternative to both the King’s Church of England and the Catholic Church. The Quakers, such as George Fox, who had no leaders, priests, or ministers, thought everyone ought to decide for himself or herself how to worship God, and they should worship directly, not through another person. All three groups would find themselves hounded by the Church of England and crossing the Atlantic to find refuge.

Plymouth Colony, 1620 – 1691

Mayflower and other pilgrims, with a lower case “p”, were early English “planters” who did not sail blindly and boldly into the New World but were funded by private investor groups and even endorsed by European monarchies. Explorers had been treading the soil and waters of the North American continent extensively for nearly 120 years by the time of the arrival of the Mayflower, oftentimes crossing paths within days of one another. These were purely commercial enterprises. However, expanding the British Empire with permanent English settlements on the mainland of America was not even seriously considered until the growing Protestant movement of England began to erode the influence of its monarchs. It was only then that King Charles I, frustrated by political and social conflicts, realized the advantage of exporting the source of his country’s upheaval. The pilgrims would, in turn, export to England the fruits of their labor as repayment for their newfound religious freedom.

So the Puritans and Pilgrims began arriving in Massachusetts in the early 1600’s with the aid of investors bearing Royal land charters and land patents. These charters were intended as legally binding contracts agreed upon by the investor group, the King, and the “Planters”, which dictated the financial terms, the geographical boundaries of their particular proposed settlement and established ground rules of governance. In 1620, pilgrims, led by William Bradford, tried to sail to Virginia but found themselves instead stranded by weather off the shores of Cape Cod, where the original patent and its trade agreements would no longer apply. So they illegally drafted a social contract, “The Mayflower Compact,” that would later be referred to as the beginning of Democracy in America. This was the beginning of Plymouth Plantation.

Further north, in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Company settled the Boston Bay area as a corporation for religious freedom for Puritans. With political, legal and financial supporters still in England, the corporation quickly and masterfully organized and began defying their King with new laws, agencies and trade arrangements, so that by the 1650’s the Massachusetts Bay Colony had become a successful self-governing entity.

However, life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was far more restricted than in Plymouth. Foreseeing the need for labor and specialized craft and trade skills for the building of their new homes in America, the Puritans and their investors had permitted passage aboard their ships for other people in exchange for essential skills needed to secure the success of their ventures. Those who had the means to invest hard-earned currency in such very high risk ventures were led to believe that they were purchasing entitlements that they may not have enjoyed in England. But, upon their arrival in 1630, only the most pious of Puritan men were admitted as  Free Men. A candidate was required to renounce all prior Church affiliations and swear an “oath of fidelity” towards God, the Puritan Philosophy, and most significantly, to the governing authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

So, when the Quakers began arriving, they were not well received by the Puritans. The Quakers believed that to make such an oath was contrary to Jesus’ message, but also, obligated them to other responsibilities both known and unforeseen that would require them to answer to an authority other than that of God; so, they simply and respectfully declined and were happy to continue laboring in service to what they perceived as God’s Glory. By 1657, the courts of Massachusetts Bay Colony had implemented a series of harsh laws against those who had become members of “The Religious Society of Friends”, or held sympathies towards them. 

The Quakers found the Pilgrims to be only slightly more agreeable neighbors and so tended to congregate at the base of the Cape in Sandwich. Among the these Pilgrims and Quakers were many of my ancestors. The Pilgrim families of the Whites, Warrens and Cookes came from England on the Mayflower. The Quakers William Gifford and Stephen Wing came shortly afterward to Sandwich. Then there were others that I cannot find much information on, but who were in the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies from the earliest days: Bassets, Cadmans, Hathaways and Churches. Many were Pilgrims or Quakers, none were Puritans, as far as I can determine.

The Whites, Warrens and Cooks of the Mayflower

William White and his wife Susanna arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 with their son Resolved; Susanna gave birth to their son Peregrine while the Mayflower was still anchored off the top of Cape Cod waiting for the Pilgrims to discover a place to build their colony.  Peregrin was the first “Englishman” born in America. William died the first winter and Susanna remarried Edward Winslow a few months later, the first marriage to occur at Plymouth.

“Mayflower on her Arrival in Plymouth Harbor,” oil painting, William Formsby H.alsall

Winslow was one of the more prominent men in the colony.  He was on many of the early explorations of Cape Cod, and led a number of expeditions to meet and trade with the Indians.  He wrote several first-hand accounts of these early years. In Plymouth, he held a number of political offices, as was routinely elected an assistant to Governor William Bradford; Winslow himself was elected governor of Plymouth on three occasions: 1632/3, 1635/6, and 1644.

Peregrine married Sarah Basset and they lived out their lives in the town of Marshfield.  He formally joined the Marshfield Church late in life, on 22 May 1696 at the age of 78.  His death on 20 July 1704 prompted an obituary in the Boston Newsletter–the only known newspaper obituary for anyone directly associated with the Mayflower’s voyage.

Marshfield, July, 22 Capt. Peregrine White of this Town, Aged Eighty three years, and Eight Months; died the 20th Instant.  He was vigorous and of a comly Aspect to the last; Was the Son of Mr. William White and Susanna his Wife; born on board the Mayflower, Capt. Jones Commander, in Cape Cod Harbour, November, 1620.  Was the First Englishman born in New-England.  Altho’ he was in the former part of his Life extravagant; yet was much Reform’d in his last years; and died hopefully.

Peregine’s son Sylvanus was born in Marshfield in 1667. He married Deborah Church, a granddaughter of Richard Warren, a Mayflower passenger. Their son, William White, married Elizabeth Cadman, great granddaughter of Francis Cooke, another Mayflower passenger. Elizabeth was a native of Dartmouth where their daughter Hannah was born in 1711.

Richard Warren’s English origins and ancestry have been the subject of much speculation, and countless different ancestries have been published for him, without a shred of evidence to support them.  Very little is known about Richard Warren’s life in America.  He came alone on the Mayflower in 1620, leaving behind his wife and five daughters.  They came to him on the ship Anne in 1623, and Richard and Elizabeth subsequently had sons Nathaniel and Joseph at Plymouth.  He received his acres in the Division of Land in 1623, and his family shared in the 1627 Division of Cattle.  But he died a year later in 1628.  The only record of his death is found in Nathaniel Morton’s 1669 book New England’s Memorial, in which he writes: “This year [1628] died Mr. Richard Warren, who was an useful instrument and during his life bare a deep share in the difficulties and troubles of the first settlement of the Plantation of New Plymouth.”

All of Richard Warren’s children survived to adulthood, married, and had large families: making Richard Warren one of the Mayflower passengers with the most descendants. His daughter, Sarah, married John Cooke, another Mayflower passenger. We actually know something about his origins.

John Cooke’s father, Francis Cooke, was born about 1583, probably in England. He married Hester le Mahieu on 20 July 1603 in Leiden, Holland. She was a French Walloon whose parents had initially fled to Canterbury, England; she left for Leiden sometime before 1603. What brought Francis to Holland in the first place is unknown: religious persecution of Protestants in England did not really begin until after King James took power in 1604. Francis, and his oldest son John, came on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620. He left behind his wife Hester and his other children Jane, Jacob, Elizabeth and Hester. After the Colony was founded and better established, he sent for his wife and children, and they came to Plymouth in 1623 onboard the ship Anne with the wife and children of Richard Warren.

Francis lived out his life in Plymouth. Although he kept a fairly low profile, he was on a number of minor committees such as the committee to lay out the highways, and received some minor appointments by the Court to survey land. He lived to be about 80 years old, dying in 1663; his wife Hester survived him by at least three years and perhaps longer. In 1634, their son John married Sarah Warren, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Warren. They had traveled together on the Anne eleven years previous. 

In 1707, John and Sarah Cooke’s great granddaughter, Elizabeth Cadman, a native of Dartmouth, married William White, a son of Sylvanus White. The Whites settled in Dartmouth, where their daughter, Hannah, married William Taber. It was in Dartmouth, later Westport, that the Whites met the Giffords. Hannah and William Taber’s daughter married Recompense Gifford, son of Stephen Gifford. He was the son of Robert Gifford and Sarah Wing, who were Quakers of Sandwich. 

Handy House, Westport, Massachusetts
The home of William and Elizabeth Cadman White

The Quaker Giffords and Wings of Sandwich

Robert Gifford’s and Sarah Wing’s fathers, William Gifford and Stephen Wing, were two of the earliest Quakers in America. In their efforts to flee from persecution by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony, they migrated south to Plymouth Colony only to be persecuted by the Pilgrims. 

Magistrates in both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies were alarmed by Quaker teachings that individuals could receive direct personal revelations from God. To protect orthodox Puritanism, the courts passed a series of laws forbidding residents from housing Quakers. Quakers themselves were threatened with whipping, arrest, imprisonment, banishment, or death. In 1657, Quakers in Sandwich established the first Friends’ Meeting in the New World. The monthly meeting of the Society of Friends at Sandwich, Mass., remains the oldest continuous meeting in America. In 1658, Plymouth Court ordered that any boat carrying Quakers to Sandwich be seized to prevent the religious heretics from landing.

Quaker Meeting House, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Despite William Gifford’s importance as a Quaker and family founder, nothing is known about his origins, although that has not stopped anyone from making things up. We do know that William Gifford arrived in New England sometime after 1643, as he does not appear among those able to bear arms in that year. The first record of him is in the list of debts due on the inventory of Joseph Holiway of Sandwich dated 4 December 1647: “dew from Willi Gifford” 3s. 4d. On 4 June 1650 he served on the Grand Enquest. The original deed for the Sandwich plantation was executed by Governor William Bradford 22 May 1651. It ordered that William Gifford, among others, have the power to call a town meeting.

We also know that William Gifford of Sandwich as a Quaker suffered persecution for his faith. “Little Compton Families” says “It is supposed that he was the William Gifford who in 1647 or earlier was ordered by the court at Stanford to be whipped and banished.” On 1 June 1658, he was one of a dozen men who “all of Sandwich were summoned, appeared to give a reason for their refusing to take the Oath of Fidelitie to this government and unto the State of England, which again being tendered them in open court, they refused, saying they held it unlawful to take any oath at all.” On March 1, 1658/1659 George Barlow, Marshall for Sandwich, Barnstable and Yarmouth, complained against William Gifford and Edward Perry in an action of defamation, asking damages of £100, in saying he took a false oath. The defendants were ordered to pay 50s and make their acknowledgement publicly, or else be fined £5 plus costs. As Quakers, they could not accept the verdict, and at the 2 October court William Gifford and 11 other Friends were fined £5 for refusing to take the Oath of Fidelitie. 

On 6 October, 1659, he seems to be especially persecuted. “William Gifford, being complained by Marshall Barlow, for affronting him in the highway near a bridge, over which he should have driven some cattle of the country, yet forasmuch as William Gifford affirmed that he was not directly in his way, but in an old path leading to his house, the Court suspends their judgment for the present, until the place be viewed, and so the matter be made more evident.”

One odd historical note is made in 1660. “William Gifford, for taking his wife without orderly marriage, forasmuch as there were many circumstances in the action that did alleviate the fault, is only fined fifty shillings, the Court abating the fine in the extent of it respecting the premises.”

This wife is the unnamed second wife who is the mother of our ancestor, Robert. Puritans believed that the marriage contract and ceremony was not religious but a civil matter. Because the Quakers refused to recognize the state, their religious marriage unions were not recognized by the state.

At the June 1660 court Gifford was again summoned to take the oath, again refused, and was again fined £5. In October 1660, for persisting in his refusal and for attending Quaker meeting, he was fined £57 — an enormous sum for those times. 

On 8 April 1665 William Gifford was one of the signers of the Monmouth (NJ) Patent, but there is no evidence he actually settled there; his sons Christopher and Hannaniah did, however. In a deed by his son Christopher, William was described as a tailor. There is a marker on the bike path near Allaire for the Gifford Plantation.

According to William M. Emery, in his book Honorable Peleg Tallman, 1764-1841: his ancestors and descendants “on 10 November 1670, William Gifford bought from mistress Sarah Warren of Plymouth, widow of Richard Warren, one half her share in the land at Dartmouth, Mass., which by deed of May 7, 1683, he gave equally to his sons Christopher and Robert, who therein settled.” His son Robert, our ancestor, had married Sarah Wing three years previous. Sarah was also the child of a prominent Quaker in Sandwich.

Sarah Wing’s father, Stephen Wing, arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632 at the age of 11 with his widowed mother Deborah Wing, his grandfather, Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his brothers Daniel and John. Ironically, Stephen’s father was the Rev. John Winge, a clergyman of the Church of England. He and Deborah fled England for The Hague to escape the English persecution of the disenfranchised poor in a period of political and religious turmoil. Meanwhile, back in England, Sarah’s father, Rev. Stephen Bachiler, a political maverick who helped spawn the Puritan Revolution in England, formed the Company of Husbandmen to found a new colony in the Americas. It is possible that Rev. John Winge planned to join this expedition before his death. in March of 1632, Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his daughter Deborah Bachiler Wing, her four sons, John, Daniel, Stephen and Matthew, boarded the old wine ship, the William & Francis, and arrived at Massachusetts Bay Colony on June 5, 1632. 

However, in the midst of the persecutions of 1637 in Massachusetts Bay Colony, Deborah Wing and her sons, Daniel, Stephen, John and Matthew, travelled south from Saugus to the base of the Cape Cod peninsula to help found the new town of Sandwich in the more religiously tolerant Plymouth Colony. When Stephen started a home of his own, it was on property in Spring Hill, East Sandwich. The resulting Wing “Fort House” is now a museum.

Stephen Wing appears frequently in the official records. He took the Oath of Fidelity in 1657 but in the following year he was called into court to answer charges of “tumultuous carriage at a Quaker meeting”. In 1658 Stephen and eight other Quakers were denied the “Privileges of townsmen” and “had no power to act in town meeting until better evidence appears of their legal admittance.” due to their failure to be included in the Sandwich congregation (as church membership was a legal requirement for privileges in a many New England towns). The special quaker hunting marshal, George Barlow, reported Stephen to the Plymouth authorities in 1659 for refusing to assist him on three separate occasions in his harassment of Sandwich’s Quakers, resulting in a total of one pound in fines for that year. Stephen was on a committee in 1663 that offered support for Thomas Ewer, another Sandwich Quaker, when he was fined 18 pounds for cutting timber on Town lands. Stephen went on to be sworn to serve on a Grand Inquest in 1664 and 1671 and to serve as a Surveyor of Highways and Town Clerk between 1669 and 1674. In 1681 he and two others were empowered on the town’s behalf to make sale of a whale that was cast up on the shore.

Wing “Fort House”, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Stephen Wing’s daughter, Sarah, was born in Sandwich in 1658. Two years prior to that, William Gifford’s son, Robert, was born in Sandwich. Robert Gifford and Sarah Wing married in Sandwich in about 1680. When William gave Robert the land in Dartmouth that he had purchased from Sarah Warren, the couple moved there, where their son Stephen was born in 1687. Thus, the Gifford/Wing branch ends up in Dartmouth where Robert and Sarah (Wing) Gifford’s grandson, Recompense, marries William and Hannah (White) Taber’s daughter Susanna Taber. And the families are joined! 

Unfortunately, there’s a glitch. All the references I’ve found to William Gifford’s purchase in 1670 of the Dartmouth land from Sarah Warren, widow of Richard Warren, cite the quote I give from Emery’s book. That shouldn’t be a problem, but Emery provides no source for his information. That shouldn’t be a problem, either. But Richard Warren’s wife’s name was Elizabeth, not Sarah. However, this could be a simple error on Mr. Emery’s part, because Richard had a daughter named Sarah, who married John Cooke. But Sarah wasn’t widowed until 1698, 28 years after the purchase.

Emery goes on to describe Robert’s land as 300 acres on the east side of the “Acoaxet River”. This river is now the West Branch of the Westport River. The Westport history site says that Robert Gifford’s land was east of the Noquochoke River, “to about where Pine Hill Road is now.” The Noquochoke River is the East Branch of the Westport River. Maybe Emery meant the Noquochoke River, not the Acoaxet River.

One early native of Westport was Paul Cuffee, the son of an African father and a Wampanoag mother born in 1759. He was a Quaker sea captain, patriot, abolitionist. Cuffee provided a detailed description of early land holdings around Westport. “On the east side of the river, south side of the road was a small tract allotted to Robert Gifford which extended from the river along Old County Road to Pine Hill Road being triangular in shape. … In the 1712 appointments at the Head, Christopher and Robert Gifford received nearly four hundred acres. One track lay on the north side of the road and extended north to the Forge Road and from the river eastward along Old County Road about a mile to the brook.”  You can see these roads on the map above.

I went searching for pictures of early Gifford homes in Westport. The Westport Historical Society, lists 95 historical houses named after a Gifford. The oldest one is the Gifford-Almy house, built in 1735. 

Handy House, Home of William and Elizabeth Cadman White

The oldest house built by one of our ancestors is the Handy House. Known as the Cadman-White-Handy House (and commonly referred to as the Handy House), the 32-acre property is located at 202 Hix Bridge Road, at the intersection with Drift Road. As I described above, the house was built by George Cadman in 1710 for his daughter Elizabeth, probably on the occasion of her marriage to William White. It became the home of the White’s various descendants, and eventually the residence of Westport physicians Dr. Eli Handy (1764-1812) and Dr. James Handy (1792-1868).

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