John Wood, Jr.
Heather’s 8th great grandfather
Thanks to the research of Bertha Winifred Clark, we know quite a bit about this John Wood, who I will refer to as John Wood, Jr.
He was born around 1620, as he stated in a deposition he made in 1662, and also as derived from his gravestone inscription.
We believe he was born in England, possibly London. He is described as “John Wood, of London” as late as January 1649. He was a mariner, as was his father.
Ms. Clark tells us that we first see John Wood, Jr. in the colonies when he appears in the Aspinwall Notarial Records. William Aspinwall was the public notary in Boston from 1644-1651, and the records he took were published in book form in 1903. The book has since been transcribed on the internet and can easily be found in Google Books and other public domain archives.
If I’m reading and interpreting the notes correctly (which is debatable):
In December 1648, John Wood represented London merchants and a ship called Peregrine. I’m not sure if he was the ship’s captain or just a representative. The ship was to pick up wheat in Boston – I don’t know where the ship was then supposed to take the wheat. But at any rate the Peregrine failed to pick up the wheat at the appointed time, or something like that, so the New England merchants wanted reimbursement.
Aspinwall notarizes a few more exchanges between John Wood and the New England merchants in December and January, but then nothing further is said about the wheat incident. They seem to have worked it out.
Clark writes: “It must have been soon after the 1648/9 Peregrine cargo affair – perhaps even because of it – that John Wood Jr. came with his family to America to live.”
His father had settled in New England before him, and in 1649/50 that gentleman is suddenly referred to as John Wood Sr., telling us that there are now 2 John Woods in the community and there is a need to tell them apart.
John Sr. gave John Jr. land in Newport, Rhode Island.
Ms. Clark writes: “…In spite of his Rhode Island home and citizenship, the years between 1650 and 1663 were for John roving ones. We find him in Connecticut, on Long Island, in Massachusetts, and even in New Hampshire; as well as, intermittently, in Rhode Island, as the items below will show. A strange career his, with checkered lows and highs. Happily, the lows were in his early years, none of them in his later ones.”
Clark says that a later biographical sketch of John (from Southeastern Massachusetts p. 1157) says that John and his brother Thomas were “great hunters and possessed of that hardy adventurous spirit so characteristic of our early pioneers. In search of country where game was plenty, they first came to Seaconnet or there-abouts and soon after to Swansea, where Thomas settled. John, so tradition says, went still farther west into Connecticut – which was a wilderness.”
She goes on to quote New Haven (Connecticut) court records, from 1 April 1651. In this court entry, it tells a convoluted story that winds up something like this. John stole a pig from Mr. Wakeman, killed the pig, and sold the pork for 36 shillings. John said he was “sorrey”. Mr. Wakeman said he thought the pig was worth 40 shillings. The court ordered John to pay Mr. Wakeman 36 shillings, and to pay the town Treasurer 10 shillings for his lying.
He shows up in Connecticut court records a few more times in 1651-52, over minor incidents, once as a witness. In the court record where he is a witness, he is quoting his wife. So we know he was married in 1652 but the wife is not named.
In 1655 he is back in Rhode Island records, and is on the list of 95 named Newport freemen.
But in summer 1655 he is again in Connecticut, where he sold a mare. This is important, because this sale would end up the subject of a long drawn out court trial that would end up having hearings over the next several years. Similar to the pig incident, John was accused of selling a mare that was not his to sell. The records show that the incident should have been decided by arbitrators, but because “it concerned an absent man”, it went to court trial. We believe the absent man was John, who by the time it went to court, was no longer living in the New Haven area.
1657: Clark reports that it is likely that he was “living on Long Island (probably at Hempstead) as early as 1657, and that he married a wife named Anna at about that time. We think the wife Anna was not the wife who was living in Milford in the early 1650s, who had probably died – unless she had been deserted, as Anna was soon to be. The marriage with Anna may have been an irregular one…recognized as valid by some, not so by others. It is certain that she called herself wife of John Wood, formerly of Rhode Island, when she indentured their son Jonathan to John Smith; certain, too, that the Governor of New York called her wife of John Wood when he ordered her and her goods to be restored to her husband.”
In summer 1658, John and Anna moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. Clark believes that this is because Quakers had moved to Long Island and were immediately persecuted. Although we do not have record of John ever joining the Quakers, he was definitely in sympathy with them. Many of John’s children and grandchildren became Quakers.
26 Aug 1658 – John and Anna’s son Jonathan is born in Springfield.
But after finding himself fined in court a couple of times, he leaves Springfield in 1660, and this is where Clark reports that he apparently deserts Anna. Anna and baby Jonathan return to Long Island, while John goes back to Newport, Rhode Island with an older son. Other Wood genealogists question the assumption that John deserted Anna. Could it possibly be that she “deserted” him, they ask? Refused to go with him to Rhode Island? Would the Governor of New York order her to be “restored to her husband” if John left Anna?
In 1661-62, John’s name appears on a few land records in the Newport area.
Clark writes, “At about this time, John Wood had connections with the Oyster River, which was then a part of Dover. Dover from 1641 to 1679 was under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Perhaps his maritime interests were what brought him there. Ship-building was a leading industry there, and much lumber was exported. One notes, too, that ‘Quakerism flourished with greater vigor in Dover than in any other town in the province.’” (Dover, N.H., Its History and Industries, pp. 8-13)
In 1663, John marries Mary Peabody of Newport, but the couple travels to Dover to be married.
Clark goes on to report that the next major event in John’s life is a “political situation” relating to the Wood family friendship with the Winthrops of Connecticut (including Governor John Winthrop). A dispute had arisen between the colonies of Rhode Island and Connecticut, over control of some significant land along the Narragansett River. Clark says the dispute would go on for more than 60 years. Now, I personally don’t really comprehend the court records that Clark posts in her research, but earlier in her book she describes John Wood as one of 5 “chief agitators” publicly supporting the idea of the land belonging to the Connecticut colony. Since he was a resident of Rhode Island, this incensed the court there. By 1665 though, John was removed from the feud. The land was temporarily taken under the control of the British crown, probably to shut up the bickering colonies. The dispute was reignited 2 years later, but John is not known to have any part in it then.
Throughout the late 1660s and early 1670s, John’s name shows up in court records in Newport, Rhode Island, serving on various juries, and buying and selling land.
In May 1673, when John was 53, he was elected as a Deputy to the Assembly in Newport. This was a one-year position available to 8-10 men. He was re-elected the 2 following years as well. Clark also doesn’t explain the role, so I located a book on Google books called The Colonial Metamorphoses in Rhode Island: A Study of Institutions in Change by Sydney V. James. According to James, the General Assembly was a legislative body and also sometimes served as a court. He also mentions that the Rhode Island colony had a relatively weak government structure from 1660-1686 (p. 114), exactly at the time that John lived in Newport.
In December 1677 we find that land deed that was referenced in son Henry’s biography.
In the late 1670s and early 1680s John’s name appears in various Rhode Island records for paying taxes and buying and selling land.
On 22 Mar 1687 John Wood’s father-in-law, John Peabody, writes his will. In that will he names his daughter, “Mary Wood”. This document confirms Mary’s first name and maiden name, and that she is still alive and married to John Wood in March 1687. John Peabody was ill, and he dies shortly after and his will is proven 22 June 1687. Incidentally, John Peabody’s will shows he owned one (un-named) slave, so that’s my 2nd known slaveholding ancestor. Peabody’s “moveable” estate is divided into lots, and John/Mary Wood draw the following:
In 1690, when John is 70 years old, he is elected again as Deputy to the Assembly.
14 Nov 1695, John sells some land to his son Thomas. And it’s an interesting document because John names his wife Mary and indicates that she has given her consent to sell the land to Thomas. Both John and Mary sign the document with their marks. Then, on 28 June 1699, John is asked to verify that the 1695 document is legit. And it is fascinating to read that John “and his now wife Mary” acknowledge the accuracy of the document. Clark believes the term “now wife” implies that this Mary of 1699 is not Mary Peabody. Clark believes the new Mary is Mary Hardine, and that she married John in Woodbridge 11 Jan 1697. Other Wood researchers disagree, stating that there would be no reason for a new wife to affirm that the deed from 1695 was accurate.
5 Jan 1702 John appears in another land record, in receipt of 2 more parcels.
26 Aug 1704 is John’s death date, according to his headstone. He is buried with a Mary (unclear if this is Mary Peabody or Mary Hardine, if Mary Hardine exists), and his daughter Margaret (daughter of Mary Peabody). The Newport Historical Society says that the burials are on the Deacon Smith Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island. They report that the John Wood house was near the burial site, but was torn down in 1850 by Deacon John Smith, who was a relative of the Woods. I am not sure if the headstone still exists, but the Newport Historical Society had recorded it as saying that John Wood died 26 Aug 1704, age 84 years. The Mary who is buried next to him had a headstone reading, “Mary wife of John died Jan 24, 1719, age 78 years”.
Clark was unable to find a will or estate settlement, so his exact holdings and surviving children are unknown. She had only been able to definitively prove 10 children, but believed there were others.