John Wood, Sr.
Heather’s 9th great grandfather
Once again I am grateful to Bertha Winifred Clark, whose research provides this biography for the John Wood I refer to as John Wood, Sr.
We know that John Wood originated from England. He was a mariner based in London, we know from letters written by Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts and Governor John Winthrop Jr. of Connecticut. We know that he was married and had children in England. But we do not know anything else with certainty of his life before he started working for the New England colonies.
There is record of a John Wood who married Margaret Carter in London, January 1610. But Clark says we have “no real evidence” proving that this was our John Wood who later moved to New England. There of course are many men by the name of John Wood who lived in England at that time. The date and location are about right for our John, and Clark says we do know for certain that John had a daughter named Margaret who was born in England. It makes for a compelling story but we must proceed with caution in stating that Margaret Carter was part of this family line. Here is the marriage record – likely a transcription though I don’t know the age of the transcript. I basically just included it here because it’s pretty.
The whole page:
Clark also asserts that it is “probable” that this John Wood family was originally from Gloucestershire before moving to London.
So now let us proceed to what we do know of our John.
In early 1636 John Winthrop Jr. writes a letter to John Winthrop Sr. It is evident from the letter that John Wood, along with one or two of his sons, is working for the Winthrops, sailing back and forth among the colonies, delivering goods. It is clear that John Winthrop Jr. trusts John Wood, even though he references a previous failed voyage. John Winthrop Jr. indicates that he is certain the failure was due to weather and was no fault of John Wood’s. The ships Bachelor and Blessing are mentioned.
Then we know that John Wood returned to London for a short time.
In April 1637 a Francis Kirby of London wrote a letter to John Winthrop Jr. and tells him that he has sent some goods back with John Wood, on the ship Hector. On this ship, John is serving as “master’s mate”.
Clark’s research then goes on to show that in March 1640, John Wood leased a tobacco plantation in New York, near present-day Brooklyn. He did not intend to work the farm, but Clark says all tobacco farms at that time used slave labor. John continued his mariner career while earning from the tobacco plantation on the side. By 1641 John is said to own the plantation outright. It seems that the owner had gotten into some trouble and perhaps faked his own death. At any rate, John has record of owning the land by August 1641, when he sells it. Rhode Island state archives shows that John Wood buys a farm in Newport, Rhode Island. The deed is not dated, but Clark guesses that he bought the farm with the proceeds from the tobacco plantation, and we may assume by this time that John Wood has decided to permanently relocate from London to Rhode Island, and brings his family over from London.
John Wood starts appearing in dated Newport land and court documents in June 1643.
Massachusetts Bay records has this entry 7 March 1644: The debt of John Wood of twenty pounds is respited for two years in regard of his great losse.
What great loss could this be? Clark tells a story that has no evidence, but compelling analysis. An Indian massacre had occurred in September 1643 on Long Island in a Dutch settlement called Maspeth. This massacre was revenge for a Dutch attack on an Indian settlement earlier that year, in February. The Dutch and Indians had a history of fighting as we previously learned in the Teague biographies. Some Rhode Island settlers, including friends of John Wood’s, had purchased some 13,000 acres at Maspeth, with the permission of the Dutch settlers. Therefore they became victims of this war as well. Clark suggests that John’s “great loss” could have been property and even his wife and a son. I must reiterate that all of this is conjecture, as we do not know when or where John’s wife died or even what her name was. We do not have evidence that he was part of the group that purchased the Maspeth acreage. But we do know that he was involved in many land transactions and that men close to him in Rhode Island were involved in the Maspeth purchase.
In 1645 and 1646 John appears in several court and land records in Newport, Rhode Island. 1646 is the last date where John is referred to as “John Wood of Newport”.
In July 1648 he is named a freeman of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
An unknown researcher indicated that John’s death occurred on 1 Mar 1655, but Clark was unable to verify this exact date. We do know that he died without a will, and his estate was divided 7 May 1655 by “the councell of the town of Portsmouth”. They reference a “widow and children” and then go on to name many children. A reference to the late wife Elizabeth Wood is given. In context it seems that the word “late” is not the same as “deceased” as we would use it today.
We have to use analysis to determine that Elizabeth is John’s second wife. Clark mentions that Elizabeth later has to testify her age, and from that testimony a birth year of 1613 is derived. This does prove that she could not be the mother of John’s 3 oldest children (at least), including John Jr. of this line.