Saturday, April 01, 2017

{genealogy} Wood ancestry part 9 - John Wood of Portsmouth, aka John Wood the Mariner

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. Additional research is ongoing to this day by current Wood descendants that I've been in contact with.

We know that John Wood originated from England. He MIGHT HAVE BEEN a mariner based in London, we know from letters written by Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts and Governor John Winthrop Jr. of Connecticut, who referenced a John Wood...we're just not positive that is THIS John Wood. 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.

Close up:

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, beginning with the assumption that he is the mariner.

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. 

Some people imply that John Wood did in Italy in 1653 in the Battle of Leghorn. There is a JW who died there as stated, but he is not the same person as JW of Newport and Portsmouth. This has been proven with original source documents in work published by NEHGS.

Although researchers seem certain that John of Rhode Island did relocate from London, that still doesn’t guarantee that he is the same John of London who the Winthrops had discussed. It is possible that there were 2 John Woods of London at this time, of course.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Sacramental Token Books of St Saviour’s Parish show that the hypothesis made by Clark regarding Margaret Carter’s death in New York is unlikely to hold true.
In 1642 Rev. Francis Doughty and associates received a grant of land in Maspeth, but were driven out by the Indian uprising in 1643. John Wood settled to Rhode Island before 1643 (when he is first mentioned in town records).
John Wood / Margaret Carter are however listed in the Token Books every year from 1623 to 1643, as the head of a household residing in Frying Pan Alley; the same street where Margaret Carter lived with her father prior to her marriage.
If we are to assume that the “John Wood” mentioned in John Winthrop, Jr.’s 1636 letter to his father (“Quineticut May 16:1636 Sir, John Wood being returned without any Corne….”) is in fact “John Wood of Portsmouth”, then the John Wood attending St. Savior’s in 1636 must be another man – and by extrapolation, Margaret Carter NOT the wife of John Wood of Portsmouth.
If Clark’s hypothesis about Margaret Carter being killed at Maspeth in 1643 is to hold true, then we must accept that:
1) John Wood and Margaret Carter must have departed Southwark before 1636, leaving their minor-aged son behind to appear in the Token Books from 1636 to 1643 (John Jr. is known to be in Rhode Island by 1 March 1649/50, as John Wood of Portsmouth is called “Senior” for the first time on that date), and
2) John Wood settled to Rhode Island before 1643, however between 1640 (1st Dutch grants at Maspeth) and 1643 sent his wife ALONE to live in a brand new and dangerous settlement on Long Island.
It is a romantic story, however we must consider it simply more plausible that John Wood of Portsmouth simply originated outside of St. Saviour’s parish.

Best regards,
Michael Wood
I can be reached at mmwood at gmail dot com


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