Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and hope this blog will help with that. I am not an expert and I consider most of my research as a work in progress. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My Mayflower Ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Major John Freeman ca 1627-1719 and Mercy Prence 1631-1711 Eastham, MA

John Freeman was baptized Billingshurst, Sussex, England 28 January 1626/7, son of Edmund Freeman and Bennett Hodsoll.

John came to America on the Abigail with his father Edmund, stepmother Elizabeth (Gurney), and siblings Alice, Edmund and Elizabeth in 1635. Smallpox broke out on the ship’s 10 week journey, so the Freeman’s were fortunate not to suffer any losses. John is listed as eight years old on the Custom House rolls. His mother died April 1630 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.
Depiction of the Abigail
The family lived in Saugus (now Lynn) before coming to Sandwich. John lived on land adjoining that of his father before he removed to Eastham by February 13, 1649/50, the date of his marriage to Mercy/Marcy, daughter of Governor Thomas Prence. His brother Edmund married Mercy’s sister Rebecca.

John was very active in town and government affairs, and authors of old histories and genealogies call him one of the “Fathers of Eastham.” He was one of the first settlers there, along with Gov. Thomas Prence and became large landholder.
Map of Cape Cod
He was a member of the Sandwich militia beginning August 1643. On 6 March 1654/5 he was made ensign of the Eastham Company. He became a Lieutenant before 6 October 1659. Each town appointed a member to a council in April 1667 because of menace by the Dutch and French and John was the member from Eastham. He was in the Indian Wars against King Philip beginning in 1671, starting as 2nd in command as a Lt, then a Captain, eventually becoming a Major of the Cape Company known as the third regiment on 2 June 1685. Because of his service in King Philip’s War, he received a land grant in Narragansett, now Gorham, Maine.
Depiction of King Philip (vermonthistory.com)
John was an assistant to Governor Thomas Prence (his father-in-law) from 1666 to 1686 and from 1689 to 1691, he was a Selectman for ten years beginning in 1663, Court Representative to the Plymouth Court, surveyor of highways in 1653, Deputy 1654 to 1666, and was a Deacon in the Eastham Church. He was a judge on the Court of Common Pleas beginning 7 Dec 1692. He was involved in many other aspects of the town: collecting fines from Indians, paying Indians for bringing in wolves' heads, looking after the minister's rate.

He is said to have had an excellent reputation, being upright, impartial and religious.

His signature is found on a deed dated 25 March 1663 when he exchanged land of "my father, Thomas Prence," with Hannah Mayo (his sister-in-law).

All eleven of John and Mercy’s children were born in Eastham (area that is now Orleans): John (died in infancy), John, Thomas, Patience, Hannah, Edmond, Mercy, William, Prince/Prence (died young), Nathaniel, and Bennett. I descend from Thomas who married Rebecca Sparrow.

On April 3, 1675, during King Philip's War, Captain John Freeman wrote a letter from Taunton to Governor Josiah Winslow of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

"This morning three of our men were slain.” Two of the dead, Samuel Atkins and John Knowles, were of Eastham. The letter goes on to state, "houses are burned in our sight, our men are picked off at every bush.  The design of the enemy is not to face us, but to fall on us as they have the advantage."  He requested additional reinforcements to support him and his men, however the community was concerned that the local Indian may attack them so no one else was sent. 

John and Mercy are buried at Cove Burying Ground in Eastham; gravestones still survive. John’s gravestone lists him as dying 28 Oct 1719 in his 98th year, but he was really in his 93rd year.
Major John Freeman's gravestone, Cove Burying Ground, Eastham (capecodgravestones.com)
Mercy Prence Freeman Gravestone, Cove Burying Ground (capecodgravestones.com)

His will is dated 1 June 1716, written in Eastham, and proved 10 Nov 1719. It names his eldest son John executor. Gave his son Edmund all land and housing where he was already living in Eastham and several other pieces of land; youngest son Nathaniel received the land and housing where John was then living and grandson William Freeman received house and land in Harwich, allowing son John Mayo liberty to make hay on part of said farm. Son Nathaniel received one half of his personal estate, other half divided in specified shares to sons John, Edmond and Nathaniel, daughters Mercy Knowles and Hannah Mayo, and Patience Paine, son John Paine for division to the children he now hath and daughter Rebeckah Freeman, widow of Thomas Freeman. Grandson William Freeman and granddaughter Lydia Godfree received ten pounds. His negroes Toby and Bess were given their freedom and he admonished his children "to put them into such a way as they may not want." Toby also received a cow, a small iron pot and some of his clothes.  

A codicil, dated 16 June 1718, granted Patience Paine a full share of his dividable estate and Toby was given the use of four acres of land to plant during his life, a few tools and utensils, and a room to live in with wood for his fire, fencing and a convenient bed. Said instrument dictated by Major John Freeman and at his request written down by Joseph Higgens.

On 10 Nov 1719 the three surviving daughters, Mrs. Mercy Knowles, Mrs. Patience Paine, and Mrs. Hannah Mayo, contested his will. An agreement of the heirs, or their representatives, was reached 27 January 1719/20, in which the women and their spouses were named, as well as the children and spouses of his son Edmund, deceased. Those signing the complete agreement were John Freeman, Nathaniel Freeman, Samuel Knowles, Mercy Knowles, John Mayo, Hannah Mayo, Patience Paine, John Paine and Sarah Freeman, Isaac Freeman, Thomas Grose, Israel Doane, Benjamin Higgins, Samuel Hinckley, Ebenezer Freeman, Jonathan Snow, Thomas Cobb, and Isaac Pepper. Daniel Cole signed as the representative of Christian Remack.

An agreement of heirs is dated 29 Jan 1719-20.


George Madison Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip's War, A Critical Accounting of That War with a Concise History of the Indian Wars of New England from 1620-1677, Leominster, MA, 1896

Frederick Freeman, Freeman History in Three Parts, 1901

Simeon Deyo, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, HW Blake & Co., New York, 1890

Josiah Paine, Early Setters of Eastham, Book 1, No. 33 of the Library of Cape Cod History & Genealogy series, by Josiah Paine, CW Swift publishers, Yarmouthport, MA, 1916

Homer Brainard, article "Prence Freeman of East Hampton Connecticut,” The American Genealogist, Vol 17, 1940 


  1. Thank you for a concise and well written piece on Maj. John Freeman. I am just learning about this ancestor and this was a nice overview.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Chris

  3. I was working on my Snow family genealogy and discovered this connection. I too thank you for a concise and well written mini-biography. I've yet to find any error in it which is, as you must know, not always the case in such things. Well done!

  4. Thanks, Hobie. Congrats on finding the link to the Freemans. They're an interesting family to research.

  5. Hi Chris, We seem to connect thru several surnames-Brewster; Pence; Mayo; Bangs; Freeman; Cole. You have provided me with some new sources to checkout, thank you. Maureen

    1. Hi Maureen: if there are any ancestors with those surnames you need more info on, let me know and I'll check my database. Chris

  6. What an excellent write up! I would like to link this blog post to my ancestor on ancestry.com

  7. Thank you very much for a very interesting piece. I am a descendant of John and Mercy and am also descendant the Snow family, descendants of of Stephen and Constance Hopkins.


    1. Hi cousin. I didn't know about the two slaves or the details of the Battle of Taunton.
      Can I help with other branches of the family (or better yet do some paid research)? I'm quite broke and the generous spirit of our ancestors is evaporating.

    2. Laura Lou Anderson BashlorOctober 22, 2014 at 5:52 AM

      This has been such a help as I do our genealogy for my granddaughters. He is their 10th great-grandfather and my 8th.

  8. Thank you for writing this informative piece! I have just begun researching my ancestry and John Freeman is my 10th great-grandfather, by way of his daughter, Hannah. And I always thought my mother was joking when she said we were descendants of the Mayflower!

  9. Thanks so much for your research. I am a descendant of Bennett who died before her father, so is not named in the will. Do you know how Toby and Bess were acquired, where they came from, did they have children? Who are the couple on the masthead of your blog? A mean stepmother threw out all of our family photos from that time period. bnoble

  10. Hi,
    My maiden name is Freeman. I am a direct descent of Deacon Edmund Freeman (13th great-grandfather), Major John Freeman (12th great-grandfather), William Brewster (14th great-grandfather and (great^n uncle). I am obsessed with genealogy as well. I currently working with an Archivist in England to learn more about Edmund Freeman's life before he arrived in Lynn in 1635! I guess in away, we are related! :)

    1. Hi Amanda, That's interesting you're working with an archivist in England. If you are able to share what you find here, that would be fantastic! Chris

    2. Hi,Major John Freeman is my 9th Gr Grandfather through his Son Edmund Freeman who is my 8th Gr grandfather ! I'm glad I found this blog , so informative ! Etta

    3. Hi Etta, Always nice to hear from another Freeman descendant! Chris

  11. Hello, I recently went through research a genealogist-aunt of mine did years ago and found that Major John Freeman is my 9th great grandfather. His son, John Freeman Jr., though is even more interesting to me. I moved to Brewster, Mass., 12 years ago from Chicago and joined the Unitarian Universalist church here soon after. The names of John and his brother Thomas are engraved on a plaque we have on the wall of the sanctuary as founding covenanters of the congregation in 1700. So I'm now a member, 317 years later, of the church my 8th great grandfather helped found. Thanks for filling in more of this history with your research.

    1. Wow, Chuck, that is such an interesting story. You must have felt the pull of your ancestors! Chris

  12. Hi Chris, thanks for the information, it is enlightening for sure. I believe without actual facts that I am related to Major John Freeman's son, John. My nearest relatives were from Arkansas. Thank for post. George Freeman.

    1. Hi George, I'm glad you found it useful. Best of luck in your research, Chris