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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

James Davis b. 1580s Marlborough, England d. 1678 Haverhill, MA

Whenever I do some research on James Davis, I picture this stern looking Puritan looking down on me disdainfully for all of my modern day transgressions! He was my 12th great-grandfather and the great-grandfather of Mary Smith who I wrote about here. He was a prominent man involved in community affairs, obviously brave (or foolhardy?) as he settled in Indian territory, and accused someone of witchcraft.

James was born 1583-1588 in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, according to old Bible records. His father may have been John Davis. He married Cicely (Thayer?) 11 June 1618 in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England. They had seven children: James, John, Samuel, Sarah (who died young), Judith, Ephraim, and Sarah. I descend from John who married Jane Peasley and moved to Oyster River (current Durham NH).

He sailed to Massachusetts Colony with his wife and three oldest children.  His brothers Samuel, Thomas, John, and Ephraim also came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

James was made a freeman at Newbury on March 4, 1634/5.  He received a grant of land at Hampton in 1639.  In May 1644 he had moved to the Indian village of Pentucked (now Haverhill) where he was listed as one of the first settlers.  James Davis was one of 12 original settlers in the "wild woods" of Pentucket who were from Ipswich and Newbury.
Map Showing Haverhill's location

Four years later on 17 August 1648 he sold his land at Hampton. I have read some speculation that the James Davis in Hampton was another man of the same name, but other family was there as well so it is likely this James.

In 1650 his land was worth 200 pounds, the highest amount in Haverhill.

James Davis, Sen., and his son Ephraim Davis along with others, signed a paper presented to the Ipswich Court in February 1658-9, against John Godfrey, accusing him of witchcraft. They said they had suffered losses in their estates or afflictions to their bodies that weren’t from natural causes but rather from an ill-disposed person. This was prior to the Salem witchcraft trials and only five cases on the charge of witchcraft are known to have occurred in Massachusetts before the Salem cases.  Such trials were held periodically, but the outcomes generally favored the accused. 

The case against John Godfrey of Andover, a notorious character consistently involved in litigation, was dismissed. Godfrey was again accused by someone else in 1662.

James was active in town government, serving as selectman (amongst the first named in 1648), on the grand jury, was representative to the General Court, Justice of the Peace. He was discharged from militia training in 1650 because of his age.

He lived near Rocks village, East Haverhill. In 1661, he and his wife “Cisley” sold two acres of his Haverhill house lot to George Brown.
Old photo of Rock's Village from the Eagle Tribune Newspaper

Cicely died 28 May 1673 in Haverhill. James made out his will on 17 May 1675/6 during the time of King Philip's War.  He wrote a codicil 22 July 1678 and was proved 1680. He died at Haverhill, Massachusetts on 29 January 1678/9, age 96.

David Hoyt wrote that James Davis of Haverhill is not James who married Cicely Thayer at Gloucestershire, so there is some doubt.

Sybil Noyes, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, 1928

David Webster Hoyt, Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury Massachusetts vol 1, 1897

George Wingate Chase, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, From Its Settlement in 1640 to the Year 1860, 1861

Everett S. Stackpole and Winthrop S. Meserve, History of the Town of Durham New Hampshire (Oyster River Plantation), volume 1 history, volume 2 genealogical, 1913

Linnda R. Caporael, Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?, Science Magazine, 2 April 1976


  1. What is Hoyt's source that makes him say that James Davis of Haverhill is not the one who married Cicely Thayer. Their towns are 53 miles apart, but that shouldn't prohibit their meeting.

    1. Hello: I think it's more of an issue of not finding a source to prove his wife Cicily's maiden name was Thayer. Also, they would have been married in England. Hopefully there is proof of the marriage that I just haven't seen yet. Thank you, Chris

    2. I am the GG Grandaughter of Delight Davis She was the daughter of Jesse Davis (1753) G d of Joseph Davis, and GG of Corneilus of which there were 3 Sr Jr and 111 Delight shows up in some family lines and not in others. WHY She is buried in NY and was married to my GG Grandfather Henry Bell od Leyden NY

    3. My daughter is a decendant of Brewster , also and 2 others on the Mayflower. I think through the Barlow family.

  2. Thank you for all of your research and sharing it with us. I have learned some new information I did not know about this Davis family. I descend from James and Cicely Davis' son James, born July 4, 1619, married to Elizabeth Eaton.

  3. Chris-Hello, we must be cousins. My GtGtGt Aunt passed down the same info about James in Haverhill. She and others must have also been genealogy nuts before the computer age.The bug bit me as I read her "book" about Oyster River.

  4. James Davis was my 10th great grandfathet thru his daughter Judith who was married to Samuel Guile. Great blog.