Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and love that this blog helps with that. I consider much of my research as a work in progress, so please let me know if you have conflicting information. 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 male 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, and John Howland.
Female Mayflower ancestors: Mary Norris Allerton, Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Mrs. James Chilton, Sarah Eaton, and Joan Hurst Tilley.
Child Mayflower ancestors: Giles Hopkins, (possibly) Constance Hopkins, Mary Allerton, Francis Billington, Love Brewster, Mary Chilton, Samuel Eaton, and Elizabeth Tilley.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Richard Bourne ca 1610 England to 1682 Sandwich and Mashpee, Mass.

Richard Bourne was born circa 1610 in England (exactly where is unknown although some say Devonshire). He is well-known in the history of Massachusetts because he was a missionary for many years (formally  ordained in 1670) to the Native Americans and was instrumental in securing the Mashpee reservation land. 

I have mixed emotions about the man as I’m not in favor of forcing your religious beliefs on others, but he did seem to genuinely care about the natives and treated them with more respect and open-mindedness than most white men of his generation. He didn’t take their native language from them, rather he mastered it himself and taught them to read and write in their native tongue, as well as in English. He is often referred to by historians as a man of integrity and his goal was for the Natives to manage their own affairs. He was interested in improving their sense of self-respect and thought owning their own land would help with that, so he worked for 20 years to obtain land at Mashpee for a Reservation.

Historian Elizabeth Reynard described Richard Bourne as "a lawyer trained at the Inn of Court, thickset with iron grey hair...the White Sachem or Little Father, energetic, gentle, with square shoulders thick from wrestling with Lucifer..."

I believe Richard is my 10th great-grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Davis’ side, although I'm not 100 percent sure of generation no. 7 (see below). I’ve found a lot of conflicting and confusing information on William Nye, especially since there are three in a row of the same name. If anyone else descends from William and Ruth, it would be great to hear from you!
1    Richard Bourne     1610 - 1682
2    Elisha Bourne  1641 - 1706
+Patience Skiffe   1652 - 1715
3    Hannah Bourne     1689 - 1744/45
+Seth Pope      1689 - 1744
4    John Pope  1716 - 1762
+Mercy Swift  1719 - 1815
5    Abigail Pope   1747 - 1829
+William Nye  1733 - 1806
6    William Nye    1765 - 1841
+Ruth Snow    1768 - 1854
7    William Nye    1794 - 1831
+Nancy Snow 1797 - 1880
8    Aurilla West Nye  1829 - 1905
+Josiah Benson     1826 - 1910
9    Hattie Maria Benson   1861 - 1914
+Charles Francis Washburn    1857 - 1941
10        Carrie Clyfton Washburn  1896 - 1974
+George Brewster Smith  1895 - 1913
11        Arthur Elmer Washburn Davis     1913 –
+Mildred Louise Booth    1917 - 1999
12        my parents
13        me

Richard was one of the 13 men who joined Edmund Freeman to settle Sandwich between 1637-1640. Some were from Saugus and others from Plymouth.

Around 1636, Richard married a woman named Bathsheba, possibly the daughter of Andrew Hallett, although that hasn’t been proven. They had four sons, the first probably born at Plymouth and the rest probably born Sandwich:  
1.      Job, b. 1639, died in 1677, m. Ruhama Hallett, predeceased his father
2.      Elisha, b. 1641, m. Patience Skiffe, inherited the land at Herring River and Manomet, died Sandwich 1706
3.      Shearjashub, b. 1644, m. Bathshua Skiffe,  inherited the lands in Mashpee and in Falmouth and was the Indian Commissioner and judge in Barnstable
4.      Ezra, b. 1648, who died after 9 Mar 1672, when he witnessed a deed but before his father’s death, without issue

In addition to his work as an ordained pastor to the Indians, Richard was also involved in town affairs in Plymouth and Sandwich, serving as Selectman and on various committees.

He was a householder in Plymouth in 1636 and his name is on list of freeman 7 March 1636/7. On 2 May 1637 he was surveyor of highways to lay out roads around Plymouth, Duxbury and Eel River. On 5 June 1638 he was a grand juror and member of a coroner's inquest.

When Sandwich was fully accepted as a town in 1639, Richard Bourne was one of two men appointed Deputies to the Court, a position he held for 14 years. In 1640 Richard was on the committee to reallocate meadowland, a controversy in town as some citizens felt the original settlers were given more than their fair share. Richard was allowed to cut hay in Manomet with the strict understanding that it remained Indian land. In 1648 he was part of a group set up to satisfy the demands of Committees for various expenses in founding the town.

In June 1676 he was on a special committee appointed to take an account of and pay the town's debts regarding the Colony's involvement in the Indian War. He served in other capacities as well, to settle border disputes and to purchase land and items such as tar on behalf of the town.
Depiction of Colonial surveyors

In 1655 Sarah Kerby was at court for uttering “suspicious speeches” against Mr. Bourne. She was to be whipped if she did it again. In 1654, Mr. Bourne submitted his accounts for shopping in Boston for supplies for the Sandwich militia. In 1658, he and James Skiffe were appointed to lay out land in the Common area for townspeople to use for planting. He was named to a committee in 1658 to survey land holdings in Sandwich. In 1667 he was named to the Council of War.

At a time when a man didn’t have to do much to draw the attention of the Court, Richard’s only transgression was on 4 Sep tember 1638 when he was fined 8 pence in Sandwich for having 3 unringed pigs.

His early progress in mission work is shown in the annual budget of Commissioners of the United Colonies:

1657 - Richard Bourne...encouraged to the work
1658 - For pains in teaching the Indians 15 pounds
1659 - A teacher of the Indians 20 pounds
1660 - For his pains in keeping a constant weekly lecture amongst the Indians 20 pounds
1663 - To Mr. Bourne at Sandwich his salary 25 pounds
1664 - John Eliot stated "my beloved brother Mr. Bourne is a faithful and prudent laborer and a good man." (Eliot transcribed the Bible into Algonquin)
1667 - To Mr. Bourne at Sandwich his salary 30 pounds
1672 - To Mr. Bourne 30 pounds. To 3 Indians under Mr. Bourne, 15 pounds.

In 1649 Richard went among Natives suffering from an epidemic (to which they were sadly prone) and showed himself immune. This gave him some of the magical status that was accorded the medicine men.

Richard lived on what is now the end of Dock Lane off Main Street, in the Ox Pasture Neck/Jarvesville area of Sandwich where the glass factory would eventually be built. His next door neighbor was Thomas Tupper, whom I also descend from.  
1884 map showing Jarvesville and the factory--imagine how rural is was in the17th century?

Richard held lands in the Indian-occupied Mashpee area. These lands, some purchased with his own money, were an essential part of the formation of the Indian reservation. In 1660 liberty was granted to Richard Bourne to find land towards the South Sea (Vineyard Sound). He was able to diplomatically block grants and shortly after obtained grants exclusively for himself, evidence of an extraordinary prestige at Plymouth Court plus high persuasive powers among his fellow citizens.

Evidence of Richard's early vision of an Indian reservation emerges in his skilled work to readjust the fuzzy Barnstable boundary agreed to by Chief Paupmunnock in 1648. In 1658 a new agreement was signed in which the western boundary between Barnstable and the Indians was shifted.  It was a rare, almost unique, event for the Indians to regain land once granted away, and Richard was present at the signing.

Beginning in 1655 Bourne was granted by either Plymouth Colony or by the Mashpee Indians land in several areas: On Mashpee River just off Mashpee Pond, ten acres originally just to use then half to own; a neck of marsh and upland in Waquoit Bay, plus adjacent upland; a homestead and grazing center on present John Ewer Road where he lived when not in his home in Sandwich village; a five acre neck in Peter's Pond; a 30 acre house lot on the east short of Mashpee Pond. Also right to take 12,000 alewives per year, to cut 10-12 loads of marsh hay and rights to cut wood and to graze cattle on lands adjoining his own.

Little has been actually recorded about Richard's work among the Cape Indians in the 1650s and early 1660s, but it is recognized that it produced results. He must have been an extremely effective teacher in conveying the basics of reading and writing both in the Indians' own language and in English. One wonders how he could have spent so much time with his charges while running his own farm, even with sons to help, and serving in the town and Colony government. His accomplishments are indicated in three formal documents from 1665 and 1666.  The first document showed a plan for a new way of government administered by the Indians themselves, to operate with Richard's help and advice. The second document talks of land to remain with the South Sea Indians forever, excepting one parcel of meadow and land already sold unto Richard Bourne at a place called Manamuchcoy and Aunto-Anto. This was the real authority to develop the reservation at Mashpee. A literate Indian named Simon Paupmunnock eventually became Richard's successor as preacher. The third document was a deed which formally turned over the Mashpee area lands to the five Indian leaders.

In July 1666 Bourne felt confident enough of the results of teaching the Indians to invite a group of ministers, with Governor Thomas Prence and several Assistants, to assemble in Mashpee. These important visitors gathered at Briant's Neck, Santuit Pond, for the double service of inaugurating the Indian Church and ordaining Richard Bourne as its pastor.

In 1674 there were 497 Indians from Plymouth to the Lower Cape that attended services; 142 could read; 72 could write and 9 could read English. Bourne lamented the irreligion of many saying they "are very loose in their course to my heart-breaking sorrow."

At his solicitation, 10,500 acres, known as the plantation of Marshpee (later Mashpee), was reserved by grant from the colony to the South Sea Indians. The formation of the Mashpee reservation south of Sandwich and the establishment of a successful church there were due mainly to the labor and devotion of the uniquely talented Richard Bourne.

After Richard’s death in 1682, a general law on Indian village organization in Plymouth Colony was passed "for their better regulating and that they may be brought to live orderly soberly and diligently."  It laid out a series of laws and regulations for the Indians. In 1684, a year before his death, a new meeting-house was built to replace the first Mashpee church, and it has been maintained to this day as his monument.

King Philip, sachem of Mount Hope, was unable to induce the Christianized Indians to join his war against the English. They remained faithful, much to Richard Bourne's efforts. If they had turned into rebels, Plymouth Colony would have likely become extinct.  In other areas, whites didn't trust the Indians and wanted them taken away. In Natick they were transported to Deer Island in Boston Harbor. Some of the Indians in Plymouth Colony, particularly at Pembroke, were conveyed to Clarke's Island, Plymouth.

The respect the natives had for Richard Bourne lasted after his death, when one of his descendants was very ill and nothing the white doctors did was helping. Some Natives came and used their traditional medicines and cured the child.

According to Jeremiah Diggs, Bathsheba fell ill of a fever which neither the minister's "dosage and pills" or the Indian herbs could cure. She died around 1676.

On 2 July 1677, Richard married the much younger  Ruth (Sargent) Winslow at Sandwich, the widow of Jonathan Winslow. Some of Richard’s love letters to Ruth survive, but I have not seen them myself.

In 1676, shortly after Bathsheba's death, Richard wrote to the widow: "I have had divers motions since I received yours, but none suits me but yourself, if God soe incline your mynde to marry me ... I doe not find in myselfe any flexableness to any other but an utter loatheness."

Elder John Chipman tried to dissuade him from marrying Ruth. The widow, he said, was a worldly creature, too worldly for Richard. Interestingly, after Richard died and Elder Chipman had lost his wife, he in turn married the wordly Ruth!

Richard died at Sandwich after 18 August 1681, when he is mentioned in the town records, and by October 1682, when letters of administration on his estate were granted to his sons Shearjashub and Elisha.  His burial location is not known.  Richard's moveables were valued at about £134; his land at £300; his debts from English people at £502 and his debts from Indians at £173.

"The Finall Settlement of ye Estate both real and Personall of Mr. Richard Bourne, late of Sandwich, deceased, by agreement of ye parties concerned therein & approved by the Court held at Plymouth 31 Oct. 1682. Whereas ye sd Richard Bourne died intestate & also his eldest son Job died in ye life time of his father, leaving four sons and one daughter who arc yett living and also Shearjashub and Elysha sons of ye sd Richard are yett living. It is mutually agreed between John Miller, agent for ye children of sd Job & his Relict Widdow Ruhamah Bourne of ye one part; and ye sd Sherjashub & Elisha of ye other part as followeth, viz: That the sd children of ye sd Job shall have all ye housing and lands of ye sd Richard Bourne which he died seized of, namely ye housing and lands he lived on, aprised at £300, and twenty acres of land lying at a place called ye Great Hollow in Sand­wich afsd, to them and their heirs, to be divided in such manner as ye Court see cause. After ye decease of Ruth Bourne, Relict Widdow of ye sd Richard Bourne shall belong & appurtain to ye sd Shearjashub and Elisha Bourne who are the administrators of ye sd Estate, and for the confirmation hereof ye Court orders ye recording of this Instrument" (Plymouth Colony Probate, vol. 4, pt. 2, p. 1). Letters of Administration were "graunted by the Court unto Shearjashuub Bourn and Elisha Bourne" same date (Plymouth Colony Records, vol. 6, p. 97).

Ruth died in 1713, age 71.

Sources Not Listed Above:
RA Lovell, Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town, 1984
Elizabeth Reynard, The Narrow Land, 1968
Jeremiah Diggs, Cape Cod Pilot, American Guide Series, 1937
Amos Otis, Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, 1888
Simeon Deyo, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts,1890
Edward Rowe Snow, A Pilgrim Returns to Cape Cod, 1946
Lydia B. (Phinney) Brownson & Maclean W. McLean, The Rev. Richard Bourne of Sandwich, Mass.  NEHGR, vols. 118-9, 1964-65


  1. I am a PhD researcher on William Apess and his contact with the Marshpee Nation in 1883. I would like to ask permission from the author and blog owner to reference this document in my paper; per the copyright notice. Thank you, Colleen Granger, PhD researcher, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick City and County, Republic of Irealnd

    1. Colleen, That would be fine. Thank you for asking. Chris

  2. Hello, I came across your blog while searching up information on my ancestors. You are very organized and I enjoyed reading your page here! I'm just getting started, and was wondering, if I had any questions about records, etc, would you be willing to help a newbie out? I've discovered that my father's family (Runnels) has ties to Massachusetts (Essex Co) and have found a possible relative who fought at Bunker Hill (very exciting for me!). I see you're a busy woman, so no pressure! Thanks

    1. sorry, reply here to notify me

    2. Vanessa, Welcome to the world of genealogy! I could try to help although I don't have many ancestors in Essex Co. so my experience there is limited. Chris

  3. Thank you! I guess I just needed someone who's been at this for a bit to be willing to part with some wisdom on how to get started (beyond the census/birth/death records on ancestry dot com) Since I posted my original question to you, my brother and I discovered a book on our family name that was published in the late 1800s by an ancestor of ours. I think I might get a copy of it; however, how do I know if it is a reliable source? How can I know whether information I find is good or not?

    1. Vanessa, I think the 19th century publications can be a good starting point and often are very accurate. But sometimes they aren't, so I'd try to confirm the information with more modern resources. Many books of that era don't include source information and can be a bit romanticized. If you want to join NEHGS they have an amazing amount of online databases, including many journals that are incredibly helpful (americanacestors.org).

  4. Hello Chris. We have been told all our lives that we are related to Richard Bourne of Bourne Mass through my mothers, father William Jeffery Bourne. His fathers name was Richard Warren Bourne. I was told that we are from the branch of Bourne's whom branched off and moved to Ohio then to Michigan. The original Bourne Bible from the 1600 sits in the hands of the Detroit Masons Order that was given along with the house my Great Grand Uncle Bill Bourne lived till his death and was willed to the Masons Order whom cared for him in his illness as he was a life member. Many Bourne's stayed in Ohio but those who went to Michigan established Plymouth Michigan as well. Here is a short list of those I know from my mother up. 1st Gen. Maternal-Barbara E.A. (Bourne)Mitchell/ 2nd Gen.Paternal-Warren Jeffrey Bourne / 3rd Gen. Paternal-Richard Warren Bourne / 4th Gen. Maternal-Vesta Urilla Bourne. My mother remembers as a child going to the cape cod ocean for holiday and seeing all the other family there but this is the extent of her remembrance. I do have pictures she passed down. I hold a very large pure English silver Candle opera that I was told was from the Bourne Estate. Maybe this information will help or hinder I cant say but our family will always feel in our hearts due to the family stories from three generations that we are from the Bourne Family Line. Gingerlee Dread @ Facebook

    1. Hi Gingerlee,
      It's wonderful your mom has told you stories of New England family and visiting the Cape. The Warren middle name is interesting since that's another Plymouth Colony surname, coming from Richard Warren who came on the Mayflower. Thanks for sharing your story, Chris

    2. Thanks Chris for that tidbit of information as well. I will bet there is a relation for sure. I have done the DNA for 23 & me site and was wondering if any other Bourne have as well ?

  5. Dear Chris,
    Thank you for this published research. My father was Richard Bourne, possible named so due to this ancestor. Among our family photos is a picture of two indian women. They may be of the Mashpee tribe. Your article has inspired me to look there first for help in identification. Of great interest to me is the serve aspect. With the exception of two males, all of the grandkids, fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfather have been either ministers or missionaries. With one exception, all of the women have also been involved with ministry, mission-aries, and Bible college professors. What a legacy!

    1. My apologies for not responding; I haven't been receiving consistent notifications of posts on this blog. Very cool your dad was named Richard Bourne and that you have such a long Bourne line. What a legacy indeed! Best of luck with your research.

  6. My paternal,grandmother, was Muriel Bourne. She lived in R.I. when I was a child. We were told she was a Bourne as in Bourne Bridge Family. She was buried on the Cape in a family plot.? She married William Tooher. Their youngest son Edmund, is my Father.

    1. Hi Nancy, I hope you find the connection to Richard Bourne! Chris

  7. Hi Chris, very interesting article about Richard Bourne. He is my 10th Great-Grandfather as well. We are descendants of his son, Shearjashub. We primarily reside in SW Ohio/SE Indian.

    1. Hi Kari, Thanks for taking the time to post. I’ve always wondered if Shearjashub had a nickname! Chris

  8. Hi Chris, I confess I haven't read everything you have posted here, so my apologies if you have written about this, but do you know if Richard Bourne, our shared ancestor, kept a journal/diary?

    1. I haven't heard of a surviving journal, but it seems quite likely he would have written about his interesting life. I read in "Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town," by RA Lovell Jr. (1984) that love letters between Richard and his second wife were discovered by Samuel Prince in 18th century and he took them to Boston where some of his collection of Sandwich historical papers was destroyed by fire during the Revolutionary War.


I'm now moderating comments on this blog. My apologies for any ensuing delays, but the large number of "spam" comments have made this necessary. ~Chris