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, August 11, 2013

Thomas Lucas died 6 January 1678/79 England and Plymouth, Mass.

Thomas Lucas was born about 1630 in England. When he came to Plymouth isn’t known, but his name first appears in the Town Records in 1650 on a list of townsmen. He is my ninth great-grandfather on my Grandfather Arthur Washburn Ellis’ side of the family. His wife’s name is unknown, but they were married about 1655, probably in Plymouth. Thomas was a blacksmith. He was also an alcoholic and at times abusive to his family. He was brought up on more charges of drunkenness than anybody else in Plymouth Colony.

Annabelle Kemp’s 1964 Lucas Genealogy gives a possible ancestry of Thomas Lucas but offers no real proof. It suggests he was born about1630, son of Sir Thomas Lucas of Lexden, Essex, England, and traces the line back to Lucas family of West Stowe, or Little Saxham, Suffolk. Morant's History of Essex Vol. 1 says Sir Thomas left no male heirs and the title then went to his brother John's daughter Mary, but the Kemp thinks it may be that Thomas lost the title because he went to America.

It saddens me not to be able to at least  find Thomas’ wife’s first name. She bore and raised a large family and was abused by her husband, all of which were written in town and court records, yet her name is never mentioned. Even in the settlement of his estate, she is simply “the widow.”

Thomas and his wife had seven children (first five recorded Plymouth VR; last two named in the settlement of Thomas’ estate):

John born 15 July 1656
Mary born 15 March 1657/58
Benoni born 30 October 1659
Samuel born 15 December 1661
William born 13 January 1662/63
Bethia born about 1665
Mehitable born about 1667

I descend from Samuel Lucas and his wife Patience Warren (granddaughter of Richard and Elizabeth (Walker) Warren who came on the Mayflower).

In the twenty-five times he is mentioned in Court records, sixteen records are for drunkenness.

On 2 Oct 1658, Thomas Lucas fined ten shillings for being drunk a second time. On 6 Oct 1660, Lucas was fined ten shillings for being drunk twice.

On 5 March 1660/1 he was found guilty of being drunk a third time, but this time he was sentenced to find sureties for his good behavior. John Wood and George Bonham each put up 10 pounds to assure his appearance at the next court, but on the same day Lucas presented himself at court distempered with drink and for his unseeming behavior both in words and gestures he was committed to prison and fined 40 shillings. No duration of imprisonment was given, but probably a short term of a day or so.

Thomas broke his bonds for good behavior when on 7 May 1661 he was found with Ann Savory, wife of Thomas Savory, at the time of public worship on the Lord's day drunk and under the hedge in an uncivil and beastly manner and he was to appear at the next court. It doesn't seem there was a sexual connotation to Thomas’ involvement with Ann or the wording would have been different. Ann was sentenced to sit in the stocks and fined five shillings.

colonial stocks
Colonial Era Stocks

On 3 March 1662/3 Thomas Lucas, "it being the third time he hath been convicted and sentanced in the Court for being drunk," was sentenced to be publicly whipped; the court ordered that the sentence by stayed "untill heee shalbee taken drunke the next time, and then hee is to bee forthwith taken and whipt, without further presenting to the Court." Though the court seemed to have difficulty in keeping count, it apparently was referring to the higher seriousness of being found drunk three or more times.

On 1 March 1663/4 Thomas Lucas was publicly whipped for being drunk a third time: "Hee was sentanced formerly for being drunke the third time; nevertheles the execution therof was (respited) until hee should bee found drunke againe, which accordingly was witnessed against him, and soe the said punishment was inflicted on him as aforsaid."

In March 1664 Thomas Lucas was required to give surety for his good behavior and appearance at the next session of the court to answer "for his abusing of his wife to her danger and hazard, also for his railing and reviling others, to the disturbance of the King's peace." Although not stated, all of his court appearances were for excessive drinking and the behavior that accompanied it.

On 30 March 1665 he was charged with abusing his wife and Stephen Bryant and George Bonham each put up 5 pounds for his appearance at court. Interesting that despite his battle with drink, he had friends who risked quite a sum to support him.

On 8 June 1664 Lucas was sentenced to sit in the stocks for swearing.

On 9 June 1665 he was sentenced to be imprisoned for 24 hours for swearing by the wounds of God.

On 3 October 1665 Thomas Lucas was fined ten shillings for being drunk.

On 2 March 1668/9 he appeared in court to answer the charge of abusing his wife and children. He promised reformation and his wife testifying that since his presentment he had not abused them as aforesaid, the court cleared him with an admonition.

On 7 June 1670 Lucas was fined three shillings, four pence for striking Samuel Jenney. Again it can be seen it finally abandoned its efforts toward deterrence, for on 3 June 1673 Lucas was found guilty of being drunk again, but the court released him with a warning.

On 1 June 1675 the court tried a new tactic, and when Lucas was charged for being distempered with drink, the court noted "it being soe oftens, and that hee hath borne severall particular punishments gradually, and can not be reclaimed, it was orderd and prohibited to lett him have none." But on 30 Oct 1675 Lucas, for reviling some deceased magistrates and for being drunk, was sentenced to be whipped at the post, which was accordingly done.

Part of me gets a chuckle thinking of how much Thomas’ colorful behavior must have bothered the town fathers, but his alcoholism was sad and had violent consequences. There weren’t many mentions of child abuse in 17th century Plymouth. It is likely that the distinction between discipline and abuse had not yet been drawn in that time, and most child abuse probably went unreported and thus unpunished. It was the male household head's responsibility to keep the entire family unit in line. Thus, punishment of children, wives, and servants could all be viewed as acceptable due to that responsibility.

Thomas Lucas was taxed for his business as a Smith, August 1672, value of 50 pounds.

Thomas Lucas was listed as receiving money owed from Gov. Thomas Prence out of his estate in 1673. Samuel Sturtevant's 1669 estate was also indebted to Thomas Lucas. Probably payments for blacksmith work Lucas had performed.

Thomas Lucas was one of the men who took the 1673 inventory for the estate of John Tilson.

Thomas died at Plymouth on 6 January 1678/79. Some sources state that Thomas died in King Philip’s War (Savage, William T. Davis' book Genealogical Register of Plymouth Families, and Nathaniel Philbrick in his book Mayflower), but it seems to me that would have been another man of the same name.

Robert S. Wakefield listed all documented Plymouth Colony casualties in King Philip’s War in his 1984 article Plymouth Colony Casualties in King Philip's War (TAG, 60 [1984]:236-242). Wakefield did not list Lucas as a casualty.

Rather, it seems Thomas died as he lived, and on 6 Jan 1678/9 a coroner's jury reported that Thomas Lucas, "being very ancient & decrepid in his limbes, and it being very cold, and haveing drunk some drinke, gott a violent fall into a ditch, in a very dangerous place, could not recover himself, but bruised his body, and lying all night in the cold, soe hee came by his end." I wonder if Thomas was older than the ca 1630 birth some have given him to be called ancient and decrepit at his death.

Some poorer residents left estates valued at one to a few pounds. Thomas Lucas, the town drunk, left a more middling estate of $141 pounds, 10 shillings of which 39 pounds was real estate and 30 pounds, 10 shillings, 9 pence consisted of the shovels, hoes, pothangers, etc. in his blacksmith shop.

From the settlement of his estate dated 8 March 1678/9:  “the widow” would have free use of the housing and lands until her sons come of age and then her thirds of the benefits during her natural life and the sum of 38 pounds of movables ... and use of the whole until the children come to their respective ages or marriages.  Benonie, the eldest son, received the house and half the garden plot, half the barn, three acres meadow and grant of four acres excepting his mother's thirds and the sum of 11 pounds 6 shillings in personal estate. Mary Lucas and Bethya Lucas each to receive 12 pounds and Mehitable Lucas 10 pounds.  

I would guess that my grandmother Lucas was a woman of good character and reputation since all her children married well and were held in good repute. It is significant that none of them named a son Thomas for their father. Both Benoni and Samuel were made freemen in June 1689, and in 1690 Samuel was made Ensign and served on the Jury many times.

Mrs. Lucas died sometime after the settling of her husband’s 1679 estate, but no further record of her is found.

Sources Not Listed Above:

Eugene Stratton, Plymouth Colony, It's History and People, 1986

James and Patricia Scott Deetz, The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love and Death in Plymouth Colony, 2001

Jason Jordan, Domestic Violence in Plymouth Colony, 1998


  1. Hi there. To the best of my knowledge I'm a descendant of Benoni Lucas, of the line that ended up in Canada when William Lucas (c. 1767-1817) moved from Massachusetts to Quebec. We're still here, although we're scattered all over the country by now. I grew up in Vancouver and still live here. I'm not sure if being descended from the Plymouth Colony's notorious drunkard is a badge of honour, but at least it's an interesting story.

  2. So am I JOHN. I agree, but it does seem to run in the family. I'm in QUEBEC

  3. I appear to be a descendant of Thomas' daughter Mehitable (Lucas) Bryant

  4. Hello unknown cousin. I was so pleased to hear from you. I would love to correspond with you further if you wish. We could exchange information. Are you descended from JAMES, THOMAS, STEPHEN, DAVID, WILLIAM, HANNAH, ICHABOD OR TIMOTHY? here is my email address lois.lucas@rocketmail.com and my name is GRACE. Please write me back.

  5. I am a descendent of William as well. My mother family was in Gaspe until the 1930's. My grandfather, Sydney, moved to Montreal when times got hard as a fisherman.

  6. Descendants of the Lucas family. Father William Harold Johnson. Gaspe Quebec.

  7. Hi, I'm a descendant of Bethia Lucas who married Joseph Sawdy October 18, 1682 in Bristol, RI. I have her mother as being Mary Ann Thomas, wife of Thomas Lucas of Plymouth, Mass. The family descendants went to New York, then Erie, PA, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and then Kansas where I was born. Now living in Rhode Island. Thank you for your information.

    1. How neat you returned to Rhode Island where you have such deep roots! Chris


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