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.

Monday, April 3, 2023

John Cary ca 1610 England, died 1681 Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and his wife Elizabeth Godfrey

John Cary was born about 1610 in England.  His name is sometimes spelled Carey, Carye and Carew. He is my 9th great grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Davis’ side of the family. 

Some of John’s descendants were admirably passionate about honoring his memory, but unfortunately most of the information they shared by way of published books and stone memorials is not cited other than the author of the 1874 Cary Memorials writing he had access to a 100 year old manuscript written by one of John’s grandsons. Some of the claims are exaggerated, such as calling him a Pilgrim of Plymouth Colony. According to family tradition, he was born at Somersetshire, educated at Oxford or Cambridge, and his father William Cary sent him to France for further study. He returned to England when his father passed away and disagreed with his brothers on the settlement of their father’s estate. They reached a compromise which resulted in John accepting 100 pounds and leaving for New England. He was the first to teach Latin in the Colony and may have taught Hebrew to William Brewster. I personally have no idea if any of this is true.

What I do know is that as a young man John migrated to Plymouth Colony in the 1630s and settled at Duxbury where he was allotted 10 acres on 2 October 1637 and that he became a well-respected man and large land holder in the colony. At the Court of Assistants on 2 October 1639 John Carew was allowed to be for himself upon the continuence of the good report of his carriage & demeanor; & at a Court of Assistants held the fourth of November next after, Edmond Weston is licensed to live with John Carew, and to be a pattern with him in working and planting upon the sd John Carew’s land, upon their good demeanor together. The Colony leaders kept an eye on young bachelors in case they turned out to be rowdy men who were intemperate and skipped church on Sundays.

In June 1644 John married a woman named Elizabeth (Plymouth VR vol 1, pg. 655).  That she was Elizabeth Godfrey is shown in Francis Godfrey of Bridgewater’s 1666 will where he mentions his daughter Elizabeth Carye, grandchildren John and Elizabeth Carye, and son-in-law John Carye. 

The births of John and Elizabeth’s twelve children, six boys and six girls, are recorded  by John himself in Bridgewater Vital Records, although some are noted as born in Duxbury and Braintree: 

John Cary being his first (worn) the fourth of November in Duxbour (worn) [1645]

the second Ffrauncis was bor(worn) and place the ninteenth of Janu(worn) [1647]

the third Elizabeth (worn) Twenteth day of Desember 1649 in (worn)

the fourth James was bor(worn) Brantree the eight and twenteth day of March 1652

Fifth Mary born Bridgewater 8 July 1654

The sixth Jonathon Bridgewater foure and twenteth day of January 1656

the seventh David born Bridgewater the seven and twenteth day of January 1658

the eighth Hannah Bridgewater the last of April 1661

the ninth Joseph at Bridgewater the 18th of April 1663

the 10th Rebecka 30th day of march 1665

The11th Sarah 2 August 1667

The 12 Mahitabell was born the 24th of the last month 1670 [this would be February]

Remarkably all twelve of their children survived childhood, growing up to marry and have children. I descend from their son Francis who I wrote about here. 

It would seem that if Elizabeth was John’s only wife and the mother to all of his children born over a 25 year period, she must have been considerably younger than him. There is no obvious gap in the births of the children, though, to indicate the death of one wife and a marriage to a second. Unfortunately his 1681 will does not mention his wife by name. 

On 23 Oct 1648 John Cary sold to James Lindell all the Duxbury land, both upland and meadow granted him and at the same time “testified and affirmed” that his father-in-law Francis Godfrey, “did acknowledge and confess that he had sold his present right and interest of his said land lying upon Green Harbor River” to James Lindell.

By 1652 John and Elizabeth were living at Braintree where their son James was born, but they didn’t stay there long. John was one of the original Proprietors of Bridgewater and was living there by 1654 when his daughter Mary was born. He had found his place and lived there for the remainder of his life. 

On 3 June 1656 John was appointed Constable at Bridgewater, the first appointed position in the new town (PCR, vol. 3, pg. 99). At the time there were just ten freemen in town. He was the first Bridgewater Town Clerk and served in that position from 1656 until his death in 1681. He would have had some education to have a position that required reading and writing.

Records indicate he was an active and well-respected member of the Bridgewater community.  He was often appointed to lay out lands and other tasks that would only be given to someone trustworthy and competent. He was appointed to collect charges from townspeople for the expenses of King Philip’s War and was responsible for seeing the minister was paid and determining how much he was owed. Seth Cary quoted the History of Plymouth, without mentioning the author: “John Cary was a man of superior education and had great influence in the colony and as an officer of the church.”

From General Court at Plymouth in March 1658: On the 4th of March by the intelligence of an Indian, at a place a little below Namaskett Indians found an unblemished body of an English man in the Tetacutt River. John Cary was among the men to investigate and it appeared the man drowned accidentally so they buried him and paid the Indians for their pains. The report to the court was signed by John Carew and eleven others from Bridgewater. 

At the 4 June 1661 General Court at Plymouth, John Carye is admitted by the Court to have equal interest in the grant made to Arthur Harris and others of Bridgewater for accommodation of lands. Report on this task given to the court on 7 June 1668 and John Cary and the eleven others signed the document. 

On 16 March 1676/77 the town of Bridgewater granted to John Cary Sen. 10 acres on condition that he would book all the 106 acres then laid out and the three meadow lots to each. He was granted additional Bridgewater land on 7 June 1665 and 3 June 1668.

He was named to a “jury” of twelve men on 5 June 1667 to lay out ways requisite to the township of Bridgewater. He served on grand inquests 3 June 1662, 5 June 1672, and 5 June 1678.

John and Elizabeth lived in what is now West Bridgewater, about one-quarter mile east of the old church [a 19th century notation] and near the Old Graveyard and Old Town House.

John did own at least one horse as the mark of his horse is recorded in Bridgewater records: the markes of the young horse of John Carey Sey., having a crop on the right eare, & a faire starr in his forehead, the crop on the right ear being his mark. His will shows he owned other livestock as well. 

John Cary senior of Bridgewater died the last day of October in 1681 [Bridgewater Vital Records vol 2, p 445 has the year as 1680 but a note states it must be a mistake and should be 1681 which must be referring to the fact that he wrote a codicil to his will on 31 October 1681].

Bridgewater vital records have Elizabeth Cary’s death as the 1st of November 1680. Is this also an error and should be 1681 since John mentions his wife in his will? He names her executrix with his son John to assist, but it is John Jr. who is appointed to administer his father’s estate, so is possible she died soon after her husband. 

A monument was erected in 1905 at the intersection of South Street and Bryant Street in West Bridgewater, near where his homestead stood. It reads:

Near this spot was the home of

John Cary

Born in Somersetshire, England

He became in 1651 an original Proprietor

and honored settler on this river.

Was clerk of the plantation

when the town of Bridgewater was

incorporated. He was elected

constable, the first and only officer

of that year.

Was town clerk until his death in 1881

Tradition says

he was the first teacher of Latin in

Plymouth Colony.

This tablet is erected by his descendants

in memory

of their historic and noble ancestor.

There is also a cenotaph in Ashland Cemetery in Brockton to the memory of John Cary. He never lived in Brockton but his son Jonathan, grandson Recompense, great-grandson Jonathan, and great-great grandson Jonathan did and are also honored on the cenotaph. It states that John Cary was one of the original Proprietors of Bridgewater in 1654, one of the first settlers, and the first town clerk from 1656 to 1681, he died 1681.

Nahum Mitchell wrote: “Mr. Cary was among the most respectable of them [the first settlers] and his family one of the most influential in the town.” 

7 March 1681/82: Court Orders, Letters of administration are granted unto Sergeant John Carey to administer on the estate of John Carey, Sr., deceased. (Records of the colony of New Plymouth, in New England, v. 6 1678/1691, page 81)

His will, codicil and inventory are very difficult for me to decipher. The ink bled through from the opposite side of paper, a corner is torn off, and the handwriting is a challenge to read, so it is possible there are errors in my interpretation. 

His will was written 15 October [perhaps 1681]; codicil written 31 October 1681, the day of his death. His will and codicil show he was a very large landowner. He leaves bequests of land in Bridgewater, TIticut (a parish of Bridgewater), and Matfield [I’d imagine this is Marshfield which spun off from land originally part of Bridgewater]. Some of the markers he mentions are Titicut River, Jones River, the Plain, Town River, and lands of Arthur Harris, Caleb[?] Loary, Nicholas Byrum, and John Howard. He bequests multiple lots of 50, 30, 20, 15, and 10 acres; I wish I could decipher the will better to total the amount of land he mentions. He does mention his dear and loving wife, but not by name. He mentions his sons John Cary Sr, Jonathan, Joseph, Francis, James, and David. He mentions his four youngest daughters, Hannah Swift, Rebecca, Sarah, and Mehitabel who were each to receive 10 pounds 50 shillings, and two older daughters Elizabeth and Mary. In addition to land he left bequests of his dwelling house and barn, cows, pigs, sheep, a loom and looming tackling, and his guns. His wife is named sole executrix with son John to assist her. Thomas Hayward and Joseph Hayward were witnesses. He signed his will “John Cary Senir.”

Excerpt from John's codicil, a copy made by a clerk so not his own signature

His son Sergeant [John] Cary made oath to his inventory taken 4 November 1681. It included five Bibles and other books, guns and swords, pewter/brass/iron, new cloth, wool flax, pigs, cows, oxen. There is no total; the highest value is the livestock totaling 37 pounds 5 shillings. 

Letters of administration for John Cary’s estate were granted by the Plymouth court held on 7 March 1681/82 to his son Sergeant John Cary.


Seth C. Cary, John Cary the Plymouth Pilgrim, 1911

James Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of First Settlers of New England

Loring W. Puffer editor, Records of John Cary, the first town clerk of Bridgewater, Mass., from 1656 to 1681,  1889 

Torrey’s New England Marriages to 1700

S.F. Cary, Cary Memorials, 1874

Nahum Mitchell, History of Early Settlement of Bridgewater, 1897

Register, “Abstracts of the Earliest Wills Probate Office at Plymouth,” vol 7, p 179, 1853 (Francis Godfrey)

Plymouth County Probate Records, 1633-1967, Wills 1633-1686 volumes 1-4, State Archives in Boston available on Family Search https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-997D-V371?i=529&wc=M6BX-F29%3A338083801&cc=2018320  

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, volume 6 1678/1691, p. 81 (letters of administration)

No comments:

Post a Comment

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