Week 5: January 31, 2020 Bristol County, Massachusetts


Bristol County, Massachusetts, was one of the three counties formed from New Plymouth Colony in 1685.  Prior to that date, the New Plymouth Colony had not been divided into counties.  These two maps show the location of New Plymouth Colony before the establishment of the three original counties and the location of the three counties after 1685: (all of these maps are taken from https://www.mapofus.org/massachusetts/)

Bristol 1643


Bristol 1685


Earlier in this project (week 2) I wrote about Barnstable County, Massachusetts, and began to remedy the superficiality of my own knowledge of the early settlement of Massachusetts.  I knew about the two colonies that made up Massachusetts – Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay – but I hadn’t thought much about the geographical and historical distinctions between them.  This map helped me:

New England colonies in 1677

This is important knowledge, because it made me realize that researching Bristol County probably means researching the New Plymouth Colony and the towns it encompassed for several decades before turning to  records related specifically to Bristol County.  Information about my Bristol County ancestors who were living in the towns of Dartmouth, Rehoboth, or Swansea, for example, may be found in the town records as well as in the New Plymouth Colony or Bristol County records.

I encountered yet another problem in researching this county; the county seat (the Town of Bristol) was a part of Massachusetts only until 1747, when the British Crown transferred it (along with the towns of Tiverton and Little Compton) to the Rhode Island Colony.  Bristol’s desirable location at a good port on Narraganset Bay led the colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island to dispute it.  The following map illustrates this change; the area circled in red includes the town of Bristol.  This means that the county seat of Bristol was moved from the Town of Bristol to the Town of Taunton, about 30 miles northeast of Town of Bristol.  This means that the records of early Bristol (before 1747) might be found in the Town of Bristol itself, in Taunton, in Bristol County, or in the New Plymouth Colony (before 1685).

Bristol 1747


The following pedigree charts provide an overview of the ancestors I’ll be focusing on later in this essay.  These ancestors all connect to me through my father’s side of the family.  The first pedigree chart shows my Ellefritz family ancestors, and the second shows my Arnold family ancestors. Both sides of my father’s family were in Bristol (and some were in the same towns) 250 years before my grandfather, John Cecil Arnold, married Orpha Lydia Ellefritz in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1916.

Bristol County Pedigree chart 2

Bristol County Pedigree chart

A (Very) Little History

According to the FamilySearch Wiki, Bristol County was settled by the Pilgrims who came from older towns Plymouth County. This is borne out by the list of my ancestors who lived in Bristol; among them are the surnames Cooke and Warren, both names of passengers on the Mayflower. The area was at the center of the King Philip’s War in 1675/6 and many settlers temporary moved back to the east.  The towns in Bristol that are of most interest to me are Dartmouth and Rehoboth, with Dartmouth having by far the largest number of my ancestors living there.

The Town of Dartmouth


Dartmouth was found in the early 1650s by Quakers and other dissenters who left Plymouth over doctrinal differences with the church fathers in Plymouth.  This is a portion of the deed recording the sale of the property of Dartmouth from the Indians to the white settlers:

“Massasoit and Wamsutta sold to William Bradford, Captain Myles Standish, Thomas Southworth, John Winslow, John Cooke, and their associates, for thirty yards of cloth, eight moose skins, fifteen axes, fifteen hoes, fifteen pairs of breeches, eight blankets, two kettles, one clock, two English Pounds in Wampum, eight pair of shoes, one iron pot, and ten shillings, that land called Dartmouth”

One of these signers is my 9th great-grandfather John Cooke, who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620.  I’ll talk more about him later.

According to the website of the town of Dartmouth, in 1664, King Philip (Sagamore of Pokannockett, often called Metacomet, who was the son of Massasoit) definitely fixed the bounds of the township and the charter reads as follows:

“Dartmouth made a towne”

At the General Court of Election holden at Plymouth

eighth of June, 1664.

“At this court, all that tracte of land commonly called and knowne by the name Acushena, Ponagansett, Coaksett is allowed by the court to bee a townshipe, and the inhabitants thereof haue libertie to make such orders as may conduce to theire common goode in towne concernments and that the said towne bee henceforth called knowne by the name of Dartmouth.”

King Philip (Metacomet) would become an important figure in Massachusetts history in the 1670s, as he pursued hostilities against the white settlers in the colony, leading what came to be called “King Philip’s War” in 1675-1676.  In this war, towns across New England were destroyed or damaged, and the local economies were essentially ruined.

The Town of Rehoboth

Rehoboth was established in 1643 and was incorporated in 1645.  Rehoboth straddles the boundary between Massachusetts and Rhode Island; the early town contained all of what in now Seekonk, Massachusetts, and East Providence, Rhode Island.  Rehoboth was a significant site during King Philip’s War.  It also claims to be the birthplace of public education in North America – when it was incorporated, residents of the town elected to collect funds to pay a teacher for the children living in the settlement.

My Ancestors in Dartmouth


The lives of my ancestors in Dartmouth are comingled, as these families intermarried over several generations.  In what I write below, I plan to tell straightforward stories of these families and of the connections among them.

Jonathan Deuel (1647-1739)

My 8th great-grandfather Jonathan Deuel was born in Rhode Island in 1647 and appears to have lived right in the border area I identified earlier – where Rhode Island and Massachusetts meet and where the borders have moved over the years.  His father, William Deuel (1615-1680), came to Massachusetts in 1640, settling first in Dartmouth before moving to Rhode Island, where he died.

I have encountered yet another problem while researching this family; the spelling of the name has changed significantly over time.  It appears that the original spelling was Davol, and it might have been DeVille even before that.  Early immigrants of this line used a wide variety of spellings, and this continued to have implications as I researched subsequent generations of this line.

Jonathan married Hannah Audley (1643-1685) in 1674.  Hannah’s father, John Audley (1602-1685), had come to Massachusetts as part of the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, settling first in Boston.  He worked as an armorer and cutlerer.  This last name also has caused problems for researchers; it is sometimes spelled Odlin as well as Audley and other variations.

I don’t know much about Jonathan – his parents and his children are pretty documented, but not him.  His will shows that he owned 5,000 acres of land in East Greenwich, RI, but never lived there. He also owned 50 acres of land in Dartmouth.

Jonathan and Hannah had 13 children, including my 7th great-grandfather Jeremiah Deuel (1691-1753), who was their 10th child.  Jeremiah was born in Dartmouth, and he married Sarah Allen (1692-1779) there in 1711.  Sarah’s grandfather, Ralph Allen (1619-1691), had been an early settler in Barnstable County, where his Quaker beliefs fell afoul of the prevailing religion of that colony.  He bought land in Dartmouth, and, although he died in Barnstable, there is some evidence that he lived in Dartmouth at least for a while, and that he left his land there to his children.

Jeremiah and Sarah had eight children, including my 6th great-grandfather Timothy Deuel (1714-1787), who was their second child.  Timothy married Lydia Mosher (1717-1787) in Dartmouth in 1737.  Lydia was the daughter of Joseph Mosher (1670-1754) and Lydia Taber (1674-1754).  Joseph’s grandfather, Hugh Mosher (1600-1694), had come to Massachusetts in the 1630s.  Lydia was descended from two Mayflower passengers – Francis Cooke (1583-1663) and Richard Warren (1578-1628) – who had been among the founders of Plymouth in 1620.

Timothy and Lydia had 10 children, including my 5th great-grandfather, Benanuel Deuel (1739-1816), who was their second child.  The Deuel family left Bristol sometime between Benanuel’s birth in 1739 and 1741, as their next child, Sarah, was born in Dutchess County, NY, in 1741.

John Cooke (1607-1695)

My 9th great-grandfather John Cooke (one of the Mayflower passengers) lived in the town of Plymouth until he moved to Dartmouth in the late 1640s.  This move appears to have been forced; he was cast out of the church at Plymouth for the “evil of Anabaptistry” – the belief in baptism of adults rather than infants, because only adults could enter into the covenant that baptism symbolized. As Plymouth church records said of John Cooke in this regard: “This John Cooke although a shallow man became a cause of trouble and dissention in our Church and gave just occasion of their casting him out; so that Solomon’s words proved true in him that one sinner destroyeth much good.”

John had married Sarah Warren (1614-1686) in Plymouth in 1634.  Sarah’s father, Richard Warren (1578-1628), was a Mayflower passenger, although Sarah did not arrive until 1623, when the rest of the family came on the Anne.  John and Sarah had six children, including my 8th great-grandmother Mary Cooke (1647-1715), who was their third child.

By the time Mary was an adult, she had moved with her family to Dartmouth, where she married Phillip Taber (see above) in 1667.

James Tripp (1656-1730)

My 8th great-grandfather James Tripp was born in Rhode Island and appears to have lived most of his life there, although he died in Dartmouth.  His grandfather, John Tripp (1610-1678) had come to Massachusetts in 1634 or 1635 as an indentured servant to a ship carpenter named Francis East.  East then transferred his indenture to another carpenter in the Boston area.

John’s “master” was among those persecuted by the Boston church, and he moved with his master to Rhode Island in 1638 with Roger Williams, Ann Hutchinson,  and others.    He was a signer of the Portsmouth Compact of Loyalty in 1639 (this followed the Portsmouth Compact signed in the previous year.)   John was appointed or elected to a number of local government positions throughout his time in Rhode Island.

John married Mary Paine (1611-1687) in Portsmouth in 1640.  Mary’s father, Anthony Payne (1585-1649) was also among the original settlers of Rhode Island in 1638.  Mary’s mother, Elizabeth Potter, was Anthony’s first wife; I don’t know what happened to her, but by 1643 Anthony had married Rose French Grinnell, who also had several children from her first marriage.

This map shows the land distribution in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in 1643. John Tripp’s property is circled in red on the map.  His property faces west, across Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay to the Rhode Island mainland.  The town of Bristol (once part of Massachusetts, now part of Rhode Island) is only a few miles north of Portsmouth; it would have been easily navigable by boat in the 17th century and explains why the decision my ancestors made a generation later, to move from Portsmouth to Bristol, was not a difficult one.

Plat map of portsmouth rhode island                                                                                                                                                                    John and Mary had 10 children; my 8th great-grandfather, James Tripp (1656-1735) was their ninth child and fifth son.  James grew up as part of an important and prosperous family in Portsmouth.  He married three times.  His first marriage, to Marcy Lawton, lasted from 1681 until her death in 1685 and produced no children.  His second marriage, to Lydia Lawton, occurred in 1685 and lasted until her death in 1705.  This was the marriage that produced all six of their children, including my 7th great-grandfather John Tripp (1685-1749), who was their first child.  James’s third marriage, to Elizabeth Cudworth, occurred in 1702.  They did not have any children together.

James seems to have moved to Dartmouth, Bristol County, Massachusetts, about the time of his marriage to Lydia, his second wife.  His children were born in Dartmouth, and that’s where he died. The oldest son born to James and Lydia was my 7th great-grandfather John Tripp (1685-1749).  He married Rebecca Spooner (1691-1729) in Dartmouth in 1711, and they had eight children before Rebecca died in 1725.

Given what is known about the Tripp lineage, it is not surprising that Rebecca’s lineage is also well-known.  Her grandfather William Spooner (1621-1684) came to Plymouth as an indentured servant in 1637.  His early years in the colony contained a lot of drama.  John Coombs, to whom William was indentured, seems to have had a drinking problem; one record shows that he was stripped of his “freeman” status.  After John Coombs died in 1645, his wife Sarah, who now was responsible for William for the rest of his indenture, encouraged him to marry Elizabeth Partridge, who was probably another indentured servant in the family.  Then Sarah took a trip back to England, leaving William and Elizabeth to care for her two young children.

William and Elizabeth had one child, my 8th great-grandfather John Spooner (1648-1734) before Elizabeth died in 1648.  William did not remarry until 1652, when he married Hannah Pratt, and it appears that others in the community cared for John while William tended to the children of Sarah Coombs.  William was related to the family of William Brewster (William Spooner’s grandmother was Prudence Brewster, sister of William Brewster), so this may explain why the community stepped forward to help care for John.

John and Rebecca’s 4th child was my 6th great-grandfather Timothy Tripp (1717-1774).  Timothy was born in Dartmouth and lived there until he married Susannah Wilbur (1718-1796) in Rhode Island in 1741.  Susannah’s family were among the earliest settlers in Rhode Island.  Timothy and Susannah moved to Dutchess County, New York, shortly after they married; their first child, John, was born there in 1742.

My Ancestors in Rehoboth

John Kingsley (1614-1679)

My 10th great-grandfather John Kingsley was came to Massachusetts in 1635, when he was granted land in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  He married Elizabeth Stoughton in 1635, and they had six children, including two of my 9th great-grandparents, Freedom Kingsley (1636-1689) and Eldad Kingsley (1638-1679).  John moved to Rehoboth late in life.  I’ll focus on Eldad in this essay; his sister, Freedom, will be the focus of a later essay on Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Eldad married Mehitable Mowry (1646-1730) in Rhode Island in 1662, and they moved to Rehoboth in 1662 or 1663.  Eldad is listed among the founders of the Baptist Church in Rehoboth in 1663 or so; this church was founded by a Welsh Baptist Minister, John Mules, whose history of religious persecution led him to leave his church in Wales and come to Massachusetts.

Eldad and Mehitable had four children, including my 8th great-grandfather Samuel Kingsley (1669-1745), who was born in Rehoboth.  Samuel married Mary Washburn (1661-1740) in Rhode Island in 1686, and they had seven children, including my 7th great-grandmother Mary Kingsley (1719-1784).

None of my ancestors were still in Bristol County after the 1740s.


Author: iseekdeadpeopleblog

I am a retired high school history and government teacher. I've been doing genealogy research since I retired in 2012. I define what I do as "constructing a plausible narrative about the past." I don't claim to know everything about the ancestors whose stories I tell, but I try to imagine myself in their lives. I sometimes call it "creative non-fiction." I try to differentiate between what I know for sure and what I "think" I know.

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