Since my Connecticut family from last week’s post also happens to have ties to Massachusetts, I guess I’ll continue on with more of the story of Gov. John Webster.
Even though Gov. John Webster spent most of his New England life in Connecticut, he actually started and ended his journey in Massachusetts. Many of the derivative sources out there about the Governor or the places he lived, state that he originally settled in Newtown (now Cambridge) or Watertown, sometime between 1630 and 1634.
In an article published in The American Genealogist in 1948, the author provides an abstract of a deed naming John, his wife, and their son Mathew, as selling property in June 1634.1 According to the Winthrop Society website, on the list of freeman, a John Webster (likely our guy) took the freeman oath on 4 March 1634/35.2 So we can infer that John and his family arrived in New England in late 1634 to early 1635 and was settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when he took the freeman oath in March 1634/35.
But he didn’t stay there for long. Again, many of the derivative sources claim he left for Hartford, Connecticut in 1636, possibly with Thomas Hooker. He is considered a founder of Hartford and he was certainly there by 1 May 1637 when he was named in a committees list during the session of the general court at Hartford.3
He remained in Connecticut until about 1659, when he and other withdrawers from the Church of Hartford relocated at Norwottuck (officially named Hadley in May 1661).4 In May 1660, John was named magistrate for “the year ensuing,” but died on 5 April 1661.5 Sadly, he missed the renaming and incorporation of yet another town he helped found.
Old Hadley Cemetery, photo obtained from Historic Hadley, by Alice Walker.6
Gov. John Webster is buried in Old Hadley Cemetery, in Hadley, Hampshire, Massachusetts. A stone was erected in 1818 by his third great-grandson, Noah Webster, LL.D. Unfortunately, both the stone and a marker later placed by other descendants, state that he died in 1665, which is incorrect. The stone and marker can be viewed on Find a Grave.
Here’s the one thing that has me confused, though. In October 1659, the following order of the court was made: “Those made freemen here, and who removed to Connecticut, and have now returned to this colony, are still freemen here, without any further oath.” Okay, so if the John Webster, who took the oath back in March 1634/35 is the same John Webster who later went to Connecticut and then to Hadley, why is he taking the oath again on 26 March 1661?
1. Mrs. S. H. Skillington, "The Ancestry of Governor John Webster," The American Genealogist XXIV (October 1948): 197.
2. The Winthrop Society (winthropsociety.com : accessed 30 August 2012), John Webster on Freeman list for 4 March 1634/5.
3. J. Hammond Trumbull, Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, Prior to the Union With New Haven Colony, May, 1665 (Hartford, Connecticut: Brown & Parsons, 1850), 9.
4. Sylvester Judd, History of Hadley, Including the Early History of Hatfield, South Hadley, Amherst and Granby, Massachusetts (Springfield, Massachusetts: H. R. Hunting & Co., 1905), 16.
6. Walker, Alice Morehouse, Historic Hadley: A Story of the Making of a Famous Massachusetts Town (New York: Grafton, 1906), 117.