Back To Tidbits | Nancy Thomson's "First John"


From NEHG Register, Volume 46, April 1892, page 286

John Thompson of Weymouth 1648 -- I think the son of David Thompson the grantee of Thompson Island, Boston Harbor, who became of age 1648-9, and settled in Weymouth. "John Thompson who in about 1626 did take actual possession of an island in the Massachusetts Bay called Thompson's Island and being there vacu domicilia, and erected a habitation there and died soon after left the petitioner an infant." The court granted the Island to Thompson against the protest of the town of Dorchester which clamed it. Thompson was Constable and Townsman in Weymouth and removed to Mendon 1667, where he died 1685-86. His will March 27, 1684, proved April 27, 1686.

Contributed by Don Thompson -

From "Robert Chapman - David Thomson Allied Family Lines"

"Because the legal term in England and New England was "infant" for a minor child who had not yet reached his majority, some genealogists have apparently been confused by the fact that David's son, John, was termed an "infant" at the time of his father's death. ... Since John was born ca 1619, he was about 8 or 9 years old when his father died, and was properly termed legally an "infant" in the records of the Courts."


John Thompson, Sr. 1619-1685: The years at Sea—1640-1651
   Unpublished manuscript by James Thompson

John finished his apprentice years as a mariner, around 1640. It is reported that he had lived at Limehouse, England, two or three miles down the Thames River from the Tower of London. This, presumably while he was in his apprenticeship, and perhaps until much later. He then returned to America at intervals. From the age of his children, we know he married around 1641, but we still do not know where. Matt Thompson , with much reason, believes it was in England, at Limehouse or London.

The first notation that we find upon his return to America is dated 17 (10) 1640. This would translate to Dec 17, and it is a memorandum of a debt by "Thomas ffowle" to John Thompson. It was recorded in 1643 in Aspinwall Notarial Records (hereafter ANR). It was recorded in Boston. He next petitioned to the Court for the award of Thompson’s Isle, as the heir of David. This could have been in 1640 or 1641. We only know that it must have occurred, from other information. One source says "after he reached his majority" he applied.

He then, probably in 1643, obtained a place in Weymouth (John Thomson land, per History of Weymouth, Vol. 1, Land Divisions, compiled between the years Oct 26, 1642 and May 21, 1644. P 183-198, with specific names of John Thomson (spelled John Tomson in one instance). This is located under "the land of William Smith", and "the land of Thomas White". In 1642, his first child was born. We do not know where this occurred, but it would be reasonable to assume that it was Weymouth, knowing of his later attempts to find a place in America. His family life seemed to start from 1641 (no record found of the marriage—but we have found others that are not recorded in these years in Weymouth) and his first child born later. The land list is believed to have been compiled by the minister Samuel Newman, who moved from Weymouth in 1643, which tends to limit the timing of the list. John must have had an unfavorable response in his attempt to have the island awarded to him, as no record is found. Later references, however, cite that he ‘again’ filed in 1648. ANR

In 1643, when he had no legal right to the island, he filed a series of documents (ANR, p 36). Three of these are summarized below:

The first was dated 20 (10) 1643. "An attest unto a Copie of a Bill wherein John Thompson doth promise Stephen winthrop not to take advantage nor ptest his Bill of Exch: for fifty for non paymt." (David was trying to sell the island to Winthrop, the son of the Governor) This was recorded 3 (9) 1646. The fifty (pounds) was to be returned if no deal was made.

The second document, dated two days after the first: 22 (10) 1643 "Letr Atturney irrevocable to Benjamin Gillom & Edward Hutchinson to enter & take possession of the Iland in his name, but for their use, & after such seisin the same to hould forever. With power to sue & implead any that shall oppose the same."(Source: ANR p 36)

Third, three days after the above: Date 25 (10) 1643: "A bond of one hundred pounds wherein Sam. Maverick and John Thompson do bind themselves to Stephen Winthrop that Ben Gillom & Edward Hutchinson Att: of the said John Thompson shall recover quiet & peaceable possession of Thompsons Iland before December next, or else he will repay the fifty pound which he was to receive of Stephen Winthrop, with just forbearance, unto the said Stephen. P 36, ANR

The same day 25 (10) 1643, one more document was recorded. "Also a bond of fourty pound wherein John Thompson and Samuel Maverick do bind themselves to Stephen Winthrop that John Thomson should send or procure to be sent the Original grant of Thompsons Iland or a copie thereof to be extant in the Court by September next". It is quite clear that John’s title was considered to be insufficient by Winthrop. Other sources indicate that the grant was not found, and the deal not completed. Of interest is the fact that the grant was found in Governor’s personal possessions some 150 years later. When, and why, did it get there? P36.

Again, on this same day, we know that John assigned the "Bill", that we now know was to be collected by Maverick. (See below. These documents may reflect the first of the business dealings between the two men.

The next entries are from page 70, ANR.

The ‘bill’ from Thomas ffowle was dated 17 (10) 1640, as follows: Know all men by these presents that I , Thomas ffowle of Boston in New Engl. Doe owe & am indebted unto John Thompson the summe of eight pounds ten shillings of Current English money to be paid unto the same John Thompson or his assignes on the 20 th day of December next being part of a Bill of forty pounds to Mr Babb bearing date in July 1640 & for the true payment hearof I the said Thomas ffowle doe bind mee my heirs executioners & administrators firmly by these presents in witness whereof I have heretofore put my hand. Date the twenty three day of December, 1643. P 70, ANR

John then assigned the bill to Samuel, as follows:

"I John Thompson doe assign this Bill unto my ffather mr Samuel Maverick to aske, receive & discharge the above named Thomas ffowle witness my hand this 25th December, 1643" p 70

These activities clearly establish that John Thompson was in America on occasion after his apprenticeship in England, and in contact with his stepfather, Samuel Maverick.

In April, 1648, John Thompson was again in court, pursuing his claim to Thompson’s Island. On May 13, 1648, the Court awarded the island to John Thompson, as David’s son and heir. John, wasting no time, made a deal for leasing the island. On June 30, 1648, Vol. 32, p 134 ANR, is the following: John Thompson granted unto Benjamin Gillom a tre Attr: to Sett lett or hyre Thompson’s Island or any pt thereof for three years."

The very next day, July 1, 1648. (ANR Vol 32, p. 137): "I John Thompson mariner master of the Elizabeth of New England…indebted in the just sum of 140 pounds, do bind myself, mine heirs, executors and administrators, and in particular, my island, lyeing in Massachusetts Bay neere Dorchester, called by the name Thompson’s Island." John had probably been at sea for much of the preceding five years, working towards becoming the captain of a ship. He had achieved that goal, according to the record. (This is much condensed from the original)

On May 28, 1648, page 128, ANR, is this entry:

"This day was I witness unto a Deed of sale of a house in Charlestown between Wm. Roberts & John Thompson & to Bond of 140 pounds & a Bill of 10 pounds. Also to another Bill or covenant for to pay half charge expected by Wm Roberts from this day: also two covenants mutually each to other to tender the Refuseal of theire halfes if they either sell or let: unto all which my hand is Not as witness". Again, not exact quotes. John bought a half interest in this house in Charlestown. One would expect that this was for his family, and showed the intent to live in the general area where he grew up. There is some question if all of the terms were fulfilled, and if he lived in the house beyond a short time.

In just a few weeks after the Island was awarded, John had acquired and recognized debt of 150 pounds. He must have suddenly felt wealthy, and wanted to provide a better home for his family-in addition to his wife, he now had three children.

July 5, 1648, John authorized a draft for 50 pounds, which was not approved for payment (p. 156, ANR, and leaving John Thompson responsible for another 50 pounds.

July 5, 1648 , John again having problems covering his commitments—this time for manning the ship. A penalty of 5 pounds was due.

7 (11) 1649 John Thompson named Matthew Williams his attorney in case of suit. P 274

28 (3) 1650 John Thompson acknowledges he owes ffrances Willoughby of Charlestown for sailes and cordage, twenty eight pounds, ten shillings. To be paid in dry codfish at Charlestown by the tenth of June. The entire above are recorded in Aspinwall Notarial Records, p 288.

IN 1650, there were several messages of instructions recorded to John Thonmpson. It might be assumed that his owners (or partners) were not happy. One follows: (page 317,)

Mr. John Thompson 1(7)1650 "LO: friend I hope these find you in N. England, where I am advised you are, & making of a fishing voyage. God give you a good one & a market to all content, I hope Bilboa will be the place where you resolve to returne. If so pray you repair to Mr. George Spry. If you will follow my advise, you will do well. Not to go for the streites for the times are very dangerous & there is many ffrench men of warre gone & and going thither who daily take English.many reports of you, but I give no credit to any of them." (this is a very damming letter, as it shows a loss of confidence in John, and stories were circulating to this effect. The letter continues below, giving continued instructions. Especially serious is the warning about the investors being out a lot of money, and receiving absolutely nothing in return. Continuing with the letter:

Iff you intend to pceed for Naples, or any other place within the streits, & that you have more fish than you shipp can carry, I desire you in the name of the rest of the owners al also for myself to send that fish for Bilboa takeing freight there for it consigning it to Mr Spry above said, & write us by all conveyences what you doe & where you goe for or Government in ordering you how to pceed, from the place where you shall be, I could say more to you but will refer all till you coming to Europe, consider the money we are out of purse & never got one Denier, & yet you let your words be true & your promises performed & so God will give a blessing to all your undertakings, not els remaine."

Your affectionate friend John Holle

"Mr John Hallet of Naples is in London the rest of Merchants yield you for losse, I have given them notice of your proceedings. Pray fail not to receive the debts due you on your last voyage."

A second letter, dated 2 (7) 1650 (ANR p317, 318) gives more very explicit instructions for John’s upcoming trips, including rates for cargo and collection of previous debts, etc. He was styled as Commander of the "shipp, Guift of God, in N. England. This may be the same ship (Gift of God) that first arrived on the Maine coast in 1607-among the very first recorded into Maine..

On page 319 (ANR), recorded 6 (7) 1650, in which "ffrancis Smith bought a one half interest in the bark Prettie, with furniture thereto, from John Thompson. This was a small coastal vessel (12 tons)

John purchased another house in Charlestown 11(5)1650, from Robert Nash. It had been purchased from Nicholas Davison. The recorded sale (ANR, p 342) was endorsed by John Thompson, as follows:

Indorsed; I John Thompson of London mariner have bargained & and sold the house, subject to ability to pay Nicholas Davidson seventy five pounds (in dried cod fish) by next June 20th. (this is not an exact quote:) It is not clear how long he kept this house, and it seems like he might be having financial problems, as he made arrangements for a possible re-sale. John was in an agreement to start a voyage to Barbados, and on to Africa, within a few weeks.

Again, in ANR, p 300-301, John Thompson agrees to be Captain on the ship "Guift of God". This voyage appeared to be planned as a negro slave voyage. Many details of the agreement and his specific instructions are included. John had authority to purchase four slaves for his own account. Ports are named, and the agreement was acknowledged 16 (5) 1650, before Increase Nowell. Notary. This voyage may not have occurred as planned, although seemingly, John did make a voyage to Barbados. (see below-time simply did not allow for a trip to Africa)

April 18, 1650, Vol 1, Suffolk Co Deeds (SCD) "John Thompson of Londo acknowledge himself indebted to Joseph Jackson & Hugh Brown of Bristoll in the amount of one hundred and sixty three pounds, six shillings…"This is the debt that may have been overwhelming. John, still needing proof of his ownership, prevailed in Court, presenting the "Four Depositions"(NEHGR Vol 9), but Dorchester still contested the title, and the fight continued. John shortly contracted for the "slave voyage", but it seems like he may have brought back sugar, barrel staves and alcohol. Other notarial records are found, but they seem to change in character, insofar as John Thompson was concerned..

ANR, p 334, dated 28 (8) 1650, reference is made to a voyage to Barbados apparently to pick up dry sugar and barrel staves. This is the voyage that was originally stated as the slave voyage to Barbados and Africa. There seems to be very little resemblance between what happened and John’s instructions from the owners, as outlined above. Other cargo was not mentioned. John’s name appears several times in ANR after this time, but it seems as if this was usually as a witness to other’s agreements. One suspects that he was no longer a ship’s captain.

On page 371, ANR, is a lengthy entry, in which Peter Talman makes a demand for payment for sums due him, which by bond Samuel Maverick owed him. In the event of non-payment he was to arrest Samuel Maverick. This occurred 5(12) 1650. It is believed that Maverick and his wife, Amias, completed the sale of Noddles Island, and subsequently was said to have moved to Maine. Also, within a short time, the fishing installation on the Isle of Shoals was liquidated. Antipas Maverick had lived there, and he and John Thompson, as well as others, were involved in the liquidation. (Source: Gen Dict of Maine and NH)

The Court in 1651 granted execution of the judgement on Thompson’s Island, to Jackson and Brown, in the amount of 218pounds, 7 shillings, and ten pence. "The iland called Thompsons iland to Satisfy as far as it will go." The Island, for all intents and purposes was gone, although it was several years before final title was affirmed to the purchasers. John had the title affirmed in 1650 by the court after presenting the "Four Depositions" (NEHGR Vol 9), but Dorchester still objected.

Aug 27, 1651, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and NH, Libby, p. 608. Entry re Stephen Sergeant. On Nov 29, 1649, John Monke, Antipas Maverick and Richard Cummings appr. Est. at Isle of Shoals lately in hands of S S,,dec. ‘and was for the account of John Manined, Capt Chanoernowne and himself, stages, boats, etc, with some items belonging to Sampson Lane, Mr Thompson, and Mr. Dunbar. John Thompson attested inv, at Boston 27 Aug 1650. This in effect liquidated any remaining interest that John Thompson possessed in the Isle of Shoals.

Oct 14, 1651 (Me. P. & Ct Rec 1:170) A last reference to Thompson’s Point at Piscataqua is noted. It is probable that he no longer had any interest in this area, as well. John may have had some residual interest in a ship, but we find no reference to it. The Maverick’s were also in deep financial trouble, and sold their island and moved away. Mavericks’s daughter (John’s half-sister) later accused her brother of swindling his parents out of Noddles Island, so they may have realized little or nothing from this sale.

John had not done well as a ship captain-- the earlier letter indicated that the owners had nothing but losses, and stories were circulating about him. His last effort with the "Gift of God" in no way resembled the plan for the voyage, and was delayed in port for some time before starting, for no known reason. He probably was released after returning from this failure. He had no resources to repay the large loan on the island, but he did wish to stay in America, as demonstrated by his efforts to buy a home. In 1651, we see him as only a witness in a few documents, and no reference as captain of any vessel. He had lost money for his owners, had liquidated his assets to cover losses, and was forced into a decision. He still had one small asset—the land at Weymouth. His only recourse was to become a husbandman at Weymouth, and this is exactly what he must have done. The exact time of his move to Weymouth is not obvious, but one would conclude that it followed fairly soon after Thompson’s island was foreclosed, after July 1651. He had owned this place in Weymouth for about eight years, and maintained a measure of stature in this community. He joined the Church (becoming a freeman in 1653) and started participating in the life of the village. He received plots of land in several distributions, and became a town officer. In 1662, he was considering moving to Mendon, and he moved there with his family before the end of 1663. John had been a husbandman for about ten years in Weymouth.

JT Note: This story is not the one that I earlier believed had happened, but I am drawn to these conclusions by the many records that have been found. There are a number of others that have not been included, as being tedious, and not adding to the story. It has not been possible to access all sources, but the conclusions seem quite firm. There is abundant evidence that John mismanaged his affairs, particularly after he became a ship’s captain. The letters quoted, first voicing severe criticism, then followed by most specific instructions, which appear have been totally disregarded, probably made his future as a ship captain extremely tenuous. The loss of confidence expressed before his ‘slave voyage’, coupled with the almost total lack of success, probably meant his dismissal. The Mavericks could not be a help—they had problems of their own. Nathaniel, who owed hundreds of pounds in 1649 (including a debt of possibly 60 pounds to John) appears to have weathered the storm in Barbados.

contributed by Thomson researcher James Thompson: 

Back to Tidbits ||| Top

Copyright 1997-2014. Thompson Family Researchers.
Updated: 27 Jan 2014 01:02 PM