Sunday, May 28, 2017

OUR RHODE ISLAND ROOTS #7: 1632 Immigrant John Whipple

(John Whipple-direct ancestor of 5th great grandparents Charles M. Winsor & Mary Whipple)
How does 1632 New England immigrant, John Whipple (England to Dorchester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island) fit into our family tree?  Referring back to the pedigree chart of Charles Winsor, we see that Charles was the great grandson of Mary Whipple -daughter of immigrant John.  What isn’t shown on Charles' chart is the pedigree of his wife: another Mary Whipple -great, great granddaughter of John “Jr.” -son of immigrant John. 
Mary Whipple's "Whipple" ancestry

Charles M. Winsor's "Whipple" ancestry

In researching the life and times of “our” immigrant John Whipple, I had to sieve through a lot of jumbled, confusing and, sometimes conflicting facts -leading to at least two immigrant John Whipple’s of this time.  By untangling the facts as best as I can, one clear distinction stands out:  the “other” John Whipple (and brother Matthew) settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts, while “our” John stayed put in the town of Dorchester until 1658, when he sold up and moved his large family to Providence, Rhode Island. 
What we do know about our ancestor, John Whipple, is that he came to America as a teen-aged (probably fifteen years old) indentured servant to a man called Israel Stoughton who emigrated to New England before 1632, when “John Whipple of Bocking, Essex, England” arrived on the ship Lyon.  (Both Stoughton and servant Alexander Miller were listed on the 1630 passenger list.) Stoughton soon built the first dam on the Neponset River for his water-powered grist mill to grind corn.  This was followed by the construction of a cartway to allow local access to the mill.  Since John was indentured as a carpenter, it seems very likely that he had a hand in the construction of all three projects.
detail from John Whipple's headstone
One of the earliest records for John reminds us that this fifteen-year old quickly learned a costly lesson about life in the colonies, as shown in Dorchester court minutes: ‘On 3 October 1632 the General Court ordered that “Alex: Miller & John Wipple shall give 3s, 4d apiece to their master, Israell Stoughton, for their wasteful expense of powder & shot.”’   I can just envision those two teenagers testing out their marksmanship on tree stumps …until they were caught by their disapproving master who then remanded them to the Court for their impetuous behavior!  Unlikely to have as yet a freeman carpenter’s wage of about 3 shillings per day, I’m guessing that their fines were “tacked onto” the indentureships they were serving to repay Stoughton for the cost of their voyages …and, consequently, for the ammunition they wasted.
 Fortunately, John’s indenture was completed by the time he was twenty-one, entitling him to become a freeman and a landowner, beginning with a promised eight acres near Stoughton’s mill.  He soon married a young woman named Sarah who was recorded as “Goodwife” Whipple by the Dorchester church, suggesting their humble social standing in the community.  The first eight of the couple’s eleven children were born in Dorchester where the family made their home for almost twenty years. The reasons behind John’s decision to cut long-standing ties with Massachusetts are not clear, but the move to Providence, Rhode Island was clearly meant to be permanent.  News of plentiful, affordable land to be had in and around Providence may have been a primary factor but growing religious dissent in the Massachusetts Bay region may have spurred John’s decision to find a place where he could raise his family in full “freedom of conscience” -Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  
Besides a home lot he purchased and expanded on Towne Street, John soon began to buy up a substantial amount of land.  Within six years he was given a lot in a division of lands, took his oath of allegiance and began to taken on a role in local government. 
The front of his home on Towne Street became a licensed tavern in which the town council met.  The Whipple family continued as tavern-keepers for generations, including that of my 8th great grandparents: Mary (daughter of John Whipple) and her husband Epenetus Olney.

(Left: illustration of former Mowry Tavern on Providence's Abbott Streeet, purchased in 1671 by John Whipple's son, Samuel)

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