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Christopher and James,
THE FOUNDERS OF THE FAMILY.
BY ELROY M. AVERY.
THE GROTON AVERYS.
CHRISTOPHER AVERY, a weaver, was born in England
about 1590. There are several traditions with regard to his im-
migration to the new world. One is that he came from Salisbury,
Wilts County, I^ngland, in the ** Arbella," with John Winthrop,
and landed at Salem, Mass., June 12, 1630. Another tradition is
that he came over with the younger Winthrop, in 1631, and that,
on the voyage, the subsequent governor of Connecticut formed a
strong and life-long attachment for Christopher Avery's young
son, James. The shipping list of the *' Arbella" is not known to
be in existence, although it may form a part of the voluminous,
unpublished and unexamined archives of the British admiralty
office relating to that period. If it is ever found it will probably
determine this doubt.
The family is very old in Cornwall, and the Christopher Avery
• branch may have originated there. In 13 10, a Thomas Avery was
found at Hodmin, Cornwall; in 1543, John, Thomas, David, and
Richard Avery were assessed in Cornwall ; in 1605, Thomas Avery
was mayor of Tintagel; and in 1679, mention was made of Christo-
pher Avery's meadow at Tintagel. The late Mr. John D. Bald"
win, of Worcester, Mass., was of the opinion that Christopher
Avery's ancestors came originally from Cornwall. A Christopher
Avery buried his w'ife, Mary, at Salisbury, in 1591, and they
may possibly have been the parents of our Christopher. See
The Grotoii A-,
ThcTc is iilso soino t]in.-stiLHi as to where Christopher Avery
first took up his abode un this side of the \v;iter. Mr. liuldwiii
beheved that lie lived in Hoston for several years and went ti>
Ghtiiccster about 1644, while Mr. Harris, of Grotoii. tliinks that
it is probable that he went directly to the fishin^j establishment
at Cape Ami and settled on '"the farms" adjacent, and that he
had a close connection with the Rev. Mr. Hliiiman and his
■■ Welsh Colony."
liathe in ihe bree/cs of (air Cape Ami—
Loved bv the sachems and sc|ii;iv
Itome whi-re Ihe while magnolias bloom,
Sweel with the baybcrry's thaslc perfume.
IliigKeJ by ihe wood'i and kis«.'H by the :ea—
Where is (he Eden like to thee ? ■'
But it is asserted that Avery, the layman, did not well a^^ree
with HIinman, the minister at Gloucester, that he was presented
at court fctr speaking - scoffinfjly of him," that he <iid not accotn-
pany the minister tc) New Lond(ni. as most of his flock did, and
that he did not join his son there until HIinman had j^'oiie back
Christopher Avery was selectman at Cdoucester in 1646, 1652
and 1654. At a court in Salem he took the freeman's oath, June
2y. 1652 ; was chosen and sworn clerk of the band, cnn.stable. and
clerk of the market. His wife did not come with him to this
country, and, in 1654, he was relieved of a fine imjio.sud for livinj^^
iipart from her, as the following shows:
Christvphcr . 5
From Records of Massachusetts^ vol. 7, /. J64 :
"Oct. 19, 1654. — Christopher Auery bein^ fined 20 li, at
Ipswich Court for Iivin<^ from his wife, vppon his peticon to this
Court, bein<^ ai^cd & poore, & havinge vsed meanes to p cure his
wife hither, his fine is remitted."
From Records of Massachusetts^ vol, 4, part /, /. 210 :
"In ansr to the peticon of Christopher Awerey, the Court,
vnderstandin<; the peticoner is very poore and aged, having noth-
ing to pay, and that he hath vsed his indeavor to have his wife
brought ouer to him, judge meete to remitt his fine and that his
peticon is receaved freely."
In 1658, he sold his lands at Gloucester and removed to Bos-
ton, where, on the 1 8th of March, 1658-9, he purchased a home
in what is now the business centre of Boston. The following is
a copy of the deed :
From Suffolk Deeds, Book j, p. 214 :
To all christian people to whom these presents shall Come
John Samuell of Boston marrjner and Luce his wife send Greet-
ing Know yee that the sajd John Samuell and luce his wife for
and in Consideration of forty pounds part whereof in hand pajd
the residue secured to be pajd Haue Given Graunted bargained
Sold enfeoffed and Confirmed and by these presents doe giue
graunt bargaine sell en feoff e and Confirme vnto Christopher Avery
of the same boston weaver The one moyty or halfe part of theire
dwelling house scittuate and being in Boston aforesajd videljzt
the North end thereof conteyning one Under roome a chamber
ouer the same and a vane roofe ouer that with a sellar vnder the
sajd Roome according as is marked and layd out by Leftennant
Richard Cooke and Peter Oliuer with all the Chimneys belonging
to the North end of sajd house so farre as by the sajd Cooke
and Oliuer is marked out with so much of the Leantoo as
extends to the sajd dividing marke of the sajd chimneys with
the Ground at the sajd North end of the sajd house also the
Ground on both sides the sajd house to extend so farre vpon a
square from the sajd North Knd as the sajd dividing marke of
the sajd chimneys which Ground was likewise lajd out by the
sajd Cooke & olliuer and which ground so marked out as afore-
sajd for the sajd Avery is bounded & fronts next the streetc west
likewise bounded with the land of Mathew Coy north with the
orchard of Henry Bridgeham east and with the residew or rest of
the land belonging to the other halfe of the sajd house remayning
in the hands and possession of them the sajd John Samuell and
Luce his sajd wife South which sajd house with the appurten-
ances they the sajd John Samuell and Luce his sajd wife pur-
chased of Captaine James Johnson as in the deede by the sajd
6 The Croton Avery s,
Johnson vnto them scaled bearing date the thirtjeth day of Jan-
uary in the yeare of our Lord one thousand sixe hundred fiffty
sixe appeareth. To Haue and to hold all and eucry parte of the
sajd bargained prmisses so bounded Sett out & marked by the
sajd Left Richard Cooke and Peter Oliuer as aforesajd vnto the
sajd Christopher Avery his heires and Assignes To the only prop-
per vse & behoofe of the sajd Christopher Avery his heires and
Assignes for euer And the sajd Jno Samuell and Luce his sajd
wife Doe by thes^* presents Couenant and Graunt vnto the sajd
Christopher Avery his heires execcutors Administrators and
Assignes that they the sajd John Samuell and luce his wife are
lawfully sized of & in the sajd premisses & euery parte thereof
with the Appurtenances thereof in theire owne right to theire
owne vse of a Good estate of Inhaeritance in fee simple and are
the true & propper owners thereof and haue in themselves full
power good right & lawfull Authority to graunt bargaine & sell
conveigh & Assure the same vnto the sajd Christopher Auery
his heires and Assignes in such manner & forme as before in
these presents is mencioned & declared for any act or thing donne
by them the sajd John Samuell and luce his wife or either of
them and for warranty of the sajd bargained Premisses they
ye sajd John Samuell and luce his wife Doe for themselves theire
heires execcutors and Administrators further Couenant and
graunt to and with the sajd Christopher Auery his heires and
Assignes by these presents that the sajd bargained Premisses now
be and at all time & times heereafter shall be Remayne Continew
& Abide vnto the sajd Christopher Auery his heires and Assignes.
freely Acquitted exhonnorated and discharged or otherwise from
time to tjme and at all times hereafter well and Sufficyently
Saued Defended and kept harmelesse of and from all & all manner
of former bargaines Sales guifts Graunts and ffeoffements Joinc-
tures Dowers titles of Dower estates mortgages forfeitures seis-
ures Judgments extents executions & all other Acts & Incom-
brances whatsoeuer had made Donne acknowledged or Com-
mitted by them the said John Samuell and Luce his sajd wife or
either of them or any other person or persons clayming or having
any title or Interest of in or to the sajd bargained premisses or
any parte thereof or any of the appurtenances thereof by from or
vnder them or either of them or the Assignes of them or either
of them or donne or Comitted by theire or either of theire Assent
means or procurement or had made Donne or Comitted or to be
Donne or Comitted by any other person or persons whatsoeuer
whereby the sajd Christopher Auery his heires or Assignes shall
or may be lawfully evicted out of the possession or enjoyment
thereof or any parte thereof as aforesajd : And further that they
the sajd John Samuell and Luce his sajd wife and the heires of
them or either of them at the Reasonable Request and at the
Costs and chardges in the law of the sajd Christopher Aucry his
heires or Assignes shall and will performe and doc or Cause to be
performed and donne any such further act or acts as they the
sajd John Samuell and luce his sajd wife or the heires of them or
either of them shall be therevnto Advised or required by him the
sajd Christopher Auery his heires or assignes for a more full or
perfecting conveying and Assuring the sajd Bargained Premisses
and euery parte thereof according to the lawes of this Jurisdiccon
In witnes whereof the sajd John Samuell and Luce his sajd wife
haue heere vnto putt theire hands & scales the eighteenth day of
march in the yeare of .our Lord one thousand Sixe hundred fiffty
eight or fiffty-nine.
John Samuell & a scale
Luce Samitetj. & a scale
Signed Sealed and
Deliuered in the pres-
Ita Attest Robt Howard not Pub^"«-
This instrument aboue written was Acknowledged to be the act
& deed of John Samuell & luce his wife the i8th of the first moneth
1658 before me
J NO. Lndecott Gounor
Rntred & Recorded 22th march 1658
p El)W Rawson Recorder
The land thus sold for forty pounds sterling was a small lot
about twenty-six by forty-six feet. It was located in what is now
the centre of the post-office building, facing on Devonshire
Street. The famous old spring, which gave the name to Spring
Lane and which is now preserved under the post-office, was near.
This Avery plot was a part of or at least adjoined the site of two
notable resorts of later days, — the well-known restaurant whence
first came the famous ** Julien soup," and the '' Stackpole House,"
not much less famous. The Winthrop estate was not far away,
and near by, in after years, Henjamin I^>anklin was born. Chris-
topher Avery did not long retain this property, for on the ** two
and twentjeth day of march one thousand Sixe hundred Sixty &
three," he sold the land to Ambrose Dew for forty pounds. There
had evidently been no increase of value in the five years that he had
held possession. After being owned by two or three different
persons, it was bought by Mr. Stackpole about 1790.
Christopher Avery now followed his son James to Connecti-
8 The Grot on Avcrys,
cut, and, Au<;ust S, 1665, purchased a house, orchard and lot of
Koberl Burrows in New London. I fere he chiinied exemj)tion
from watchini; and training on account of a^e, in June, 1667, and
was made a freeman of the colony, October, 1669. Charles Hill,
the town clerk, made this record of his decease : '* Christopher
Avery's death, vide, near the death of Mother Brewster," but the
date of her death does not appear. Minor, in his diary, however,
records that Christoi)her Aver\' died March 12, 1^)79.
According; to an affidavit in the probate court, he left an only
CAPTAIN JAMES AVERV, the only child of Christopher
and properly the founder of the family that we call the Groton
Avcrys, was born in Enj^land about 1620. lie came to America
with his father, and lived at Gloucester for several years. He
married Joanna Greenslade, of Boston, November 10, 1643, as
appears from the record at Gloucester. She received a letter of
dismissal from the church at Boston to the one at Gloucester
in 1644 :
"17 of r mo. 1644. Our sister Joan (Ircenslade. now the wife of one James
Averill had ji^ranted her by the Church's silence, letter, of recommendation to the Ch.
Nothing is known of her ancestry. The only other trace of the
Greenslade familv in America in the seventeenth century that I
have found is a petitit)n with the followini^ heading: *' 1663.
July 4, A Declaration of ye Townes of Scarborow & Tfalmouth
Black Point & Casco to be Presented to ve Hon^ Court att
York.'* This petition carries numerous signatures, including that
of Thomas Greenslad. At that time, the province of Maine was
claimed by the heirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges and by the colony
of Massachusetts Bay, the struggle for jurisdiction ending in
favor of the Bay colony in 1677. A possible relationship between
Thomas Greenslad and Joanna Greenslade is suggested by the
fact that the first born son of the latter was named James (for
the father) and that the second born was named Thomas.
Miss Caulkins's *' History of New London," p. 67, says :
** On the nineteenth of October, 1650, jjrants were made by the townsmen to ' Mr.
lUynman. Obadiah IJruen, Ilujjhe C'aukin, 11 ujjhe Roberts, John Coile, Andrew Les-
ter, James Averye, Robert I shell.'
James. , 9
'* These were all from (ilouccstcr, a town on the eastern coast of Massachusetts,
situated upon the peninsuhi of Cajxi Aiin. Mr. Richard Hlinman had been the minis-
ter of (jloucester for eij^ht years, and was now enyjajjed to become the minister of the
I*ec|Uot plantation. 'I'he others were a party of his friends who purposed to move with
him, and came on to make preparatory arranjjements."
It appears that James Avery went back to Gloucester, .sold his
possessions there tt) his father and, in 1651, returned to New
London. In March of that year, '* the principal body of these
eastern emigrants arrived. -h- * -Jt -jt * Early
in 165 I, New Street, in the rear of the town i)lot, was opened for
the acconimt)dation of the Cape Ann conii:)any. This position was
designated as * bevond the brook and the ministry lot.* It was
carved into house lots and took the name of Cape Ann Lane.
The lots on this street were nine in number, of six acres each,
extending; both sides of the narrow street from the alder swam])
in front to Cedar Swamp on the west. l^eL;innin^ at the lower
end, HuL»h Calkins had the first lot by the Lyme road, or hi«fh-
way to Nahantick, as it was then called, and next to him was his
son-in-law, llu^li Roberts; then Coite, Lester, Avery, Allen,
Meades, Hou^h, Isbell." These New Street home-lots were
dreary and un in vitinL,^ Some of the new-comers became discour-
aged and went away and *' e\en those who had the courai^e to
settle down in this part of the plantation, soon abandoned the
land to pastura<4e or waste and found other homesteads."
The registry entitled '* l^irths in New Londt)n " bej^nns with
the following record :
*' Hannah, the dauj^htcr of James .\very, was l;urn li Oct., 1644.
James, the son of do.- -15 I)et:. 1646.
Mary, the daughter of do. — 19 I'cb. 1647."
These three were born in Gloucester, and their births were
there recorded : the transferred record *' is not asolitarx' instance
of loose and inaccurate rejjistrv." The interval between the
births of James and Mar\', as above rect)rded, was fourteen
months instead of two months, as at first i^lance appears,— a
result of the obserxance of the Julian calendar in those c'ays.
The calendar-amendment act, an Ewi^lish statute of I75i,estab-.
lished the first day of Jaiuiarv' as the bej^innin^ of each year
(instead of Lady-day, March 25), adopted the Gregorian or *' new-
style " in i)lace of the Julian or " old st\'le " calendar, and can-
celled the then e'xistin;^ excess kA eleven days by making the
lo Tliv Grot on Avery s.
third clay of September, 1752, the fourteenth. Hence the double
\vritin<^ of the year in dates falling in January, February and
March, so frequently met with in the following century. The
last date in the registry-record above quoted might be written, 19
Feb., 1647 (O. S.), or 29 Feb., 1648 (N. S.), or 19 Feb., 1647-48.
In addition to his grant of land, October 19, 1650, and of a
town lot on Cape Ann Lane, early in 1651, James Avery soon
received a grant of the ** Little Owl Meadow," " not far from the
town plot on the North side of the Mill Ikook." But ideas
grew and there was a quick thirsting after large domains. About
1652, he was granted a farm in South Groton, where lands
were especially desirable, as they might be cultivated
immediately. He, however, continued to live with his family on
his town lot for several years. Farly in 1653, he secured another
farm, one of the '* Pocketannock grants," further up the river, in
what is now the town of l^edyard. About 1656, he built "The
Hive of the Averys, " at the head of Poquonnock Plain, in the
present town of Groton, a mile and a half from the River
Thames. In June, 1684, the old HI nman edifice at New Lon-
don, ** the unadorned church and watch-tower of the wilderness,"
was sold to Captain Avery for six j:)ounds, with the condition
that he should remove it in one month's time. According to
tradition, the church was taken down and its materials carried
acnxss the river and added to the house he had already built at Po-
quonnock. \\\ spite of this analytic and synthetic process, the
house seems to have retained some of its sacred character and,
even a century later, '* the same timbers, the same boards, joy-
fully resounded once more to the ancient but well remembered
voices of exhortation and praise." The anticpie dwelling, of
which we give a fme illustration, is still in good repair and is
occupied and owned, as it has ever been, by an Avery family.
With its charming situation, the old-time combination constitutes
one of the most interesting and ])icturesque farm-houses in the coun-
try. Here James Avery lived until he died. The present occu-
pant (1893) is the (jroton town-clerk, Mr. James D. Aver\' (No.
James Avery seems to have taken, at once, an active part
in private business and public affairs. On the twelfth of Octo-
ber, 1667, he petitioned the general court as follows:
James, 1 1
*' The request of James Avery of New London to this Honored Assembly is, that
whereas the C'ountry have putt me upon some publique imployment, :nd haue done
what seruice I am capeable of, that this Assembly would please to grant me, as they
have done to diverse others, a percell of land which belongs to the Country, soe much
as theyshall think meet, where it may be found ; which I shall thankfully accept ; and
ever pray for your prosperity."
In May of the following year, the general court made the fol-
lowing record :
** Lieutenant James Auery hath likewise by this Court granted to him a Hundred
Acres of land for a farme, in which there may not be aboue twenty acres of meadow."
A like reward for public services was made by the colony in
He soon became active in military affairs and is generally
spoken of by the title of Ensign, Lieutenant or Captain. 1 he
region in which he had made his home was formerly the chief
seat of the formidable Pcquot tribe that had been almost exter-
minated by the English a few years before. The Pequot Fort,
taken in 1637 by Captain John Mason, in command of the Con-
necticut troops and their Mohegan and Narragansett allies, was
on the Mystic River, on the eastern line of Groton. After the
Pequot War, a few survivors of that once dreaded tribe still lived
in the haunts of their fathers, with the Narragansetts on the
east, and the Mohegans, under their sachem, Uncas, near by on
the west. In 1657, the Narragansetts made a wild foray and
Uncas fled from the blood and fire that marked their course. He
took refuge in a fort and was besieged by his unrelenting foes.
But just in time, " Lieutenant^ James Avery, Mr. Brewster, Rich-
ard Haughton, Samuel Lothrop, and others well armed, suc-
ceeded in throwing themselves into the fort ; and the Narragan-
.setts, fearing to engage in a conflict with the English, broke up
the siege and returned home." The legislature approved of the
measures that had been taken for the protection of the faithful
ally of the English.
Great Britain proclaimed war with the States General in Feb-
ruary, 1665, and, in June, America received tidings that the
Dutch admiral, DeRuyter, had orders to visit New York with a
large force. The northern colonies were alarmed at the approach
of so formidable an enemy and began preparations for defence.
The following item appears in the record of a session of the Con-
necticut general court, held at Hartford, July 6, 1665 :
12 The Grot on Avery s,
** This Court haueing by his Majestie's order bene informed that DeRuiter is likely
to assault his Majestie's Colonies in these parts of the world and that it is his royal!
pleasure that his subiects here should put themselves in a posture of defence ag^aynst
the comon adversary, In pursuance thereof, doe order that each plantation in this
Colony should consider of some way for the discouery of the approach of the enemy :
And that vpon the discovery of the enemy they presently giue notice thereof to ye
Comittce appointed by the Court, who are to act therein according to the power com-
itted to them by this Assembly."
The committee in charge from Southerton to Guilford was
" Maior Mason, Ens : Avery, Thomas Minor, Robt Chapman, or
any three of them." " Which said Comittccs being mett in
their respectiue h'mits are hereby impowred to order and appoint
how and in what way the order established for aid and relief e in
such cases may be effectually attended." In this same year (1665),
the general court confirmed Ensign James Avery as ** lieutenant
to ye Trainband at New London."
In 1667, the Pequot remnant was transfered to a reservation,
although, as the historian informs us, ^* Mr. Winthrop, Captain
Denison, Captain James Avery and some other men of influence,
dissented from these views and labored for the accommodation of
the Pequots." The fair disi)osition and judicial temperament of
Mr. Avery are here clearly shown — qualities that doubtless gave
him much of the great influence that we know he possessed with
the friendly Indians of that region. For several years, before
and after this, the commissioners of the United Colonies referred
almost everything relating to the Pequots to Messrs Denison,
Stanton and Avery for adjustment, and the Connecticut general
court records contain references, too numerous to mention in
detail, of which the following (May 11, 1666) must suffice as
** Lt. Avery and James Morgan are appointed and recjuired by this Court to lay out
the land for Coassatuck Indians according to ye determination of ye comittee ; and
likewise to lay out the northern bounds of Stonington, and also ye land granted to
Thomas Minor and John Gallop respectiuely.*'
'* Robin Cussinamo is appointed Gouernor oucr ihe Pequots on this side Mistick
Riuer, and Cushaunakim and Voiomatimo are appointed as Assistants to ye said Cus-
sinemo in gouerneing the said Indians. And Lt. James Avery, Gary Latham and
John Gallop are desired to assist by advice and counsell to these Gouernors as occasion
or necessity may present."
In 1678, the said commissioners granted Captain Avery five
pounds ** for his good service in a.ssi.sting in the Government of
the Pequots for sundry years past." See Plymouth Colony
Records, Vol. 10.
In 1668, he and Cary Latham were chosen by the town to set-
tle the boundary line with the sachem Uncas. The ;^15 that
secured the desired formal deed was paid by James Avery and
two others, each of whom was indemnified by the town with 200
acres of land. Captain Avery's services seem to have been often
called for by the town and by individuals in the settling of such
In June, 1672, the general court ordered that Captain John
Winthrop should be the *' chcife millitary officer" for the county
of New London, and Lieutenant James Avery, his second.
In 1673, danger was apprehended from the Dutch, and each
county was ordered to prepare for defence. New London Coun-
ty was to add a hundred ** dragoones " to her train-bands, and for
** such iorces as shall be called out of that county, James Avery
[was] appoynted Captain."
New England's long continued freedom from the horrors of
Indian war was abruptly ended in 1675. The name of King
Philip became a terror to the English settlers from Connecticut to
Casco Bay. In the summer months, Massachusetts suffered
untold agony and, in October, the general court at Hartford
practically put Connecticut under martial law.
" P'orasiiiucli as this Court, by reason of intelligence (both from our freinds
towards the Narrog^ansetts and allso from Major Andioss) of great combinations and
threatenings of the Indiar.s against the lOnglish, and perticularly against the greatest
part of this Colony, and that speedily to be put in execiilion, the late experience and
motion of the enemie seeming to suite such a designe, haue seen cause to call backe
their present forces unto Hartford to be improued as farther occasion may call for ; It
is therefore hereby ordered, that each county doe speedily rayse out of their several!
townes in their respective countyes, sixty souldiers, well fiited with hors armes and
ammunition, as dragoones, who shall be imbodyed for motion in their severall respec-
tiue countyes for the defence of the Colony against any suddf n assault of the enemie.
And because of the difficulty and danger of moueing ouer the riuer at Saybrooke, this
Court orders Savbrooke and Kenilworth to fall in with New Haven, as part thereof in
this undertakeing. The proportioning of each plantation and all other things necessary
for the well ordering of the severall companycs is left to the ciuill authority in each
county to order as they shall judg most conduceable to the end afoarsayd ; and that
they be ready for the releife of each other upon notice. aS any exigence may call for.
And because there are the Moheags and Pecjuols dwelling amongst those fower townes
of New London County, it is ordered that Captain James Auery take the command of
forty Knglish from the three townes of New London, Stoneington and Lyme, to be
rayscd together with such of the Pequo»s as he likes, and Captain John Mason shall
take twenty Knglish from Norwich with the Moheags ; each party to quarter and
lye where they may be of best vse for the end afoarsaid, and to joyne together as there
may be any occasion or exigence, vpon notice from Major John Winthrop;
they to appoynt sqch inferior officers as they shall thinke most meet."
14 The Grot on Averys,
At a meeting of the council of the colony in the following Feb-
ruary, ** there was order to Capt. Avery, Capt. Denison and Lnt.
Minor to rayse some forces to surpriz or destroy the enemie ; as
more at large by the letter on file may appeare." From said let-
ter, I clip the following sentence :
** The Council, considering the difficulty of collecting any con-
siderable body of the enlisted soldiers from the several townes, for
an immediate march against the enemy, order that Captains
Avery and Denison, and Lieut. Minor, should forthwith gather
as many men as possible, from the three nearest towns (New
London, Norwich and Stonington), and, taking with them the
Mohegan and Pequot Indians, march against the enemy/' At a
meeting of the council in the following month, it was written in
the record that :
** For the encouragement of such as shall goe forth volunteers against our Indian
enemies in the Narrogancett Countrey and to prevent their gathering and setleing
there, we have thought meet to declare, that whosoeuer shall imploy themselues in this
seruice, whether Indians or English, and goe forth under the command of Capt.
George Denison or Capt. James Avery or Lnt.Thomas Minor or Ens: Tho: Leffingwell,
shall haue all such plunder as they shall seize, both of persons and corn or other estate,
to be disspo5>ed by them in way of sale, so as they may best advantage themselues,
provided Authority haue had the first tender of theire dispose of captiues, alloweing
them the market price ; to be diuided amongst them, to the priuate souldiers, each
man alike, and to the commanders so much a better part according as there is differ-
ence in their wages : and all wounded men to be healed at the Country's charge."
In the following August, *' the Councill agreed and ordered
that the right and division of the captives be left to the decision
and determination of Capt. John Mason, Capt. James Avery and
Mr. Daniel Witherell, whoe are desired and impowered to diss-
pose the said captiues, whither in hands of the Pequots, Moheags
or Narangancetts, to such persons to whome of right they doc
belong, according to the seuerall agreements as the clay-
mers shall make their demands by." The question of the dis-
position of booty again came up in the council and, in January,
i676-*77, it was ordered that ** whateuer captiues or plunder shall '
be taken is to be tryed and condemned by a Court Marshall, that
so no wrong may be done. The Court Marshall for New London
County are appoynted to be Major Ed: Palmes, Capt. James
Auery, Lnt. Samuel Mason and Lnt. Tho: Minor, or any three
The commissioners of the United Colonies of New England
put a force of a thousand men under command of Governor Jos-
iah Winslovv of Plymouth. In early winter, he was in the hostile
country where a great battle was fought on Sunday, December
ig, 1675. The Narrangansett fort was in what is South Kings-
ton, R. I. It included \\w^ or six acres of dry ground, was sur-
rounded ^by a swamp and defended by palisades and felled trees.
The only entrance was by abridge made by a felled tree and com-
manded by a block house. Within, were not fewer than 3,500
warriors. The fight was desperate, for, on either side, it was a
clear case of conquer or die. Victory was for the English. It is
said that 700 Indians were killed that day and that of their
wounded, 300 died. The power of the Narragansett tribe was
broken. In this fight, the Pequot allies were commanded by
Captain James Avery : Captain John Gallop, who commanded
the Mohegans, was slain.
The Narragansett fight enraged the Indians and made them
desperate. The English plantations were in greater danger than
before. In the following February, began *' that series of forays
into the Indian territory, which, issuing at short intervals from
New London County and led by those noted Ind an fighters,
Denison and Avery, contributed in no small degree to the favor-
able result." In Uie third of these excursions, the chief surviv-
ing sachem of the Narragansetts, Canonchet, the son of Mianto-
nomo, was captured — '* one of the great exploits of the war."
The particulars of his capture and execution may be found in
Hubbard's '* Indian Wars," ])p. 165-9, '^"^ i" TrumbulTs '* History
of Connecticut," 1. 343-5.
Captain Avery was equally prominent in the civil matters of
the town and colony. He was chosen townsman, (/. c\, select-
man,) in 1660 and held that office twenty years. What seems to
have been one t)f his earliest acts in this official capacity shows a
laudable desire to preserve the public documents and is thus
** Feb. 6. 1660.— For the sellling, perfecting and fairly recording of all records, for
the town's use and good of after posterity, wee agreed that there shall be a towne
booke, with an Alphabet in it, wherein ail acts passed, orders or agreements, shall
hereafter be fairly recorded, whether past or lo come, for the effecting hereof, we agree
that all the old bookes of records shall be searched into for what is material concerning
the public good, to be drawn out into a booke provided and paid for by the Recorder,
who shall have C«/. paid him out of the town rate for every act, law or order recorded."
1 6 The Grot on Avery s.
This is signed by the townsmen, Obadiah Bruen (who was
recorder), Hugh Calkin, James Rogers, James Avery and William
Nichols. Unfortunately, the full measure of the advantages
which these wise townsmen intended to confer upon " after pos-
terity'* was made scant by the performance.
For the next few years, the records contain frequent references
to James Avery in connection with such matters as the collection
of tax-rates, arbitrations like that between ** Goodman Packer
and the Indians'', the killing of wolves, for which he claimed the
bounty of twenty shillings each, the laying out of the king's high-
ways, the adjustment of the bounds between New London and
Saybrook (which adjustment proved to be unsatisfactory to his
fellow-citizens), the naming of a day for the cutting of wood for
the minister, etc. In February, i665-'66, it was ** Voted by ye
Towne that Leifft. Avery and James Morgan have power to agree
with any person that hath a serviceable horse to be emploicd in
fetching up Mr. Bradstreet and what agreement they make the
towne to allowe and make good the same." The next year, and
as a consequence of this carte blanche, Goodman Prentice
received ten shillings for the use of his horse, and Goodman Royce
fifteen shillings " for ye minister's dyet." On June i, 1666, it
was ** Voted by a Vnanimous consent that Mr. Bradstreet is
accepted to ye worke of ye ministry amongst us, and that he have
80 lb. pr yeare to encourage him in the worke, to be gathered by
way of rate." The town also voted to build a girt house " 36
foote in length, and 25 in breadth and 13 studd betwixt ye joynts
with a stack of stone chimneys in the midst," all at a cost of a
hundred pounds, with an extra appropriation to ** paye ye masons
for building a stone chimney and glaze ye house windowes."
These records give us an interesting peep into the old New
England town-meeting and throw an instructive side light on the
characters of our fathers.
Originally, the Connecticut general court not only enacted the
laws of the colony, but administered them, criminally as well as
civilly. As it was difficult to try all of these cases at Hartford,
and in answer to a petition from New London, the general court
** doe order for ye present that there shall be an assistant and 3
commissioners in that Town who shall have full power to issue
small causes, and ye punishing small grimes," Among the first
James, 1 7
commissioners appointed for this particular court at New Lon-
don, was Captain James Avery. The appointment was conferred
upon him by the general court in 1663. His office as commis-
sioner was much like that of a justice of the peace. The first
court record of '* Judge" Avery that I have found is dated May
31, 1664; **Dcputy-governor Mason and Messrs. Talcott, Bruen
and Avery on the bench.*' In 1666, the county of New London
was constituted with its county court. Of this county court,
James Avery was for many years one of the commissioners.
Before this court came actions for small debts and complaints of
evil-speaking and disorderly conduct. Wills were proved and
marriages performed the same as in the higher courts. A few of
the examples cited by Miss Caulkins may serve to illustrate the
manners and customs of those days:
•* June 30, 1664. Mrs. Houghton summons Mrs. Skill inger before the commission-
ers to answer for abusing her daughter in the meeting house ;*we not finding legal
proofs hereof, judge it meet that Mrs. Houghton tutor her daughter better and not
occasion dislurbance by any unmeet carriage to her betters hereafter, and this being
the first time, we enforce no further."
Another case was against ** a person belonging to Seabrook for uttering contumelious
speeches against his Majesty when in liquor; to be whipt immediately at New London
and a quarter of a year hence at Seabrook; Mr. Chapman 10 see it done."
*' 1667. Goodwife Willey presented for not attending public worship and bringing
her children thither; fined 5^.
"(ieorge Tongue and wife were solemnly reprimanded for their many offences
against God and man and each other. On their submission and promise of reforma-
tion, and engaging to keep up the solemn duty of prayer and the service of God in the
family, they were released by paying a fine of ^^3.
** John Lewis and Sarah Chapman presented for sitting together on the Lord*s Day
under an apple tree in Goodman Chapman's orchard."
" J ^73 James Rogers, Jr., for sailing in a vessel on the Lords day, fined 20J'.
*' Edward Stallion for sailing his vessel from New London to Norwich on the Sab-
*'Sept. , 1674. Complaint entered against Stonington for want of convenient high-
ways to the meeting-house. The court ordered that there shall be four principal
highways according as they shall agree among themselves to the four angles, and one also
to the landing place, to be stated by James Avery and James Morgan within 4 months."
That the county court had admiralty powers appears from the
" 1680. Thomas Dymond vs. barque Providence, stranded on F'isher's Island, for
salvage of goods."
" 1682. New London was presented for not having a grammar-school; fined £\o\
also for not having an English school for reading andj writing, j^s."
1 8 The Grot on Avery $,
There were numerous presentations of James Rogers for pro-
fanation of the Sabbath and kindred offenses. He had extensive
hinds and a greater interest in the trade of the port than any
other person in the place. He and his family became dissenters
from the established church and allied themselves to the Sabba-
tarians or Seventh-day Haptists of Rhode Island. After 1677, his
son, John Rogers, drew off from the Sabbatarians, assumed the
ministerial offices of preaching and baptizing and organized a
new sect called the Rogerenes. Miss Caulkins says that " a great
and predominant trait of the founder of the sect, and of his
immediate followers, was their determination to be persecuted.
They were aggressive, and never better pleased than when, by
shaking the pillars, they had brought down the edifice upon their
own heads. They esteemed it a matter of duty, not only to suf-
fer fines, distrainment, degradation, imprisonment and felonious
penalties with jxitience, but to obtrude themselves upon the law,
and challenge its power, and in fact to persecute others, by inter-
rupting their worship, and vehemently denouncing what they
esteemed sacred." I hese offences were promptly met by penal-
ties. ** Fines were many times repeated and the estates of the
offenders melted under the seizures of the constables as snow
melts before the sun." ** It is probable that all penalties would
have been silently dropped had they not kept up the aggressive
system of testifying, as it was called ; that is, presenting them-
selves in the religious assemblies of their neighbors to utter their
testimony against the worship. John Rogers and the elder sister
wx^re the principal offenders, they often carrying their work into
meeting and interrupting the service with exclamations and pro-
tests against what was said or done." The foregoing is intended
simply to illuminate the following from the records of the county
"April 14, 1685. Judges upon the bench, Fitch, Avery and Wetherell. John
Rogers, James Rogers. Jr.. Samuel Ueebec, Jr. , and Joanna Way, are complained of
for profaning (iod's holy day bv servile work, and are grown to that height of impitty
as to come at several times into the town to re-bapiize several persons; and when God's
people were met together on the Lord's day to worship ( Jod, several of ihem came and
made great disturbance, behaving themselves in such a frantic manner as if possessed
with a diabolical spirit, so affrighting and amazing that several women swooned and
fainted away. John Rogers to be whipped fifteen lashes, and for unlawfully re-bap-
tizing to pay £^. The others to be whipped."
The Hon. Richard A. Wheeler, for many years the judge of
probate at Stonington, Conn., says (Novembr 10, 1888): ** Mr.
Avery held the office of commissioner for a good many years,
and, judging from his position in civil and military life, he must
have been a man of marked abilities, fitted for the exigencies of
the times in which he lived.'' Miss Caulkins says that "after
1666, for fifteen or twenty years, the commissioners (justices) for
New London were almost invariably Messrs. Avery, Wetherell
and Palmes.*' (History of New London, p. 180.)
Captain James Avery was twelve times elected to the general
court from 1658 to 1680. Groton w^as set off from New London
as a separate town in 1705. In 1871, Judge Wheeler published a
list of representatives from Groton from its organization, at the
end of which occur these words : " It is w^orthy of note that out of
the 545 representatives of the town of Groton, 104 have borne the
name of Avery and all were descendants of Captain James Avery."
There was then a close union between church and state, each
being part of the other. The Congregational church was fully
'* established," wholly *' orthodox," and the only one recognized
by law. The minister's salary was raised by public tax and a few
of the old rate-lists for this purpose are still preserved. In that
for 1664, the names of 105 property holders appear. The name
of ** John Winthrop, Squire," heads the list. He was then a non-
resident ; his property was set down at ;^i85. The estate of
James Rogers is set dow^n at ^^^548 — nearly double that of any
other tax-payer. The next highest are John Pickett, ^^^299, los.;.
James Morgan, ^^252 ; Robert Burrows, ;^246 ; James Avery,
;^236 ; and Gary Latham, £2\y. At that time, land was hardly
taken into account in the estimate of the value of a man's estate.
James Avery was prominent in matters relating to the church,
and the references to him in such connection are numerous. For
example, in Februar>% i6jy-ys, when it was resolved in town-
meeting to build a new meeting-house to take the place of the
out-grown Blinman house, the building-committee consisted of
Captain Avery and two others. In 1683, he was a member of a
committee of which Major John Winthrop was chairman, to send
a letter to the Rev. Mr. Mather and the Rev. Samuel Willard, at
Boston, for advice concerning a successor for the Rev. Mr. Brad-
street, deceased. The church record kept by the Rev. Mr. Brad-
20 The Grot on Avery s.
street, begins October 5, 1670, the day of his ordination. It
begins with the following list :
••THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH.
Lieutenant James Avery and wife.
Thomas Miner and wife.
James Morgan, senior, and wife,"
and eighteen others. Thus we see that the wife, Joanna, was
living in the latter part of 1670; the Rev. John Avery says that
she was living in 1693. The date of her death is not known.
She was the mother of all his children.
About 1655, a certain Abigail, surname unknown, was married to
Samuel, the son of William Checseboro, the founder of Stoning-
ton. Their daughter, Abigail Cheescboro, married John, the son
of Captain James Avery. Samuel Cheeseboro was buried July
31, 1673. and on June 15, 1675, his widow was married to Mr.
Joshua Holmes. Mr. Holmes died in 1694, and on July 4, 1698,
his widow was married to the widowed Captain James Avery.
Captain James Avery died April 18, 1700,; his widow was living
as late as 1714. His four sons married and had twenty daughters.
The four sons had thirty-two sons. At least twenty-five of the
grandsons became heads of families, and there is nothing in the
records to show that the other seven were not married. These
twenty-five grandsons, of whose families we have the records, had
one hundred and two sons. Of these, at least eighty-five might
have married, and it is known that sixty-nine of them did marry.
In studying the records of those days, the careful student is
strongly impressed with the fact that Captain James Avery was
a very remarkable man. Living as he did in stirring times, he
Avas a leader among strong men, enjoying their confidence and
respect because he deserved them. Especially is it to be noted
that, although the state then took cognizance of affairs which
we now call private and interfered in the details of family life
and personal relations in a way that would not be tolerated now,
he was never censured or ** presented " for any shortcoming or al-
leged dereliction of duty or propriety. Eminent in all the relations
of life, his descendants look upon him with pride and affection
as one sans pair ct sans rcproclu\