Early Settlers Of Nantucket
their associates and descendants.
Lydia Swain Mitchell Hinchman
Printed by J.B. Lippincott Co.
[Transcribed by Coralynn Brown]
DEEDS OF PURCHASE and
SETTLEMENT of the ISLAND.
BELKNAP, in his Biography of Biron, [Bjorne] says, " An Icelander of the name Herioff and his son Biron [Bjorne] made a voyage every year to different countries for the sake of traffic.
" About the beginning of the eleventh century (1001) their ships were separated by a storm. When Biron [Bjorne] arrived in Norway he heard that his father was gone to Greenland, and he resolved to follow him but another storm drove him to the southwest, where he discovered a flat country, free from rocks, but covered with thick woods, and an island near the coast."
When on his return to Greenland his discoveries became known, Lief, the son of Eric, Earl of Norway, equipped a vessel, and " taking Biron [Bjorne] for his pilot sailed (1002) in search of the new country."
Belknap says, " Biarne's [Bjorne] description of the coast is very accurate and in the island situate to the eastward (between which and the promontory that stretches to the eastward and northward Lief sailed) we recognize Nantucket. The Ancient Northmen found there many shallows." There is little doubt that Nantucket was visited by Englishmen very early in the seventeenth century (1602).
In the biography of Gosnold, Belknap says, " The shoal water and breach which he calls Tucker's Terror corresponds with the shoal and breakers called Pollock's Rip. . . . To avoid this danger it being late in the day he stood so far out to sea as to overshoot the eastern entrance of what is now called the Vineyard Sound.
"The land which he made in the night was a white cliff on the eastern coast of Nantucket now called Sankoty Head.
" The breach which lay off Gilbert's Point I take to be the Bass Rip and the Pollock Rip with the cross ripplings which extend from the southeast extremity of that island.
"Over these ripplings there is a depth of water from four to seven fathoms, according to a late map of Nantucket, published by Peleg Coffin, Esq., and others." [American Biography. By Jeremy Belknap, D.D. with additions and Notes by F.M. Hubbard. Published by Harper & Brothers in 1843.]
It is difficult to imagine any native of Nantucket who would not be interested in facts relating to its history, whether geographical, historical, geological, or genealogical ; but the practical interest for us of the present day dates from 1659, when it was finally settled by sturdy men, ancestors to so many in this broad land that a brief detail of the public services of those pioneers cannot fail to be of value to their descendants.
Tradition assigns two causes for the sudden departure of Thomas Macy and Edward Starbuck from Salisbury, Massachusetts.
Many of their descendants have believed that persecution on account of the harboring of Quakers led those early settlers to leave an already established home, to seek another upon a desolate, bleak island, where skulking Indians, added to its isolated position, made a most inhospitable landing-place.
On the other hand, most historians attribute the journey of Thomas Macy and Edward Starbuck in 1659 to a business negotiation pending between them and Thomas Mayhew in regard to the purchase of the island of Nantucket.
Benjamin Franklin Folger, one of the well-known genealogists of Nantucket, has stated that early in 1659 Tristram Coffin went on a voyage of investigation, first to Martha's Vineyard, where he secured the services of Peter Folger as interpreter, thence to Nantucket, " his object being to ascertain the temper and disposition of the Indians and the capabilities of the island that he might report to the citizens of Salisbury what inducements for emigration thither were offered."
Thomas Mayhew, some years before, had received a grant of the islands off the southeast coast of Massachusetts from William, Earl of Sterling, and Sir Fernando or Ferdinand Gorges, as is shown by the records in the secretary's office at Albany, New York, Nantucket having belonged to New York until about 1690.
[Note.—In 1641 Nantucket appears to have been under the control of William, Earl of Sterling, and Sir Fernando or Ferdinand Gorges, as " during this year the Elizabeth Islands, Caparrock or Martha's Vineyard, Nanticon or Nantucket and Tuckanuck or Tuckanuckett" were " graunted unto Thomas Mayhew at Watertowne, Merchant, and to Thomas Mayhew his sonne."
The consideration named in the deed of Nantucket was " that Thomas Mayhew and Thomas Mayhew his sonne or either of them or their Assignes doe render and pay yearly unto the Honble the Lord Sterling, his Heyres and Assignes, such an acknowledgement as shall be thought fitt by John Winthrop Esqr the Elder or any two Magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay, being Chosen for that End and Purpose by the Honble the Lord Sterling or his Deputy and by the said Thomas Mayhew and Thomas Mayhew his Sonne, or their Assignes." This deed was dated October 13, 1641.
In 1659 the island or the patent of it was still in the possession of the Mayhews. F. B. Hough's book says, " In 1659 the elder Mayhew admitted nine others to a joint partnership in the Island of Nantucket, reserving a small part to himself, and in February following it was agreed that each Partner might admit another to an equal share in Power and Interest, not being justly excepted to by the Rest."
[Note.—The official records of these deeds are in the office of the Secretary of State, Albany, New York.]
We find on record that in July of 1659 a deed was given by Thomas Mayhew, confirming the sale of the island of Nantucket to nine purchasers,—viz. :
Copy of Deed of Nantucket to Nine Purchasers (dated July 2, 1659).
RICHARD SWAIN, Or SWAYNE.
JOHN SWAIN, or SWAYNE.
" Recorded for Mr Coffin and Mr Macy aforesd ye Day and Year aforesd.
" Be it known unto all Men by these Presents that I, Thomas Mayhew of Martha's Vineyard, Merchant, doe hereby acknowledge that I have sould unto Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, John Swayne and William Pike that Right and Interest I have in ye Land of Nantuckett by Patent; ye wch Right I bought of James Fforrett, Gent. and Steward to ye Lord Sterling and of Richard Vines, sometimes of Sacho, Gent., Steward-Genrll unto Sir Georges Knight as by Conveyances under their Hands and Seales doe appeare, for them ye aforesaid to Injoy, and their Heyres and Assignes forever wth all the Privileges thereunto belonging, for in consideration of ye Sume of Thirty Pounds of Current Pay unto whomsoever I ye said Thomas Mayhew, mine Heyres or Assignes shall appoint.
" And also two Beaver Hatts one for myself and one for my wife.
" And further this is to declare that I the said Thomas Mayhew have received to myself that Neck upon Nantucket called Masquetuck or that Neck of Land called Nashayte the Neck (but one) northerly of Masquetuck, ye aforesaid Sayle in anywise notwithstanding. And further, I ye said Thomas Mayhew am to beare my Part of the Charge of ye said Purchase above named, and to hold one twentieth Part of all Lands purchased already, or shall be hereafter purchased, upon ye said Island by ye aforesd Purchasrs or Heyres and Assignes forever.
" Briefly : It is thus : That I really sold all my Patent to ye aforesaid nine Men and they are to pay mee or whomsoever I shall appoint them, ye sume of Thirty Pounds in good Marchantable Pay in ye Massachusetts, under wch Governmt they now Inhabit, and 2 Beaver Hatts, and I am to beare a 20th Part of ye Charge of ye Purchase, and to have a 20th Part of all Lands and Priviledges ; and to have wch of ye Necks aforsd that I will myselfe, paying for it; only ye Purchasers are to pay what ye Sachem is to have for Masquetuck, although I have ye other Neck.
" And in witness hereof I have hereunto sett my Hand and Seale this second Day of July sixteen hundred and fifty-nine—(1659).
" Per me
By this deed it will be observed that a share of the island was retained by Thomas Mayhew, and in this way he became one of the proprietors who are said in all histories of the place to have founded the settlement.
"Witness JOHN SMITH
" EDWARD SEARLE."
The following deed proves that notwithstanding the purchase of the island from Thomas Mayhew, a business negotiation was made with the Indians also, and that the land was fairly bought from them :
DEED OF WANACKMANACK.
"This witnesseth that I, Wanackmanack, Chief Sachem of Nantucket hath sold unto Mr. Tristram Coffin and Thomas Macy their heirs and assigns that whole neck of land called by the Indians Pacummohquah,[Pocomo] being at the East end of Nantucket, for and in consideration of five pounds to be paid to me in English goods, or otherwise to my content by the same Tristram Coffin aforesaid at convenient time as shall be demanded.
" Witness my hand or mark this 22 of June 1662.
" Witness hereto, Peter Folger and Wawinnesit whose English name is Amos."
" COPY OF INDIAN DEED OF NANTUCKET, RECORDED FOR MR. TRISTRAM COFFIN AND MR. THOMAS MACY, YE 29TH OF JUNE 1671 AFORESAID.
..      " These Prsents Wittness yt I Wanackmamack Head Sachem of ye Island of Nantuckett, have Bargained and sold, and doe by these Presents Bargaine and Sell unto Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Richd Swayne, Thomas Bernard, John Swain, Mr Thomas Mayhew, Edward Starbuck, Peter Coffin, James Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, Tristram Coffin Junr, Thomas Coleman, Robert Bernard, Christopher Hussey, Robert Pyke, John Smyth, and John Bishop these Islands of Nantucket, namely, all ye west end of ye aforesd Island unto ye Pond comonly called Waquittaquay and from ye Head of that Pond to ye North side of ye Island Manamoy ; Bounded by a Path from ye Head of ye Pond aforesaid to Manamoy ; as also a Neck at ye East End of ye Island called Poquomock, [Pocomo] wth the Property thereof, and all ye Royaltyes, Priviledges and Immunityes thereto belonging, or whatsoever Right I ye aforesd Wanackmak have, or have had in ye same : That is, all ye Lands afore menconed and likewise ye Winter sseed of ye whole island from ye End of an Indyan Harvest untill Planting Time, or ye first of May, from yeare to yeare forever, as likewise Liberty to make use of Wood and Timber on all Parts of ye Island ; and likewise Halfe of ye Meadows and Marshes on all Parts of ye Island wthout or beside ye aforesd tracts of Land Purchased ; And likewise ye use of ye other Halfe of ye Meadows and Marshes, as long as ye aforesaid English their Heyres or Assignes live on ye Island ; And likewise I the aforesaid Wanackmamack doe sell unto ye English afore menconed ye propriety of ye rest of ye Island belonging unto mee, for and in consideracon of fforty Pounds already received by mee or other by my Consent or Ord.
" To Have and to hold, ye aforesd Tracts of Land, wth ye P'priety, Royaltyies, Immunityes, Priviledges, and all Appertenances thereunto belonging to them ye aforesd Purchasre their Heyres and Assignes forever.
" In witness Whereof I the aforesd Wanackmamack have hereunto sett my Hand and Seale ye Daye and Yeare above written.
" The Sign of Wanack-Mamack. "
Signed, Sealed and Delivered in ye prsence of
" Peter Foulger,
" Eleazer Foulger,
"Dorcas Starbuck." [Dorcas Starbuck was a daughter of Edward Starbuck. Eleazer Foulger was a son of Peter Foulger.]
RECEIPT OF WANACKMAMACK.
(Nantucket Records, Old Book, Page 27.)
" Received of Tristram Coffin of Nantuckett, the just sume of five poun, which is part of the seven poun that was unpaid of the Twenty poun Purchase of the Land that was purchased of Wanackmamack and Neckanoose, that is to say from Monomoy to Waquettaquage pond, Nanahumack Neck and all from Wesco westward to the west end of Nantucket, I say Received by Me Wanackmamack of Tristram Coffin, five pounds Starling the 18th 11 M 1671.
" The Mark x of Wanackmamack.
The following Associates were chosen by the first Proprietors :
" RICHARD GARDNER.
TRISTRAM COFFIN, JR.
They purchased or were given a half-interest in the original apportionments, making at a very early date twenty landed proprietors.
THOMAS MAYHEW, JR.
Among these were men of varied experience and marked executive ability, evinced by their embracing every opportunity for the advancement of the settlement, and soon an interesting society was established upon the island.
The first houses were built at the northwest, not far from a small harbor now called Maddequet Harbor.
Later the large harbor on the north side of the island offered decided advantages, and the town was finally located there and named Sherburne, in compliance with written orders of Governor Lovelace, of New York, recorded in Albany in the Secretary's office in Book of Deeds III. p. 85. Many of the houses were moved from their original sites to the new town.
Numbers at first were so small that intermarriages among these families were very common, and it is not infrequent for a descendant to find the same settler in his family tree several times.
The population increased steadily until about 1849, when the California gold fever led many to seek wealth on the Pacific Coast, and later, the decline of the whale fisheries compelled the younger men to find means of support elsewhere, and in comparatively few years the population decreased from nearly ten thousand to less than five thousand.