JAMES MATTHEWS from “NEW ENGLAND: The Great Migration and The Great Migration Begins”

ORIGIN: London
REMOVE: Yarmouth 1639

FREEMAN: In 1639 Yarmouth list of those who took the oath of fidelity. Propounded for freemanship 7 Sep 1642 and admitted 7 Mar 1643, and in consequence appended to 1639 Plymouth Colony list of freeman. In Yarmouth sections of 1658, 29 May 1670 and 1684 Plymouth Colony list of freeman.
EDUCATION: Signed his deed.
OFFICES: Deputy for Yarmouth to Plymouth General Court 20 Aug 1644 (absent). 8 Jun 1664 Plymouth Grand Jury, 1 Mar 1642, 7 Jun 1642, 1 Jun 1663; fined for nonappearance on grand jury 6 Jun 1663.
Yarmouth Constable, 3 Mar 1640, 6 Jun 1654.
Yarmouth Selectman, 6 Mar 1666, 5 Jun 1666, 5 Jun 1667, 3 Jun 1668.
In Yarmouth section of 1643 Plymouth Colony list of men able to bear arms.
ESTATE: Jul 1636 “James Matthewes” was credited with 1 1/2 cow commons at Charlestown. In 1637 he was credited with one cow common. On 23 April 1638 “James Matthews” received grants of 10, 20, and 0 acres on the Mystic side.

James Matthews did not have an entry in the list of 30 Dec 1638. James Matthews does, however, appear anachronistically in the 1638 Book of Possessions as an abutter to other men’s lands showing that he held at minimum an acre of meadow in Mystic Marshes, ten acres of woodland on Mystic side, and one cow common. In the 1638 Book of Possessions, the ten acres that had been granted to James Matthews was held by Thomas Graves.

On 12 Nov 1666, “Edward Banges” and Daniel Cole Sr of Eastham…”sold to” James Matthews of the town of Yarmouth…yeoman…all the purchase lands that belonged unto and were the lands of Edward Banges and Daniel Cole…being between the two brooks commonly called and known by the name of Bound Brook and Stony Brook and now within the liberties of the township of Yarmouth. “James Matthews” immediately signed this land over to “John Winge.”

On 5 Mar 1685, the “Court have appointed Mr. Laythorpe and Mr. Thacher to take the probation of the estate of James Matthewes, of his will and inventory, at home at Yarmouth (this will and inventory have not survived).”

BIRTH: Baptised St. Dunstan in East London, 12 Jan 1605 son of Thomas Matthews, Joan Mathew “assigned her share of 100 pounds in the Irish Adventure to her son, James, “of Yarmouth in New England, in the parts beyond the seas.” On 19 Aug 1653, Nicholas Blake wrote to alderman Michael Herring “praying him to allow Blake to be joined with his lot in and to draw the lots of Thomas Matthew, Blakes father-in-law; of John Lake, who is in the Barbadoes; and of James, brother to Thomas Matthew, who lives in New England.

In his will of 3 May 1638, “Thomas Matthewe,” to “my son James Matthewe the sum of 40 pounds if he be living at the time of my decease & to his son, Thomas Matthewe,” to “my son James Mathew…and to his children or so many of them as shall be living at the time of my decease,” and to “my grandaughter Mary Blake wife of Nicholas Blake,” along with a seperate bequest, “my said son James and to his heirs & executors and administrators that sum of one hundred pounds which I have sent and adventured upon the propositions for Ireland with all the benefit, profit, proceed, and interest thereof and all such lands which shall at anytime hereafter be layed out, allotted and appointed for me in Ireland or elsewhere.

DEATH: Yarmouth 26 Feb 1684.

MARRIAGE: By 1638.


1. Thomas Matthews, by 1638 when named in his grandfather’s will, married by about 1665, Sarah Hedges, daughter of William Hedges

2. John Matthews, born about 1643, on 3 Jun 1668 John Matthews, for excessive drinking was fined “five shillings,” on 8 Mar 1670 “John Matthews, Samuel Matthews, Samuel Grey were guilty…in profaning the Lord’s Day, and to be summoned in answer it,” on 1 Mar 1674, John Matthews, of Yarmouth for diverse filthy, flagicious, and obscene expressions by him spoken, was to pay a fine of five pounds or be publicly whipped.” “John Matthews” was possibly one of five Yarmouth men slain by the Indians at Pawtucket on 26 Mar 1676.

3. Samuel Matthews, born Yarmouth 1 May 1647, married by 1672 Elizabeth Crowell – daughter of Yelverton Crowell.

4. Sarah Matthews, born Yarmouth 21 Jul 1649, married Yarmouth 16 Dec 1674 John Taylor.

5. Esther Matthews, born Yarmouth 8 Jan 1650, probably the woman of that name who married Yarmouth 10 Aug 1695 Daniel Willard.

6. (probably) Mehitable Matthews born about 1653; married Yarmouth 7 Feb 1677 Benjamin Hall.

COMMENTS: An account of the family of this immigrant states that he died in 1668, had a wife “Sarah supposed” son James, and that this son died on 26 Jan 1684. Without citing a source, Torrey has entries for two Yarmouth men names James Matthews, one dying in 1668, and the other dying in 1684, both with wives named Sarah. Without citing a source, he presented the wife of the supposed younger James as “?Sarah Hedges.”

There are a number of reasons to doubt that the immigrant had a son named James. First, no death record has been found for a James Matthews in 1668, nor do any probate proceedings exist for a man of that name in that year. Second, there are no records at any time in the 17th century for a James Sr. or a James Jr. indicating that at no time were there two adult men of the same name in Yarmouth.

Finally, a close examination of the Plymouth Colony freemanship lists leads one to the conclusion that one James Matthews created all of the records from 1639 to 1684.

“James Matthews” was propounded for freemanship on 7 Sep 1642 and was admitted to that status on 7 Mar 1643 as a result of which his name was appended to the Yarmouth section of the Plymouth Colony of freeman originally compiled in 1639, just after the entry for Emanual White, and two places ahead of Edmond Hawes. By 1658, when the next colony wide list was compiled, James Matthews had moved up to about the middle of the list for Yarmouth, again immediately after Emanual White and now immediately ahead of Edmond Hawes – the man who had formerly intervened, Richard Prichard, having moved to Charlestown in the 1650s. In the next reconsolidation of the list on 29 May 1670, Matthews had moved up to the fourth out of 19 Yarmouth men, again sandwiched between White and Hawes. And finally, on the first (illegible) 1683/4 James Matthews was second of 22 Yarmouth men, just ahead of Edmond Hawes. Emmanual White was no longer on the list and had presumably died in the interim.

The pattern is clear. One man by the name of James Matthews was made free in Plymouth Colony and over the course of four decades moved up steadily in the lists arranged by seniority until, just a year before his death, he had become the second most senior freeman in Yarmouth. Had the immigrant James Matthews died in 1668, then there should have been a record for admission to freemanship for a second James Matthews prior to the compilation of the 1670 list, and this second James Matthews should have appeared toward the bottom of that list. For all these reasons we conclude that the immigrant James Matthews was the only man of that name in Yarmouth in the 17th Century.


In his will dated 30 Jun 1670, William Hedges included a bequest to “my beloved daughter, Sarah Matthews.” Hedges seems to have named his daughters in birth order, which would mean Sarah was born in 1645, or perhaps a little earlier. The immigrant James Matthews was about 40 years older than Sarah, so even if she was his second wife, she could not have been the mother of his children, all of whom were born by about 1653 (those claims that the wife of the immigrant was named Sarah appear to be based soley on the item in the will of William Hedges. If that does not apply to the immigrant, then we have no evidence for the given name of the wife).

On 5 Sep 1688, “Thomas Matthews, late of Yarmouth” died intestate, and in the settlement of his estate, a portion of his property was given to “Sarah Matthews, relict of the said Thomas Matthews.” As this is the only contemporaneous evidence for a member of the Matthews family of Yarmouth with a wife Sarah at the appropriate time, and as Thomas was of the same generation as Sarah, we propose that Sarah hedges, daughter of William Hedges, married Thomas Matthews sometime in the 1660s.

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