Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Working on Wednesday: Henry Woodward (1607 - 1683), Tavern Keeper, Miller and Selectman

I'm in the habit of saying that my mother's people were all Northerners and my father's ancestors all Southern-born, but that's not strictly true because in each lineage there's one branch that's an exception. My father's maternal grandfather Tracy Darrow Porter's male ancestors can be traced to New England as early as 1630.
[1677 Map of New England by William Hubbard.
Henry Woodward, this paternal ninth great grandfather, was born in what is now part of Liverpool, England and is believed to have come to New England on the ship "James" in the fall of 1635. (I haven't found any reference to him so far in The Great Migration Study Project. Perhaps the new Directory will include his name.)

[View of Savin Hill in Dorchester about 1830 from the Dorchester Historical Society]
He settled first in Dorchester, married a young woman named Elizabeth* and became a member of the church, a freeman of the town, and served as Selectman, Constable and on several committees over the years.

In 1659 Henry, Elizabeth and their four children, three daughters** and a son, moved to Northampton (possibly at the suggestion of Reverend Mather) where he repeated his involvement in church and local affairs, again taking on the role of Selectman and acting as Surveyor of Highways among other civic duties.

In 1665 he was granted a license to  open a tavern which remained in business until 1681. As was typical of the time, he also farmed some land and owned a "corn mill." In this transcribed list of deaths in Northampton, we see what happened to him there in 1683.***

[ Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).]

If you want to read more about flour milling in the 17th century, look here; and learn more about colonial taverns here. This blog has more information about Henry.

*It's possible that this Elizabeth was the daughter of the influential Puritan minister Richard Mather who founded a religious dynasty that included his son Increase and grandson Cotton Mather, but it's not certain.
**I am descended from their second daughter Freedom who was born in about 1642. She married Jedediah Strong in 1662 and it's through their granddaughter Esther Carpenter who married Benjamin Porter in 1756 that they find their place in my family tree.
***Note that his daughter (and my ancestor) Freedom Strong is the first name on the list above, having died almost two years earlier.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.


  1. Hello, very distant cousin. I descend from Henry and Elizabeth also, through their daughter Experience who married Medad Pomeroy.

    I'm writing a blog, too, and am writing about Henry today. I am chagrined to find that his wife MAY have been Elizabeth Mather. I thought that was a done deal, in the genealogy world. I've seen another suggestion, today, that her name may have been Cundliffe.

    Thanks for doing so much digging into Henry's life. That is what is important to me about each ancestor, how they lived, what they did, and what they believed. I think we owe Henry a thank you!

    1. Hi Janice, you very distant cousin,

      Like you, I'm eager to try to discover what the life of my forebears was like. It makes history come alive for me.

      Wouldn't it be great if we could claim the Mathers as our ancestors? All too often though, I've found a well-documented historical person turned out to have the same or similar name of the more obscure person I'm actually related to.

      I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say about our common ancestor Henry.