There is a lot of varying information about Elder John Strong. One commonly used source is “The History of the Descendants of Elder John Strong of Northampton, Mass” by Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight; however, recent scholarship by Robert Charles Anderson through the New England Historic Genealogical Society challenges some of those assertions. What I’ll write about here will primarily reflect Anderson’s findings.
John was born circa 1605 in Chard, Somerset, England. He was first married to Margery Deane (daughter of William Deane) in England. They had a son named John who was born sometime between 1626 and 1633 (Anderson says circa 1631). Dwight states that another unnamed child was born to them in the New World, but I have no other information on this child.
John and his family are believed to have come over on the Hopewell from Weymouth, England to Massachusetts in May 1635. They settled in Hingham, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here and throughout his life, he worked as a tanner.
Margery died sometime after their immigration, and John then married Abigail Ford (daughter of Thomas Ford and Elizabeth Chard), in Hingham. They went on to have 15 children, who I’ll write about in the next post.
From this point onward, John Strong played an active role in the building of each community he lived in. After he had moved to Taunton, Plymouth Colony, in 1638, he was active in the courts, serving on the jury and as a deputy. In 1647, he moved to Dorchester, Connecticut Colony (which was subsequently renamed Windsor) along with his father-in-law Thomas Ford. Here he was part of the petit jury and a constable. In addition to being a tanner, he also had quite a few acres on the east side of the Connecticut River; I’m sure it was necessary for his large family to maintain a farm.
Eventually, John made his final move to Northampton, Massachusetts Bay Colony around 1659, where he purchased quite a bit of farmland and set up his tannery. In June of 1663 he earned the title Elder in the First Church of Christ in Northampton and eventually became the ruling elder in 1672. Everywhere John seemed to live, he was a significant part of the community, but never so influential in the life of the town as he was in Northampton. He helped establish schools and was a leader in the work of the church. The “History of Northampton Massachusetts from Its Settlement in 1654” by James Russell Trumbull states: “To him more than any other layman is the church indebted for its foundation and early growth. Among all the earnest, thoughtful men who planted the settlement at Northampton, not one was more influential, more painstaking, or more respected than Elder John Strong.”
Abigail died on July 6, 1688 and John followed on April 14, 1699. Both are buried in Bridge Street Cemetery, where a memorial is erected by their descendants in their honor. Even greater than this stone marker is their imprint on American life through their children and their many descendants. Benjamin Dwight only touches on some of these descendants; there are so many more! There is even a Strong Family Association that links still more family.