What About Abigail Ford, my Eighth Great-Grandmother?

Abigail Ford was baptized October 8, 1619 in Bridport, Dorsetshire, England. She was the second of the five children of Thomas Ford and Elizabeth (Chard) Cooke. The other children were:

  • Joanna, baptized June 8, 1617 in Bridport
  • Thomas, baptized September 21, 1623 in Bridport; buried in Bridport on October 6, 1623
  • Hepzibah, baptized May 15, 1625 at Holy Trinity in Dorchester, Dorsetshire, England
  • Hannah, baptized February 1, 1628/9 at Holy Trinity in Dorchester; buried in Bridport on March 28, 1629

According to the “History of the Town of Dorchester, Massachusetts” by the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society, many who immigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony in those early years were influenced by Rev. John White, a minister of Trinity Church in Dorchester, England. He wanted form “a community in New England, where all who felt themselves aggrieved by religious or political persecution might find asylum.” Perhaps Thomas and Elizabeth felt the need, like many others, to pull away from the Church of England.

On March 20, 1630, Thomas, Elizabeth and their three surviving daughters boarded the Mary and John at Plymouth, England. If Abigail was baptized close to her time of birth, she would have been about 11 years old for this voyage. Captain Squeb was in charge of the vessel, which arrived at Nantasket (present-day Hull) on May 30.

Upon their arrival, a dispute arose between Captain Squeb and the passengers: Squeb wanted a “pilot” (a guiding boat) to lead the ship through the harbor to land safely. Of course, no one lived at that spot back then. Some parties left the ship to find assistance. Eventually, Governor Winthrop came from Salem to help settle the dispute. They were still in port on June 28. Many were sick, hungry and in poor health. I imagine that Abigail and her sisters probably wanted nothing more than to go home.

A picture of the Mayflower and the Speedwell in their harbor.  I imagine that the Mary and John was of similar build.  Courtesy New York Public Library Digital Collection.

A picture of the Mayflower and the Speedwell in their harbor. I imagine that the Mary and John was of similar build. Courtesy New York Public Library Digital Collection.

The settlers didn’t settle in what was to become their own Dorchester until mid-July. Food had to be sent for from Ireland, and people began fishing in Massachusetts Bay. Eventually, land was granted and families began to set up their homes. Thomas became one of Dorchester’s first Freemen in 1631. He was amongst twelve leaders who met every Monday morning to discuss the affairs of the town, a practice established at what is credited to be the first Town Meeting in the country on October 8, 1633. Perhaps Thomas told his family about some of the goings-on at the meetings over supper.

So Abigail came of age as Dorchester became a community. She was still quite young when she married John Strong–perhaps around eighteen, not unusual for that time. Immediately, she was a stepmother to John’s young son and became a mother herself, as discussed here. At this time, she left the town that her family had a part in founding, but played her own role as wife and mother in other towns that John Strong helped mold and grow.

Eighth Great-Grandfather John Strong: A Great Migration Ancestor

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.