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Thomas Dow + [b] [RN 825] to Newbury 1639


 [Pages 545-550]

        Here beginneth the chronicles of a family of Dow, absolutely unrelated to the preceding, of unknown origin, possibly of different nationality, surely poor, much poorer than their average neighbor, actually suffering from lack of suitable food, illiterate (altho ability to read and write was not general in the colonies).  On the new soil this family developed wonderfully, --- one member in the second generation rising decidedly above the average in ability and prosperity.  The fourth generation included very substantial men.  The family progressed until its influence on the nation as a whole has been second to few.  It has been distinctly a warrior race, sharing in the earliest fighting for preservation against the Indians, then for colonial defense, for independence, and in the Civil war.  It is remarkable that among the home towns of this family, ---Salem, Methuen and Plaistow, not one adult male Dow of good health remained at home during the Revolution. 

        In the list of original grantees of Newbury, Mass, 1639 occurs the name of Thomas Dow.   The origin of Newbury is strangely absent from the records.  Nothing is known of the vessel which carried them; none of them appear on other lists or in other places.  There is a vague tradition that Thomas Dow came in 1637, but this seems error arising from the fact that Henry Dow came in 1637.  The best presumption is that the founders of Newbury came together and in 1639, probably from some English seaport.  All else is speculation without evidence.  At all events he was in Newbury in 1639 with wife Phebe and at least one child.  His house was in what is now called Newburyport, on the southerly side of Greenleaf's Lane (now State St) leading to Watt's Cellar.  He next appears as being admitted a freeman by the General Court June 22, 1642.  This does not imply any previous condition of non-freedom, indenture or lack of property qualifications.  The term "freeman" was established in the first charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony applied to such persons as took an oath of allegiance and were admitted by formal vote of the General Court.  It lasted until the second charter changed the colony into a province.  A freeholder was one who by grant, purchase or inheritance was entitled to a share of the "Commons," or undivided lands.  The freeman alone could vote in the nomination of magistrates and deputies to the General Court.  A freeholder need not be a freeman or vice versa.  He might he neither, yet be qualified to vote in all town affairs.  All inhabitants could vote on any question involving raising money.  Thomas Dow was a freeholder from his arrival by reason of the original grant of his Newbury homestead; be continued a freeholder when he sold this and bought land in Haverhill.

        There is probably no immigrant to America for whose antecedents more vigorous search has been made by professional and amateur genealogists.  Yet, not the slightest trace has ever been discovered.  At one time Richard Sylvester Dow bcdebejc undertook the task, hoping make the needed discoveries in time for a forthcoming history of Essex County.  He himself could give no time to the work and employed professional aid.  After sending an expedition to England and collecting a mass of data (all wholly irrelevant), and after spending several thousand dollars, his only reward was in proving that Thomas was none of the numerous of the name whom it was suspected that he might be.  His professionals got together considerable material on the Dows here, but their work is often so misleading as to be rather worse than useless, no part of it usable without independent proof.  The antecedents of Henry Dow, immigrant of 1637, being known, the searchers began by assuming that the two were brothers or near relatives.  This gave them a pleasant outing in Norfolk Co with salary and expenses paid.  They even failed to hit upon the item in Runham parish register showing that Henry Dow had a brother Thomas 14 years too old to fit the Newbury and that this Thomas had a family and died on his inherited property in Runham.  Moreover, they ignored the obvious fact that, while Henry Dow had more than average education, Thomas Dow could not read; that for five years Henry and Thomas lived in adjoining towns and for ten years thereafter they were but 15 miles apart, without the slightest evidence that one knew of the existence of the other.

        The investigators next turned to Wiltshire, because one Francis Dow had come from there and returned there; but he had an only child, Peter.  This made no difference; they searched for some kinsman Thomas, disregarding as before that our Thomas could not read and Francis was of the landed gentry and mayor of a city.  To Stratford they next went, because a Thomas Dow of Stratford had a wife Phoebe.  They did not hurry to weigh the patent evidence. Simon Fenn, clothier of Dedham, Essex, bequeathed money Jan 16, 1609, to his dau Phoebe, wife of Thomas Dowe of Stratford.  Jan 10, 1615, Phoebe got another legacy from a kinswoman, being then called Phoebe Dow, wid.  This Thomas Dow is about 40 years too old to fit and some curious searcher has since located all his family in Stratford.  The investigators were then compelled to turn to a general search, published probate records being the most accessible field.  They prepared lists of wills, over 200 of them, from every county in England, of Dow, Doue, Dove or any other similar spelling.  Results wholly negative.  They scanned every legatee, in hope that they might find from some parish rec that such had a son Thomas.  They found of about right age a Robert Dowe of London, Bridget Dowe, wid of Thomas, legatees of their sister, Ann Colston, wid of Bristol 1620. They canvassed William Dowe and Mary, his wife, of 1620, she the dau of John Cossie of Baudsey, Suffolk.  James Deowe is a new spelling; he was an appraiser May 1620 in Beamister, Dorset.  Robert Dowe was a legatee in Exeter 1620. T homas Dow, witness to a will in Newburye, Berks, 1620, raised their hopes from coincidence in name of place, altho presumptive age forbade.  The number of Dow in Ireland can be imagined from the circumstance that 12 Thomas Dows were buried in Dublin in a single year.  In Scotland during the 50 years preceding 1639 the number of recorded Thomas Dows could not be confined to a page.

        One can only turn to evidence drawn from Thomas and Phebe themselves.  There is nothing in the religion of either to afford a clue, for there was but one church in Haverhill, and Newbury.  Thomas Dow was as religious as his neighbors, but this proves nothing except that he was a Puritan in Massachusetts.  Could he be a Scotchman?  The Scotch Dow were never an independent family; many of them were in Clan Buchanan, but there were some in almost every clan, indicating that the name was assumed by individuals without any concert whatever.  The investigators did not look up any Scotch records; hunting would be like seeking a needle in a haystack.  There was a Thomas Dow of Berriehell of Tullibagles, Methven Parish, near Perth, who made a will Aug 19, 1609, but he had no son Thomas; and there were a score of Thomas Dow within a few miles.  There was no Scotch migration to America for many years after this, but this does not preclude the possibility of some individual getting from Scotland to England and joining a party to America.  Moreover, any Scotchman joining a party of emigrants would be a marked man, living socially more or less apart.

        An idea that our Thomas Dow of Newbury possessed a distinctive plaid or tartan is based wholly. on a misunderstanding.  Over 20 years ago a lady of Dow descent while visiting Edinburg was shown a Dow plaid and bought a quantity, distributing samples to such Dows as she knew or subsequently met.  Some one who knew of the interest taken in the identity of Thomas Dow suggested that this might be his plaid and so the story grew.  There are now some who assert positively that this plaid was worn by Thomas Dow of Newbury.  This is absolutely untrue.  It is well known that the canny Scotch manufacturers keep lines of plaid labelled to suit any name ever known in Scotland.  There are plenty of retailers who will supply a plaid for any name and will swear the Schmidts or O'Flahertys have worn it for a thousand years.  The patterns are generally chosen with some care, so this particular plaid is a variant of the Buchanan.  A few years ago experts looked at it once again. None admitted knowing it.  Only a few were bold enough to call it a fake.  One said plainly that it was a fabrication, not a true tartan, and was designed recently as resembling and varying from the Buchanan. 

        Whatever presumptive evidence there may be (and there may not be any) comes from the will of Thomas or the attached words of Phebe his wife.  Here and there a phrase faintly suggests the language or national canniness. Phebe's name was either Latly or Latty.  The exact wording in the will seems to be "I, Phoebe Latly wife of Thomas." A photographic copy proves that latly begins with a small l.  It also shows the cross bar of the t prolonged, as tho the writer began to write latty when his ink failed.  The Author believes her name was Latty, because that is a name, while Latly is not.  Perhaps this couple came from that part of the Highlands where Thrums might be, perhaps truth is stranger than fiction, perhaps Sir James Barrie is unwittingly a better genealogist than we, and Rob Dow, literary sawyer of Thrums and Aaron Latta, weaver of Thrums, are the true kin of this Newbury and Haverhill couple.  This entails an unwelcome suggestion, as there was at the time no Scotch migration.  Thomas, gillie, might have married Phebe, dairy maid, and had a son John; not liking his outlook, might have crossed the border and joined a Puritan party to America.  In those days a runaway gillie was hauled back as ignominiously as a negro in 1850.  If there was a runaway of this kind, it would be likely that the man would take a new name for concealment; if so, Dow was a common and general name, not attributable to any one clan or locality.  The Author does not entertain this theory; merely cannot dismiss it until the truth comes out.  Some day the marriage rec or birth of their son may be discovered, but if so, it will be by chance.

        The American career of Thomas was neither obscure nor conspicuous.  He was poorer than most of his neighbors, for his whole estate was appraised at less than 96 pounds.  He lived 14 years in Newbury, during which time (as we shall see under bc) his children had not sufficient nourishment.  The rec shows that his Newbury house was conveyed to John Bartlett May 29, 1660 (book 3, p 177, Ipswich series).  Thomas was dead by this time so that the date must be of a belated recording Norfolk rec 1, p 122, shows: Richard Ormsby of Haverhill to Thomas Dow of Newbury, house and house lot cont 4 a more or less, with all appurtenances and 5 accommodations for two and fifty pounds, tenn shilling to be paid as appears by a bill of sale which the aforesaid Thomas Dow has given me under his hand. Dated 10 November 1653
            Rec 18 May 1662
                                                        Richard Littlehale
                                                        John Clement             wit

        Here is a house and 9 acres of land for less than $260.  Haverhill real estate was cheap, probably far cheaper than Newbury, it being a new town, on the frontier, a bulwark of the region of which Boston was the well protected center, soon to be the scene of the greatest amount of Indian fighting where no one was safe and every one walked with gun in hand.  Thomas did none of the fighting; he died May 31, 1654, "ae about 39."  This must be nearly correct.  It is also definitely stated that he was the first white adult to die in Haverhill.  Not that Haverhill was an unusually healthy place, nor its inhabitants gifted with longevity.  It was a new town; some one had to go first, and Thomas Dow happened to be the one, living there scarcely over 6 months.

        His will is nuncupative, made two days before his death:

            "The last will and testament of Thomas Dowe as it was delevered or expressed by him on the 29th day of May being in ye yeare 1654.  I, Thomas Dow, although weake in body yet of perfect memory i doe desire to submit my will, to God's will and to dispose of my estate to my wife and children as followeth, leaving my wife to be the sole executor at present of all my vesable and personall estate.  First I do give unto my loving wiffe Pheby my tow oxen that are now hers and mine and three young beastes beinge now one yeaxe and upwards ould and on cow and two swine and all my houseold goods to be at her disposinge for ever.  Also my will is that my oldest son John Dowe at the age of twenty and one yeare ould shall ingioy as his inheritance al the land and housinge that I have bought in Haverhill and to pay in to his other brothers thomas and Stephen and to his 2 sisters mary and martha as I shall apoynt the house and land being thought to be worth three score pounds; my second son Thomas shal reseave at his age of 21 ten pounds or 5 pounds at his age and 5 pounds when he is 22 yeares and for my son Steven he shall reseave at his age of 21: or 5 pounds at 21 and 5 pounds at 22; as to my will is that John my son shal pay to his sister Mary and. his, sister Martha at theyre age of 21 ten pounds or 5 pounds apeace at 21 and 5 pounds apece at ther age of 22; as there brothers reseave theres. 

            Also I Pheby latly wife to Thomas Dow doe joyne my consent to this will of my husband in each perticular and for my son John Dow I doe fully and freely resigne up al my wright in the house and land when my son shall come to the age of 21 yeares ould. wittness my hand Prouided he shall pay to his brothers and sisters as his fathers will is.

                in witness hearof

                                                                                    The marke of

                John Eaton (P)                                       Phebya (F) Dowe
                Theo: Shatswell

        This will was testified upon oath by ye witnesses in ye court held at Salisbury the (8) th off ye (2d) Mo: 1656.  John Eaton's mark resembles a P and that of Phehe an F, both showing unfamiliarity with the exact shape of the letters.  Nevertheless, an effort was made to claim that this mark indicated her name was Fenn.  The actual writing was done by Shatswell, of whom it may be said that he frequently spells a word twice the same way.  It is quite clear that the first two paragraphs were composed by him and written down in advance as sure to meet the requirements.  One can imagine the unction with which he put in the word vesable; it had a good sound, looked erudite, almost a legal term, and would add dignity to any will.  The rest, which does not parse, was surely put down word by word as spoken laboredly by the dying Thomas.  The last paragraph may have been dictated by Thomas, his wife assenting by a nod from time to time but the final "prouided" is surely her own.  A distinguished genealogist of Dow descent still claims that the mark of Phebe proves that her maiden name began with F and he reads: "I, Pheby, lately wife of Thomas."  Now, Shatswell is just as liable to spell a name with a small as a capital letter, and it is inconceivable that Phoebe, just called "my loving wiffe," and sitting beside her husband, who lived two days longer, could call herself lately a wife.

        Hers was not a vast dowry, the cattle and household goods worth less than 10 pounds.  It is a pleasure to record that for seven years she had a home with her son John and that John made all the payments required in the will.  After that, she married John Eaton, witness to the will.  He was a cooper of Salisbury, who came to Haverhill 1646, was selectman 1648, thrice married, with 7 children, 6 surviving to become step children of Phebe Dow.  They returned to Salisbury, where he d Oct 29, 1668, she Nov 3, 1672.

        All the children d Haverhill; younger b Newbury;

        a     John, a minor in 1654, hence b later than 1633, presumably in Europe; not improbably 1638
        b     Thomas [RN 829], probably b 1640 in Newbury
        c     Stephen b Newbury Mch 29, 1642
        d     Mary b Apr 16,16044            e     Martha b June 1, 1648

        John Dow ba d Nov 26, 1672, cooper of Haverhill; freeman 1666; on muster roll of Ensign Moses Higgins, assigned to sixth garrison.  The sons of Thomas Dow were not strong, possibly early privations worked against them.  John prospered moderately, for he made all payments charged to him in his father's will, kept his own land and was able to buy the allotment made in the fifth division to one Coffin.  He and his brother Thomas appear as signers of the petition for the pardon of Maj. Robert Pike, a high minded man always in trouble with the authorities for denouncing the witchcraft persecution and supporting the right of free speech by lay preachers in the absence of regular preachers.  He m Oct 23, 1665, Mary Page b May 3, 1646, 4th child of John and Mary (Marsh) of Hingham, later of Haverhill.  The improbability of relationship of John Page and Robert Page of Hampton is discussed under abc.  Hist Windham states that John Dow ba was the ancestor of the Atkinson Dow family, --- a lapsus calami, for that family is fully accounted for coming from John Dow bcfi. John's children:

            a     Mary b and d Haverhill Apr 1668
            b     Josepb b Sept 20,1669; d Mch 16,1688-9, unm
            c     John b Nov 6,16772; not mentioned in Hoyt's Old Families

        John d intestate. Apr 3, 1673, wid Mary Dow swore to the inventory of his estate (174 pounds 1 shilling 0 pence).  July 14, 1673, she m 2nd Samuel Shepard.  Joseph Dow bab chose her brother Onesiphorus Page as his guardian in 1686.  Apparently Joseph was entitled to some overlooked property, for seven years after his death, May 4, 1696, Samuel Shepard and Mary, his wife, formally refused to administer Joseph's estate.  After considerable delay it was administered by his cousin Samuel Dow bcb and the property divided among his surviving uncles and aunts (Essex Co Prob, vol 305, p 128).  This argues that John Dow bac was not living and had no heirs, for such would be heirs-at-law.  The matter needs more search, for there is a Haverhill line still unconnected, whose most frequently recurring name is John.

        Mary (Page) Dow had 7 children by Samuel Shepard, of whom the youngest m Samuel Dow adk.


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