John Friend, Hartford Founder

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Compiled by Timothy Lester Jacobs, SDFH Genealogist

JOHN1 FRIEND, HARTFORD FOUNDER was born abt. 1610 in England, and died bef. 12 Aug 1655 in Manchester, MA (inventory). He married (1) ELIZABETH? ______ abt. 1632 in prob England. She was born abt. 1612 in England, and died bef. Oct 1639 in prob Salem, MA (before marriage of her husband to 2nd wife). He married (2) MARY DEXTER Oct 1639 in poss Lynn, MA, daughter of THOMAS DEXTER and _____ ______. She was baptized 16 Oct 1616 in Great Bowden, Leicester, England, and died bef. 1681 in poss Boston, MA (not in second husband’s will).

The birth date, origin, and date of emigration of John Friend is unknown. He was a carpenter whose first appearance in New England in any records known was in Saybrook in 1636, noted in letters written by Lion Gardiner to John Winthrop, Jr., and from John Winthrop, Sr. to John Winthrop, Jr. John Friend is considered a founder of Hartford, although it is uncertain if he ever had residence there. He had land appointed for him prior to the Hartford land inventory of February 1639/40, as follows: two roods for a house lot located on the road from the Mill to the Country between the lots of Ralph Keeler and William Blumfield which he sold to William Gibbons; a parcel of undesignated size which was incorporated into George Wyllys’ estate; eight acres on the east side of the Great River, sold to William Gibbons; and a parcel in excess of five acres of upland also sold to William Gibbons.

It is possible that he was the master carpenter supervising the building of George Wyllys’s house, along with the 20 unnamed men sent by William Gibbons in 1636 to build the house.

He next appears in Salem, Massachusetts desiring to be an inhabitant of the town on 25 September 1637, which request was approved two weeks later, and land was granted to him 25 December 1637. On 16 July 1638, he requested 200 acres in Salem at the town meeting, and was granted 100 acres on 04 February 1638/9. He is noted as being a carpenter who worked on the first college building at Harvard in 1639, and in “The Founding of Harvard College” he is noted as being the master carpenter of what came to be known as the Old College.

On 30 March 1640, he was living in Boston, on which date he was allowed to be an inhabitant of the town. He became a sergeant in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts in 1640 (in the history of which he is noted as being from Salem). It is clear that he was alternating between dwelling in Boston and in Salem, as on 14 May 1640 he signed a petition in Salem to remove and establish the town of Manchester, Massachusetts from a section of Salem, and built a gristmill there in 1649.

Peter Pinder Stearns, in a genealogy of John Friend (discussed below), argues that John Friend of Salem was a different person then the John Friend of Boston, but all the evidence put together shows that this was one man. The name and date of death of his first wife, who may have been named Elizabeth, is unknown. In October 1639 he married Mary Dexter, daughter of Thomas Dexter, as noted by Robert Charles Anderson in two “Great Migration” articles (cited below). One of Mr. Stearns reasons for thinking that this was not the John Friend of Salem is that no wife was named in his will. But that there was some degree of separation of John and Mary Friend is shown in Suffolk deeds in which Valentine Hill of Boston granted Mary Friend “of Boston” a quarter of an acre of land in 1641, separate from land that the same Valentine Hill had previously sold to John Friend.

Yet another indicator that the John Friend of Hartford was the same as the one of Salem is to be found in a record of the Particular Court in Hartford of 14 May 1651, in which “Thomas Bull as Attorney to John Friend of Salem, Contra John Nott defendt in an Action of Debt...”.

There was a Richard Friend of Salem who has not previously been connected to John Friend. Calculation of his date of birth, based on the date of his marriage in Salem, is about 1656. As there were no other families named Friend in Salem, it seems manifest that he was the son of Mary Friend, though possibly not the actual son of John Friend, since no note of an expected child is mentioned in John Friend’s will. Mary Friend may have been pregnant at the time he wrote his will, perhaps unaware of such. It has been noted the his wife was not in his will, thus showing that she predeceased him. However, as discussed above, evidence points to enmity in their relationship, and thus he left her out of the will, a likelihood given that she married James Oliver very soon after John Friend’s death.

His will was dated 4 April 1655, and was proved 26 March 1656.

Genealogy: no reliable published genealogy known.

(NOT recommended: “The History & Genealogy of John Friend of Salem, Massachusetts and His Descendants”, Peter Pindar Stearns, Gateway Press, Baltimore, 1997. This genealogy, referred to above, was not used as a source herein, for the following reasons: The author asserts that there were several John Friends in New England in the period, one of whom was of Salem, and another of Boston, apparently not having read the “History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts, now called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts”, which clearly shows that this was one and the same man. Additionally, the references cited include the Ancestral Files of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which are family files submitted by church members without any sourcing whatsoever, and should never be used in any published genealogy. Further, the author either did not read or completely ignored “The American Genealogist”, Vol. 28, article “John1 Packer of Groton, Conn.: His Wives and Children” by W. Herbert Wood, in which Mr. Wood clearly established in 1959 that John Friend’s daughter Elizabeth married John Packer of Groton, Connecticut, not James Pecker of Haverhill and Boston, as Stearns claims. Also, in estimating the dates of birth of John Friend’s children, he seems to ignore the ordering of these children in John Friend’s will, which ordering almost always indicates the birth order of the children. As a consequence, for example, Mr. Stearns lists son James as born before daughters Bethia and Elizabeth, whereas in the will James is listed last. Therefore, although there is valid data listed in this genealogy, in its totality is markedly flawed. It is so poor that an article was printed in The American Genealogist which severely critiqued it.)

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