John Steele, Hartford Founder

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Compiled by Timothy Lester Jacobs, SDFH Genealogist

JOHN1 STEELE, HARTFORD FOUNDER (RICHARDA) was baptized 12 Dec 1591 in Fairstead, Essex, England, and died 27 Feb 1664/65 in Farmington, CT. He married (1) RACHEL TALCOTT 10 Oct 1622 in Fairstead, Essex, England, daughter of Founder JOHN TALCOTT and ANNE SKINNER. She was born abt. 1600 in Braintree, Essex, England, and died 24 Oct 1653 in Farmington, CT. He married (2) MERCY RUSCOE 25 Nov 1655 in Farmington, CT, daughter of ROGER RUSCOE and SARAH ______. She was born abt. 1610 in Sawbridgeworth, Herts, England, and died Aft. 04 Jul 1668 in prob Farmington, CT.

John Steele emigrated from Fairstead, Essex, England in 1633 along with his brother George Steele, another founder of Hartford, first residing in Cambridge, where he was made freeman 14 May 1634. He owned nine parcels of land in Cambridge, was Deputy to the General Court of Massachusetts for Cambridge in 1635, and was appointed Massachusetts Bay Commissioner for new settlements on the Connecticut River 3 March 1635/6.

He was the leader of the so-called “Adventurers Party” of twenty-five men who set out to explore the area that would become Hartford in October 1635, prior to the departure from Cambridge of the Rev. Hooker’s party in May 1636, and was one of sixteen founders living in Hartford in 1635 prior to the arrival of Hooker’s party.

In the Hartford land inventory of February 1639/40 he held four parcels: two acres on which his dwelling house stood with other outhouses, yards and gardens located on the main street, north of the home lots of Elder William Goodwin and Samuel Stone; two acres in the Little Meadow; three acres and thirty perches in the North Meadow; and twenty-one acres, three roods and twenty-two perches.

He was the Recorder (town clerk) for Hartford beginning in 1640 until 1645, and became Recorder for Farmington when he removed there in 1645.

His first wife was Rachel, sister of Hartford Founder John Talcott, sister of Sarah, wife of William Wadsworth, and she was an aunt of Hartford founder John Skinner.

The inventory of his estate was presented 20 June 1665.

In “The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633”, Vol.III, Robert Charles Anderson, NEHGS, Boston, 1995, pg. 1759, Mr. Anderson includes as the final son of John the Founder named Daniel Steele, born 29 April 1645. With great respect, I believe that this Daniel was the son of John2 and Mary Talcott (the records only indicate Daniel as “son of John”). Given that Rachel, wife of John1, was aged 41 and died in 1653 (and John1 married his second wife Mercy (Ruscoe) Seymour 25 November 1655, thus could not be Daniel’s mother). Further, Daniel was born 1645 in Hartford (VR) and that the birth of Daniel occurred so close to the marriage of John to Mary Warner (22 January 1645/6) in Hartford, whereas John1 had moved to Farmington in 1645, I come to this conclusion.

Recommended genealogy: “Steele Family: A Genealogical History of John and George Steele, (Settlers of Hartford, Conn.), 1635-6, and their Descendants” Daniel S. Durrie, Albany, 1859 (In the “Great Migration” article on John Steele, Robert Charles Anderson refers to this genealogy as “comprehensive but somewhat antiquated”.)

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