Chapter IV: Samuel, the Bridgewater yeoman

This is the 6th in a series of articles which serializes my family history, which I wrote in November 2017, titled “From Samuel to Cyrus: A fresh look at the History of the Packard Family.” Below is the 4th chapter of that history:


In 1913, within the Mayflower Descendant, George Ernest Bowman highlighted deeds by Samuel’s wife, Elizabeth, and abstracted Samuel’s will with all of its specifics. [49] Even with this, none of those who have reprinted the last will and testament of Samuel, including the varied genealogists who have written about the Packard family in the past, have actually analyzed this document. Using the citations provided by some genealogists, I was able to locate the last will and testament of Samuel Packard, which consists of three pages, two of consist of his will, and the last page outlining his inventory which is very hard to decipher. As Dale Cook notes, in the comments below, I located “the copy of that will in the Plymouth Colony records. The original holographic will is long lost, and it is apparent to the experienced researcher that the copy in the Colony records may contain at least one error.” While that is valid, I still contend that one can learn genealogical information about the Packard family from these three pages, confirming the long-held determinations by researchers of the Packard family. While no birth dates or ages are listed in the document, it tells who Samuel Packard was as a man in Bridgewater (where his ancestors would still be living in 1848), within England’s Plymouth Colony, which would later become Massachusetts, and his family.

By 1684, Samuel Packard, called “Samuell Packer” in his last will and testament, had been living in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, for 22 years, if the town clerk, John Cary, is right. Other  genealogists claim that he lived in Hingham and Weymouth before arriving in Bridgewater, as noted in previous chapters. He had reportedly been a Constable, Surveyor of Highways, and Collector of Minister’s Rates over the years. Within his will, he was described as a “yeoman.” [50] This term has many meanings. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as person in a social class below the gentry, who owns and cultivates a “relatively small tract of land.” While some of those in this class, possibly including Samuel, wanted to become part of the gentry since they considered themselves in a sort of “middle class” position, in reality they were diametrically opposed (in terms of class position) to the gentry of early New England and in other parts of British America. [51] Hence, Samuel was like many other settlers who were yeomen (or claimed to be) who came with their wives and children to New England to start a “new life” free from the pressures they had faced in “old” England.

Before moving onto the genealogical information delineated in his will, specifics of his life can be determined just by looking at his inventory. [52] Currently one tortured transcription of his inventory, by Brian Lightfoot, is available online. Using this in conjunction with analysis of this record, one can visualize his life. On November 11, Samuel’s inventory was proven in a local court in Plymouth. [53] This consisted of his personal property, not his real (or immovable) property as manifested in his land holdings, of 133 pounds, 6 shillings, and 6 pence. This would be worth £19,210.00 or about $31,300 in US dollars in the present-day.

Samuel’s personal property tells about his agricultural lifestyle. His most highly valued, monetarily, possessions are his four cows, three steers, three young cattle, one horse (with harness and rope for a cart), and “Indian corne” a type of maize which is more freeze-resistant than other planted vegetables. It is also called flint corn or calico corn, with its original name coming from the fact that indigenous people began planting it in New England and elsewhere going back to as far as 1000 B.C.E., especially among those in the Mississippi river region. These possessions consisted almost 1/5 of his personal property value! [54] Additionally, Samuel held, on hand, apart from his one pound of debt, 58 pounds, 15 shillings, in bills and other money, about 44.4 percent of his personal property value. [55]

While his farm animals, crops, and money on hand constituted more than 63% of his property’s value, looking at these values alone does not completely tell about his life. Clearly, these and other possessions show he was a small-scale farmer, selling yarn and sheep’s wool. He also tilled the land, likely with help of his immediate (and extended) family, planting corn, rye, and barley (some of which was “malted”), using his two “plow shares” and old “plow shares” sending it to market in the cart(s) described in numerous places within the inventory. He also had, within his possession, cedar logs, cedar “clabords” (possibly referring to cedar clapboard siding), and a tinning and dripping pan and tunnel. This could possibly imply that Samuel (and anyone who worked on the farm) used the wood to either improve the “dwelling house” and the tinning materials to store food if “tinning” is used in the inventory to mean the preserving foodstuffs in tins or canning. Additionally, leather, from the cows he owned, ground corn (or other grains) using the grindstone/millstone and crank, honey from the bee hive, and cider in a barrel (likely for drinking since water was not purified at the time) was also sold to nearby towns or perhaps just in Bridgewater itself. Considering that there are two whip saws, hooks, a hide for a steer, lumber, a broad ax, and narrow ax, it is likely that sawed lumber was sold from his farm. Samuel is also noted as owning an unnamed number of pigs (“swine”) and nine sheep, the latter two which he likely fed straw and possibly excess corn, among other grains grown on the farm.

Samuel tried to be somewhat “respectable” as shown by the possession of “wearing clothes,” brass and iron vessels, blankets, pillows, and pairs of sheets. This is further shown by the ownership of varied “feather beds” (down comforter), wooden chests, a table with chairs, pillow cases (called “pillow coates”), table cloths, and half a dozen napkins. The possessions used to make the farm function and sell to broader markets, among others not named and those “unseen and forgotten” as the inventory puts it, are only 36.6% of his property value. Collectively, his possessions indicate he was, seemingly, a small-scale farmer who sold varied grains, products from his farm animals, lumber, honey, and varied drinks (cider and malted liquor), some of which were weighed, using a scale and pair of feathers, in his possession. This only tells part of his story and collective ancestry since Samuel was my 9th great grandfather, with a “posterity” of “beyond 50,000” descendants by 1876.  [56]

Samuel’s last will and testament fills in the gaps, but also tells about his physical state and his religious beliefs. While was, when he wrote his will on October 29, 1684, “weak of mind” and faltering in memory, this is still an accurate genealogical record which shows firm relationships between father and son, father and daughter, husband and wife, grandfather and grandchildren. [57] With many genealogists saying that he was baptized in England in 1612, it would interest them greatly that he was a dedicated Christian. In his will, he states that he “prayed to God” for his family, committed his soul to the “hand of the Almighty” and prayed for his “salvation” after death. These Christian references accompany his desire for a “decent burial” and funeral after his death.

If he was a small-scale farmer, he was a strange one indeed, because he owned 339 acres of land at his death. This comes from the adding up of all of the land granted to his immediate and extended family in his will. Using the amount of land as a basis and looking at land deeds in 1684 and 1685, the land he owned at his death could have been worth between about 65 shillings an acre and 2.72 pounds an acre. [58] If one uses the lower number, his land would be worth 220 pounds, 35 shillings or £32,300 in present-day relative values (about $26,256 US dollars). If one uses the higher number, his land would be worth 922 pounds, 8 shillings or £134,400 in present-day relative values (about $109,251 US dollars). Either way, his land would have be worth a lot of money. However, since his mind was faltering he may have misstated the acreage he owned in some cases.

Samuel’s many acres of land,  sitting on the Satucket River (or Satuccut), Meadow Brook (likely along Poor Meadow Brook), possibly near present-day Robbins Pond (then called Satuckett Pond?) was concentrated mainly in Bridgewater. This included his 36-acre tract of land for his farm. This was granted to his wife, Elizabeth, and he delineated that this land be divided between his son Nathaniel/Nathaniell (who received 2/3) and his grandchild Israel/Israell Augur (who received 1/3) when Elizabeth died. [59] He also owned 169 acres in Bridgewater which he granted to his “eldest son” Samuel, son Zacheus (or Zaccheus) and son John, even granting Zacheus the house he lived in, which he was seemingly renting from Samuel. He owned 54 acres where his son Samuel was living, 20 other acres called Satuckett Pond, in Bridgewater, which he gave Elizabeth. He willed 50 acres in Bridgewater to be divided in half between his son Nathaniel and grandchild Israel Augur, and gave 10 un-surveyed acres in Bridgewater to his daughter, Deliverance, but not her husband Thomas Washburn. Samuel owned shares of “meddow” in Bulls Hole (divided between Nathaniel and Israel to commence after Elizabeth’s death), lot within “Great Meddow,” a lot called “West Meddow Brooke,” a lot called “Poor Meddow,” and a lot “att Tehicut.” There were other rights and title of “commons and comage” in Bridgewater, granting them to his family. He dispensed 41 pounds, ten shilling to Elizabeth, his five daughters (Mary, Hannah, Jaell, Deborah, and Deliverance) and his grandchildren (Samuel Packard, Daniel Packard, Israel/Israell Packard who was the son of Zacheus, and Caleb Philips). [60]

Within his will, Samuel gives a special gift to one member of his extended family. This is his grandchild Deliverance Augur, child of his daughter Deliverance and Thomas Washburn. He gives her a heifer, when she is “of age,” and a “feather bed” after the death of Elizabeth. He also required that his son, Nathaniel, pay 10 pounds to the executors of his estate. He appointed Elizabeth and his son Samuel as joint executors while making James Keith and William Pratt overseers of his estate. [61] On March 3, 1685, John Field and John Ames, Jr., said that Samuel Packard desired Thomas Washburn or  Washbourne to be another executor. Samuel Packard, Sr. would be dead by November 7, 1684.


Notes

[49] For years, the Packard family has been writing about an immigrant ancestor, Samuel Packard, who came over on the Diligent in June 1638. Article after article has appeared online, and almost all of the records are secondary. Such individuals have little to show for themselves in terms of hard, primary sources. Others are either impossible to access without ordering, are inaccessible fully online without a subscription to certain magazines (“Hobart’s Journal”) or sourced incorrectly to
records (Plymouth County Records: Wills) which have been digitized and are online. Hence, the current basis for Samuel Packard’s life, as manifested in this Find A Grave entry (for example) is shaky at best. This does not take away from the work done by Mr. Cook and by Karle S. Packard, who died two years ago, among others who wrote for the short-lived Packard’s Progress publication from 1987 to 1998, both of whom used certain primary sources. A lack of primary sources, rather relying with citations of transcriptions, abstracts, and other derivative documents, or those documents which are not in the original form they were created (including the will analyzed in this post), creates a number of problems. Secondary sources can help tell a story, but too much reliance on them could open a person’s story to possible distortions and inaccuracies.

[50] Last Will and Testament of Samuell Packer, Oct. 29, 1684, Plymouth Colony Records, Wills Vol. 3, Part 2, Plymouth Registry of Deeds, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, Plymouth, p. 96, image 585 of 616. A surveyor helped lay out roads in the town. A constable acted as a sheriff, executing warrants.

[51] Diane E. Davis, Discipline and Development: Middle Classes and Prosperity in East Asia and Latin America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 21, 254, 270; Allan Kulikoff, The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism (London: University Press of Virginia, 1996, second printing), p. 1, 34-39, 47, 66; Martha L. Finch, Dissenting Bodies: Corporealities in Early New England (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), p. 65, 87, 97, 208; James L. Huston, The British Gentry, the Southern Planter, and the Northern Family Farmer: Agriculture and Sectional Antagonism in North America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015), p. 1, 4-5, 12-14, 30, 34-35, 45, 78, 255, 273, 284. Some chronicling the Packard genealogy cite an article titled “Samuel Packard and the English Origins of the Packard Family” by Karle S. Packard. However, no article of that name exists within the scanned issues by Packard’s Progress by Dale Cook. As he notes in the comments below, this name “is likely the result of initial sloppiness in one citation, followed by much cut-and-paste copying, which the unaware believe constitutes “online research.” The correct citation is Karle S. Packard, “Samuel Packard of Bridgewater, Massachusetts and His Family” (Packard’s Progress, 17 (Feb., 1991):9-12).”

[52] Inventory of the estate of Samuell Packer of Bridgewater, November 7, 1684, Plymouth Colony Records, Wills Vol. 3, Part 2, Plymouth Registry of Deeds, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, Plymouth, p. 99, image 587 of 616. Inventories are helpful in telling about people’s lives.

[53] Abstracts of his will, which come from George Ernest Bowman’s 1913 article, seem to indicate that it is strange that the lands he owned are not included in his inventory. This analysis ignores the fact that inventories refer to personal property not to real property manifested in land holdings, generally, with land owned is noted in the will, but not in the inventory. This requires two conversations of money from 1684 to 1970 and again from 1970 to 1971 since the British monetary system changed. Another conversion was needed to turn the money from its 1970 form into 2014 relative values, and then converting it ($30,826.95 in 2014) to 2016 relative values in US dollars. Both of these figures use 2016 relative values, referring to the relative value or historic standard of living as noted by Measuring Worth.

[54] These possessions specifically were a total of 25 pounds and 4 shillings or £3,662.00 in present-day relative values.

[55] Using the conversations put forward in note 40, excepting those for conversions into dollars, his money on hand is£8,531.00 in present-day relative values.

[56] Hiram Barrus, History of the Town of Goshen, Hampshire County, Massachusetts: From Its First Settlement in 1761 to 1881 with Family Sketches (Boston: Hiram Barrus, 1881), 162. The same source quotes a genealogist at the time calling the  the Packards “a thrifty, well-stocked race.”

[57] Last Will and Testament of Samuell Packer, p. 96. This record, using the last name Packer, specifies the following people, without giving them birth dates: his “loving” wife Elizabeth; his “eldest son” Samuel Packer, Jr.; his son Zacheus Packer; his son John Packer; his son Nathaniel/Nathaniell Packer; his grandchild Israel/Israel Augur; his daughter Mary Packer; married to Richard Phillips; his daughter Hannah Packer, married to Thomas Randall; his daughter Jaell, married to John Smith; his daughter Deborah, married to Samuel Washburn; his daughter Deliverance, married to Thomas Washburn, with a child named Deliverance Augur; his grandchild Caleb Phillips, claimed to be son of Caleb Phillips but this is not the case; his grandchildren Samuel Packer, Daniel Packer, Israel/Israell Packer who was the son of Zacheus.

[58] Land Purchase of Samuel West from William Clarke, May 14, 1684, Plymouth County, Deeds, Vol. 1, Massachusetts Land Records, Plymouth, p. 6-7, image 11 of 652; Land Purchase of Rowland White from Samuel White, May 25, 1685, Plymouth County, Deeds, Vol. 1, Massachusetts Land Records, Plymouth, p. 37-38, images 28 and 29 of 652; Land Purchase of Joseph Waterman from John Barber, Jan. 29, 1685, Plymouth County, Deeds, Deeds Vol. 1, Massachusetts Land Records, Plymouth, p. 50-51, images 36 and 37 of 652; Land deed involving Sarah, Ephraim, and Joseph Warren, March 28, 1685, Plymouth County, Deeds, Deeds Vol. 1, Massachusetts Land Records, Plymouth, p. 91-92, image 58 of 652. Sometimes people dealt in silver as well, but this wasn’t as likely. Land records differed. The price of three pounds, ten shillings for three acres was rounded down to 3 pounds for this calculation (meaning a pound and acre), while the others came out easily: 2.5 pounds an acre (25 pounds for 10 acres of land), 2.94 pounds an acre (Fifty pounds for 17 acres of land), 0.3 pounds an acre (15 pounds for 50 acres of land). Furthermore, the highest (2.94 and 2.5) and lowest numbers (.3 and 1) were added together and divided to create two numbers for the lowest (0.65) and highest (2.72).

[59]  Last Will and Testament of Samuell Packer, p. 96. This section also uses some information from page 97 as well.

[60]  He even specified for Jaell that the money and “chattles” (not meaning slaves but property in this instance) would go to her, after Elizabeth’s death, not to her husband, John Smith, so it could be used for “her comfort” with the money distributed by the will’s executors. Many genealogists repeat the claim that Caleb Phillips was the son of Richard Phillips. This is because Mary Packard, his daughter, is married to Richard Phillips. This would make Caleb his grandchild.

[61] Last Will and Testament of Samuell Packer, p. 98, image 586 of 616. Since Samuel died sometime between October 29, 1684 and November 7, 1684, these oaths must be in 1685.

5 thoughts on “Chapter IV: Samuel, the Bridgewater yeoman

  1. In note 51 above you refer to citations of the non-existent Packard’s Progress article “Samuel Packard and the English Origins of the Packard Family” by Karle S. Packard. This is likely the result of initial sloppiness in one citation, followed by much cut-and-paste copying, which the unaware believe constitutes “online research.” The correct citation is Karle S. Packard, “Samuel Packard of Bridgewater, Massachusetts and His Family” (Packard’s Progress, 17 (Feb., 1991):9-12).

    Dale H. Cook, Member, NEHGS, AGS, MA Soc. of Mayflower Descendants;
    Plymouth Co. MA Coordinator for the USGenWeb Project
    Administrator of https://plymouthcolony.net

    Like

  2. I would like to note that you did not locate “the original last will and testament of Samuel Packard” – you located the copy of that will in the Plymouth Colony records. The original holographic will is long lost, and it is apparent to the experienced researcher that the copy in the Colony records may contain at least one error.

    Dale H. Cook, Member, NEHGS, AGS, MA Soc. of Mayflower Descendants;
    Plymouth Co. MA Coordinator for the USGenWeb Project
    Administrator of https://plymouthcolony.net

    Like

    • I recognize that as well. But, it is the most original copy we have at the present and that is fine. Perhaps it contains errors, but it is still a resource which tells about Samuel’s life, his wife, his children, and other related family, making it valuable without question.

      Like

  3. Pingback: The first in a line of Packards: the story of Elizabeth | Packed with Packards!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.