The Bones of Old John Cary

A Note to My Readers:   John Cary. “The Plymouth Pilgrim” as he was referred to in a monograph, is my maternal 8th great grandfather.   There is a great deal of written material available for this ancestor authored and published by descendants.  As is critical for the wise historian and genealogist, corroborating these published works with independent research of records is in order.  Thankfully this ancestor has a solid footprint in history and the challenge will be to keep it all straight.  How many of us scrounge for the littlest detail and celebrate tidbits as major victories?  But not for old John Cary.   The word ‘bountiful’ comes to mind.

According to John Cary descendant Samuel F. Cary in “Cary Memorials”:

The writer has had access to a manuscript more than one hundred years old, and written by a grandson of John, which says that John Cary, when a youth, was sent by his father to France to perfect his education, and that while absent his father died.  He compromised by receiving one hundred pounds as his portion and immediately sailed for America.

John Cary migrated to the New World in 1634 where he first joined Plymouth Colony.

“Tradition says that he was the first Latin School teacher in Plymouth Colony, and that he taught Elder Brewster the Hebrew,”  writes descendant Seth F. Cary in his monograph, “The Plymouth Pilgrim”.   He moved to Duxbury New Plantation where he was allotted ten acres of land.  In June of 1644 John married Elizabeth Godfrey, daughter of  Francis and Elizabeth Godfrey.  The couple went on to have 12 children – six sons and six daughters.  Their son Joseph (1663 -1722) is my seventh great grandfather.

Sachem's Rock

Sachem’s Rock

In 1649 John and a few other individuals purchased of Ousamequin, afterwards known as Massasoit, chief of the Pockanocket Indians, a tract of land about fourteen miles square.  The tract was called “Satucket” and the deed was purchased by Miles Standish, Samuel Nash and Constant Southworth as trustees on behalf of John Cary and fifty-six other settlers in exchange for seven coats, nine hatchets, eight hoes, 20 knives, four moose skins and ten and a half yards of cotton.  Although there were fifty-six individuals who owned shares only John and a handful of others settled there.   The purchase was said to have been signed on a small rocky hill called “Sachem’s Rock.”   The original document is preserved by the Old Bridgewater Historical Society.

On June 3, 1656 the General Court incorporated Duxbury New Plantation as Bridgewater.   Plymouth Colony Records, volume 3, page 99 for June 3, 1656, have the following entry:

The Cunstables of the seueral Townes’  Bridgewater  John Carew.

From the time of its incorporation in 1656 until his death in 1681, John was the Town Clerk and his detailed records of the formal activities of Bridgewater also account for the births of his children.

The History of Plymouth says that, “John Cary was a man of superior education, and had great influence in the Colony and as an officer in the Church.”  His death record reads as follows:  “John Cary Seniour inhabytant of the town of Bridgewater deceased the last day of october in the yeare of our lord 1681.”

“The Cary Family in America” authored by Henry Grosvernor Cary and published by Seth Cooley Cary in 1907 reveals

John Cary Cenotaph in Ashmont cemetery

John Cary Cenotaph near Ashmont Cemetery in Bridgewater, MA

The grave of John Cary cannot be located.  The oldest cemetery in town is that adjoining his former house-lot, but was not opened until 1683, two years after his death.  The first cemetery had no monuments of inscribed gravestones, nothing but large, flat field-stones to mark the head of the grave.  After the new cemetery was opened this one was neglected, the stones fell down and in the course of years were covered with earth, and for several generations the location was lost.  Mr. Howard (Fred E. Howard who owned the property), stated to the author that when he was a young man, his father, while working on his farm, found cavities in the earth into which the feet of the oxen sank while ploughing, and also found them when setting fence-posts; and on examination they discovered that there was a long lost graveyard, and that it extended under the road which had been laid out leading past Mr. Howard’s residence.  No attempt was made to removed the bones, but the rude gravestones were taken up and placed in the wall.  Mr. Howard has erected a granite obelisk by the roadside with these two inscriptions:


So old John Cary rests on Mr. Howard’s farm or under Howard street.

Not far from the Old Burying Ground in Bridgewater , a cenotaph was installed by the descendants of ‘old John Cary’ commemorating the Plymouth Pilgrim who was one of the original settlers of Bridgewater.    An ironic situation for John Cary, the town clerk, who noted so much detail of its early civics and citizenry so that historians could revel in his words.   In the hoopla of life and the verve of progress the next generation lost the bones of their pioneers, but they couldn’t lose the spirit of John Cary and his descendants.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved


One thought on “The Bones of Old John Cary

  1. John Cary was my 8th grandfather through his son Joseph. My line of Carys stayed in Connecticut until after the revutionary war and later settled in Kentucky and Indiana.

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